ver 3Architecture

"Lately there has been a reaction - and rightly so - against the artificiality and grotesqueness of certain architecture. Nature must always be the architect's model."
                  Stanley Thompson in About Golf Courses Their Construction and Up-Keep;1923

Design Principles

Ten principles guided Stanley Thompson in his golf course design:

1. Select best property of 150 to 200 acres with

  • Unforgettable views
  • Natural features such as rivers/lakes, trees, good soil
  • Environment

2. Clubhouse site overlooking terrain

  • Both nines start and return to clubhouse
  • Adequate room for parking
  • Practice and putting green

3. Walk, walk and re-walk the property

  • Pick out spectacular par 3 sites
  • Work natural par 4 and par 5 sites into layout

4. Easy aesthetic start, strong, long and difficult finish

  • No par 3 before 4th or 5th hole
  • Last par 3 on the 16th or 17th hole
  • Finishing holes not into setting sun
  • Route holes around perimeter and second nine inside - property dictates routing

5. Natural green sites

  • Varied in shape and size at 6000 to 6500 square feet
  • Contoured two to three putting areas, good drainage
  • Blended into surrounding terrain
  • Unique mounding
  • Deeply faced bunkers with upswept sand and capes, Greenside bunkers
  • Allow pitch and run shots
  • Angled green to fairway

6. Bunkers

  • Greenside
  • Fairway at dog legs
  • Protection
  • Just off tees
  • Target

7. Tees

  • 3 elevated sets - size in proportion to par of hole
  • Aiming to centre of fairway
  • Greens, landing area, bunkers to be seen from tee

8. Fairways

  • Strategic routes to green, 5000 to 6600 yards in length
  • Mounds, spectacular and voluptuous bunkers at doglegs
  • Mix dogleg left and right
  • Target bunker

9. Par breakdown

  • Five par 3's (145 yards to 245 yards S.T.'s favourites)
  • Eight par 4's (340 yards to 445 yards)
  • Five par 5's (460 yards to 590 yards)

10. Other course features

  • Course designed to use every club in the bag.
  • Short and long holes equally distributed.
  • Difficult and easy holes equally distributed in sequence.
  • Stanley Thompson always remembered more than 85% of golfers shoot 90 and over
  • Course designed to test both low and high handicap golfers alike, insuring enjoyment for all.

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Stanley Thompson Disciples

Stanley Thompson First Generation DisciplesGolf course architecture is the melding of art, science, engineering, environment, recreational outdoor kinetics and appreciative introspection. Training for the profession goes well beyond the realm of formal academia.

Geoffrey Cornish, a disciple of Stanley Thompson himself in the 1930’s & 40’s, has spent a virtual lifetime researching the roots of golf architecture. Mr. Cornish, a noted member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, Honourary Member of the Stanley Thompson Society, Past President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, co-author with Ron Whitten of Golf Digest of the book The Architects of Golf and designer extraordinaire himself, in a recent Sports’ Illustrated article, "points out, course architecture is learned not in a classroom but in the field, and going to work for an established architect remains the primary path to knowledge.”

As much as being recognized for his unprecedented genius in the creation of exhilarating golf landscapes, Stanley Thompson’s tutoring of a core of young designers led to an on-going lineage of succession that has furthered the spread of the Thompson golf dynamic throughout North America and the world. The likes of Robert Trent Jones Sr., Geoffrey Cornish, Robert F. (Bob) Moote, C.E. (Robbie) Robinson, Ken Welton, Howard Watson and Norman Woods formed an erstwhile group of disciples who themselves continue to breed a lineage of Thompson aficionados, albeit coupled with each’s own individual style and flair.

As Cornish puts it, "Every course architect is a branch on one of 35 design family trees”. The referenced Sports Illustrated article, June 2002, by Mark Leslie rated these lineage trees ranking Thompson’s as No. 5 behind Robertson, Rolland, Tillinghast and Dye, one ahead of Fazio. Not by co-incidence, the Stanley Thompson Society, in working to preserve Thompson courses, looks to encourage and support aspiring golf designers, as well as to garner an appreciation within the devoted fraternity of golfers for generations to come, the legacy that Thompson courses truly are.

Attached is the Stanley Thompson Disciple Chart.

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The following is a list of golf courses laid out, or constructed by, or remodeled by one of several companies that Stanley Thompson worked for or managed in the years 1912-1953. In some cases his involvement was minor and in a few, was problematic. The extent of his involvement is made clear in the appendix to The Toronto Terror, a book published in 2000 by Sleeping Bear Press and written by Jim Barclay, an honorary member of the Society. Later and more complete facts about some of his courses have come to light and in recent years have been noted in the Stanley Thompson Society’s publication "Dormie”. A third party 'Provenance & Authentication' investigation research project has recently been completed by Dr. Cecelia Paine and Kirsten Brown at the University of Guelph.

Please note that in a list of this sort, it is not possible to provide the details of what Thompson did on each course. As well some courses no longer exist. Case in point, the Bayview course listed in Toronto is not the same Bayview Country Club that exists today. The list is also intended to assist those who run across a golf course that claims to have some degree of Stanley Thompson input, but is not listed here. Should such a course or courses be found, please contact the Stanley Thompson Society at

For comprehensive detail on individual courses go to The Courses


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American Society of Golf Course Architects

The American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) is a non-profit organization comprised of leading golf course designers in the United States and Canada. Its members are actively involved in the design of new courses and the renovation of older courses. Stanley Thompson was a founding member in 1947.

As at its inception in 1947, the ASGCA credo remains today as follows:

"The goal of the golf course architect is to design a great golf course. A great golf course must, like life, offer intrigue, diversity, mystery, and the opportunity to experiment; it must require creativity and problem-solving; and it must challenge your limits, and test your character … the ASGCA … is dedicated to the advancement of research of golf courses and their design, and the dissemination of that information to individuals and communities interested in planning greenspace for recreational purposes. It is dedicated to attracting new players to the game and enhancing the beauty and virtues of golf.” ASGCA ‘05

The founding members of the ASGCA are pictured below.


The American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) held its first annual meeting in Pinehurst on Dec. 5, 1947. Shown at that meeting (l. to r.) are: William P. Bell, Robert White, W.B. Langford, Donald Ross, Robert Bruce Harris, Stanley Thompson, William F. Gordon, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., William Diddel, and J.B. McGovern. Of the original founders of the ASGCA unable to attend the first meeting were: Perry Maxwell, Jack Daray and Robert "Red” Lawrence.

For further information on the American Society of Golf Course Architects, see

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