St. George’s is one of the five most-famous Stanley Thompson designs and the only one he built to be a championship style golf course. As such, the layout is brawny and difficult (yet playable). It asks a lot of questions throughout the round, but demands the golfer pull off the shot they commit to.
The very first question comes on the tee of the par 4, 2nd, which takes the diagonal ridge on direct-ly, asking the golfer to choose an upper left or lower right route.
The choice is certainly one of heroism: on the left a 270-yard carry to get above the ridge while the right is more gentle—only 235 yards to get to the fairway—but a bunker on the right comes into play at the 290-yard mark. The ridge often forces the ball towards the bunker. For those who go down the right, a blind second shot into the green awaits, but from the top of the fairway the view is un-obstructed.
On the left, a single bunker short of the green for those who do not catch the second shot full, while the green narrows perfectly in the back, sandwiched between fall offs on either side and the back.
A closer look at the hole, with a drawing to show the contour ridges.
The genius is, of course, routing the tee shot directly up the valley, separating the fairway into two sections.
But Thompson was not done there.
The green is meticulously crafted to provide interest with a hump front right and a ridge in the back, making a back pin extremely difficult to get to. Thompson used the “narrowing in the back” feature quite often here, especially on holes 2, 5 and 17. He would implement this feature at some of his other courses like Banff (12, 13) to really highlight the difficulty in getting to a back flag. Golfers can still bounce the ball up, which makes the approach shot forgiving enough, but the good player who flies the ball all the way back will have to negotiate a smaller surface area than those who play the ground game. Perfectly suited for a 473-yard par 4 like the 2nd at St. George’s—not only one of Canada’s best, but one of the world’s best, too.