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(Forward by Geoffrey S. Cornish from the book, The Toronto Terror, by James A. Barclay)
Golf course architect Stanley Thompson was a genius. Shortly after his death, the Ottawa Citizen wrote of him: "He left his mark on the Canadian landscape from coast to coast. No man could ask for a more handsome set of memorials."
All of us who worked for Stan are grateful that he was conscientious in training his assistants. Indeed, it is generally accepted that one of his partners, Robert Trent Jones, has since become the most influential golf course architect ever. Other assistants who came from what Stan termed his "stable" went on to become recognized architects, including Clinton "Robbie" Robinson, Howard Watson, Kenneth Welton, Norman Woods, Robert Moote, and me. They, in turn, produced renowned golf architects north and south of the border. In Canada, they included Douglas Carrick, Graham Cooke, Lester Furber, Tom McBroom, John Watson, and David Moote. Based in the United States were Roger Rulewich, the late Frank Duane, William Robertson, Trent's famous sons Robert and Rees, and my own partners Brian Silva and Mark Mungeam.
Jim Barclay, who authored the definitive Golf in Canada: A History, published in 1992, has now written this equally definitive account of Stanley Thompson's career-a career that in some ways is stranger than fiction, but which contributed immensely to the creation of the playing fields of golf. In order to fully appreciate the impact Thompson made, it is necessary to review briefly the history of the intriguing profession of golf course design.
Golf was originally played in Scotland, on land close to the sea, on courses we now term links, or linksland. These courses did not involve the moving of earth or the making of artificial hazards. Nature had been their architect. As the game became popular in the second half of the nineteenth century, and as it spread to England, new courses had to be manufactured by man and machinery, some close to the sea, others inland. Scottish golf professionals such as Alan Robertson, Old Tom Morris, Willie and Tom Dunn, and Willie Park, helped in the design of these courses, so becoming the first golf course architects. Willie Park, Jr. and younger members of the Dunn family were among those who carried their knowledge of course-making to North America when the craze for golf spread there in the closing years of the nineteenth century.
Many of the new courses in England and North America were laid out on inland sites rather than on linksland, and more and more earth had to be moved in their creation. This led to a new breed of golf course architects, one that had studied exactly what features contribute to the making of a good golf course. Willie Park was one of the leaders of this new breed. Others were Herbert Fowler and Harry Colt. All three came to North America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to lay out some of the best courses yet seen on that continent.
New golf course architects soon emerged in the United States, and with them new landmark courses. Charles Blair MacDonald, Canadian-born but educated at St. Andrews, Scotland, was the Father of American golf course architecture. His National Golf Links of America revolutionized course design and led to the rebuilding of many established courses. It set standards for courses yet to be created.
Many of the new and better North American courses were created in the Roaring Twenties, which came to be known as the Golden Age of golf course architecture. Sadly, after only 10 years, this age was followed by almost a quarter of a century of depression and war, when golf course design could have become a lost art.
Stanley Thompson was most active in the Golden Age. The Canadian masterpieces he created in those years - Banff Springs, Jasper Park, St. George's - remain significant. Yet he soldiered on through the Great Depression, producing another two superb courses, Capilano in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Highland Links in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, plus a score of modest new layouts and remodellings. All provided dignity and hope for depression-stricken communities. None would have become a reality without the eloquence and persistence of its architect, who is acknowledged to have been the greatest salesperson of our profession.
After World War II and the Korean War, Robert Trent Jones, once Thompson's partner, rose to the fore in an era aptly called the Age of Robert Trent Jones, an age that British golf course architect and author Fred Hawtree has characterized as one of panache and style.
Then the links style of courses again became popular, but with a North American flair, and with Pete and Alice Dye as the leaders. We also saw the arrival of the most dynamic and creative generation of course architects in history, and the most impressive layouts since golf spread from Scotland.
Stan revered the links. I think they were his bible. Yet he foresaw the future, and in my opinion his own visionary works still influence courses coming off the drawing board today. It is noteworthy, too, that in the depth of the Depression he would say that the day would come when a thousand new courses would be opened annually. In 1998, a thousand new courses were under construction, counting only in the United States.
Long before the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) became a reality, he stated frequently that an organization was needed to regulate the profession. To this end, during Prohibition, when American businessmen felt it mandatory to visit Canada regularly, Stan made his peers from south of the border welcome at his office when they visited Toronto. Forming a society was discussed, but it was not until 1947 that Donald Ross, Robert Bruce Harris, Bill Gordon, and Stan brought a group of 13 visionaries together to form the ASGCA. It was to become influential in the creation of the playing fields of golf, and a cornerstone of the game. Yet almost another quarter of a century elapsed before the then-ASGCA President Lawrence Packard brought on board an executive secretary, namely Paul Fullmer, although visionary Stan had emphasized that such a position was mandatory if the Society were to meet its goals.
Known as the "Toronto Terror," Stan was not without his faults.
Certainly no one can deny that he was one of the most colourful figures in the history of course design, a profession which is not immune to flamboyance. Yet all of us who worked with him recognized the depths beneath the flamboyance.
No doubt he was one who "marched to a different drummer." Like others who have done likewise, he made an exceptional contribution to golf, what with his handsome memorials from coast to coast, his yearning for beauty that manifests itself even in his most modest creations, his international reputation, his dedication to educating those who worked for him, and his goal of creating an energetic society for golf course architects - complete with an executive secretary.
Jim Barclay's work enhances our knowledge of this giant of our profession, one who continues to influence golf and its playing fields at the end of one millennium and at the start of another. This is an era of dynamic, talented course designers, and of the most impressive layouts since golf emerged from Scotland. These impressive layouts and their designers are indebted to Stanley Thompson, whose life and times are exceedingly well portrayed in this book.
-Geoffrey S. Cornish
Dr. Cornish died in 2012, age 97. Born in Winnipeg, he attended the University of British Columbia and worked for Thompson in 1935 and again in 1946. He had important responsibilities in the creation of Highlands Links. Later he opened his own architectural practice in Massachussets.
His architectural credits are impressive. Cornish was the co-author of The Golf Course, considered the bible of golf course architecture. He is an honoured member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and the Stanley Thompson Society. Geoff was also a past President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.