Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stanley Thompson Redux - The Dilemma of Attribution

At GolfClubAtlas I began a thread on The Definative Thompson list as well as on here.

My comments come from the realization of what I set out to do.

First off, there is a lot of really interesting pieces that have been linked, reported, or added through comments that definitely shed some light on his work. I’m grateful I started this thread for the gems that continue to appear. There are also some fascinating comments also on my blog where I posed the same question.

As the information began to come in I began to realize that this will demand a lot more time and energy to organize all the information than I have. It’s not collecting it, but beginning the important process of cross-referencing what has been presented. There is also a whole series of clubs with tentative connections to Thompson that have no references in old articles and magazines that would still require either research. That research would likely entail visits to review information to find out if the connection is conclusive. I certainly don’t have that time and I’m not really sure anyone else does either.

The other realization that came was I was quickly being placed in a position to make decisions on whether a club should be included or not. As I said to one of the other contributors on the phone, I don’t think I’m qualified to do this. So how fair would it be for me to include or not include a club until there is definitive proof. Since I can’t make the time to research this, the process would be flawed.

My original rally came from the number of mistakes on the current list and the inclusion of high profile courses where he only built a green or two. I think that it was important to say he worked at these courses, but it was more important for future architects to know what an original Stanley Thompson hole or course is.

The last thing that came up was what is the line between Thompson and not. The Summit debate is proof that this line is fairly subjective. Does he have to route at least nine holes? What if he didn’t route the course but rebuilt every feature? What if he did a major renovation to only the greens? What if he worked with someone else on the project? Most importantly, what if he built the course for another architect who made either one or two visits……or none?

I don’t know where to go from here, but I do have an interesting suggestion. I have a great deal of inside knowledge on particular Stanley Thompson courses. It seems like it would be more productive to post a full list as a base and invite people to post their conclusions through facts that they will also be required to provide. Then each of us interested in this process could leave comments under our name and slowly try to unravel the mystery of what is a Thompson course and what is not.

Food for thought.


Chris Parker said...

Great suggestion! That kind of format is definitely something I'd be interested in participating in.

paul m said...

Hi Ian,
I think your suggestion makes perfect sense. I knew that there was alot courses "possibly attributed" to Thompson but there is just cause for caution. I am not a fan of using the name for cashe and marketing purposes only. 25 years ago golfers didn't much care who the architect of record was but today it is used as almost a status symbol. Speaking as someone who works at a course that is already and becoming even more so, a Thompson origional that just isn't anymore.

Thanks again,
Paul M.

Anonymous said...

here's an idea. create a matrix listing the considerations you mentioned, ie. designed all 18, w/wo site visits, design x # of new holes, redesigned existing, etc.
While I see some merit as to the historical aspect of an exercise like this, it must also be tempered with the understanding that a golf hole/course is a very dynamic element, subject to contant (like an advancing glacier) change due to tree growth, maintenance practices, and other "remodelling" efforts. The only time a hole/course is "original" is opening day. After that - well, outside forces have a say.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a Thompson Wikipedia....

dave k said...


I like the idea of creating a starting list and then working away at it as a group. Many hands make for a lighter task. I would be willing to help out, probably as a "research assistant", to someone like yourself or Chris. Something new for me to learn.