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Ben Page

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Stanley Thompson - greens
« on: April 11, 2024, 06:02:05 AM »
Hi all,


Long time lurker, first time poster. Thanks first of all for all of the amazing threads to learn from; they're great to dig into.


I've recently been studying a lot of Stanley Thompson's work (the big five and others), and it's been a great rabbit hole to go down. Living in the UK, he's not been an architect whose work I've been able to see personally, but I'm really appreciating his distinctive style. One thing I've found tricky to research has been his green contouring itself. Was it site-specific? Does he have particular features he embraces/avoids?


Any thoughts or insight much appreciated.


Cheers,
Ben

Tim_Weiman

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2024, 09:08:46 AM »
Ben,


Years ago I played Sleepy Hollow, a Stanley Thompson design that is part of Clevelandís Metroparks System, many times.


My recollection is that the greens were moderately contoured, but there certainly were some where you definitely didnít want to putt from above the hole.


Overall, Iíd say there was a variety of contour that always fit well with the surrounding area.


Welcome to GolfClubAtlas!


Tim
Tim Weiman

Ben Page

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2024, 12:49:13 PM »
Thanks, Tim - much appreciated! From what I can tell from the photos and videos (historic and present-day) I've seen is that he generally worked in broad slopes and rolls rather than tiers. I loved this photo of Allandale's first that I found and wondered how typical of a 'Thompson green' that was and whether there were such a thing.



Ian Andrew

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2024, 08:13:21 PM »
Thatís a great photo. And yes, the greens had lots of contour and lots of internal movement.


Sleepy Hollow is early and early greens have less contour. The period of Allandale is the same as Banff and St. Georgeís where he used greater movement.


I might post a best 18 greens if I can remember to do so. And throw in the best (now lost) greens. I watched a few great ones go.
Change is good.

Drew Harvie

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2024, 08:45:49 PM »
Of all the great architects in North America, Thompson seemed to be the one who was least talented when building greens, especially in contrast to an architect like A.W. Tillinghast, who Thompson seemed most impacted by. He was an incredible router and his artistic flavour/eye was very good, but I find his greens pretty undercooked in terms of interest.


There are examples of excellent green complexes or even sets of greens. My favourite being Highlands Links, and Kenogamisis has nine pretty awesome greens, but nobody will ever see that other than me (it's roughly 3 hours north of Thunder Bay, Ontario). To his defence, it is hard to tell what is his and what has been vandalized by Canadian architects who thought they knew better. Banff Springs comes to mind, with Les Furber editing the golf course. Jasper Park has had modifications from Bill Robinson on a few holes, and so on.


Of course, I'm comparing him to Tillinghast and Ross and Mackenzie, but his other skills should be in that conversation, in my mind, and I don't think he built ~bad greens, just sometimes lacklustre or uneventful. Maybe that's just because so many of his golf courses are in amazing settings, with a superb set of par 3's, and generally very artistic, eye-catching bunkers, but I've played almost 70 rounds at Banff and Jasper combined and I haven't really walked away thinking they have above average greens, though there are some good ones scattered throughout both.


In terms of characteristics, I've found he generally likes a big back to front tilt, but angled in a way? At both 11 at Jasper and 18 at Highlands, they have a small false front in the front left portion, with balls moving towards that and some good internal contouring. These are two of my favourites of his. Capilano has a few pretty wavy ones, like the side-saddle 5th which I think is superb, but I find most of the green complexes there are defined by where he located them, rather than the actual slope (2, 4, 7, 13 come to mind). It's really hard to know what is his and what's been tinkered with, because the generation before us really messed with a ton of stuff in this country and it never came back.

Ben Malach

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2024, 09:16:48 PM »
Ian,


I don't see Thompson's greens having tons of internal movement especially considering the work of his contemporaries Travis, WPJ, Tom Simpson, Maxwell, Mackenzie and Colt.


As majority of his greens that I have seen. Function with general tilt normally back to front with the occasional inversion of this trope.


 The only internal contours, I have seen are broad shelfs or tiers that maybe have some pitches to them but they never run counter to the broader slope established by the existing built or natural landforms. Rather they may intersect the slope encouraging a favoured side of the fairway. With that prefered side of the fairway normally being protected by bunkers or a ditch in the landing area.

I can only think one of one example of a Thompson with true independent internal contours is the 6th at Banff (modern 2nd). Which resembles more of a Ross green than that of the others there. Maybe this is due to during the renovations by Les Furber in the 90's he had a plan of the old Ross green and used it rather than the Thompson replacement but that doesn't make much sense considering Les' appreciation of history.

Other than this one off I feel Thompson's greens come off as very simple and workman like even at his most well regarded courses. This isn't to say his courses are a chore to play rather that. I feel that Stanley's focus was on other things and the interest in his courses comes from the routing, visual flair and challenge of the drives and second shots. Rather than purely from the putting surfaces.

IMO there is a lot to learn from Thompson but his greens and surrounds leave a lot to be desired.

Really interested to see your list of greens and some of your favorite NLE's as neutering and fiddling with Thompson's work has been a national pass time for almost 3 generations of architects now.

would be fabulous as I know that you know Stanley's work better than almost anyone alive.
@benmalach on Instagram and Twitter

Ian Andrew

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2024, 08:10:17 AM »
I must admit I needed to reconsider my opinion for a few reasons.

There are great interior contours at Cataraqui and Highlands Links, but as I went through, I realized there were fewer good examples than I first thought. Btw, Cataraquiís 4th green is the best interior contouring I have ever seen by Thompson. 3rd at Cape Breton Highlands would be my other top choice. To a smaller extent the subtle 6th at St. Thomas fits the bill too. I original thought of the 17th at St. George's, but that's a crown green.

If your defining interior contours as what Maxwell or Travis would have done, then he did not use interior contours. I think my comment was wrong on this. Thereís just no body of work to make that statement. Some of the features I like and was including are actually crowns. The best one being the front right of the 15th at Jasper Park, but there are others on small layouts like Truro. In thinking this through, thatís not an interior contour. Itís often more of a false front. 6th green at Owen Sound (Legacy Ridge) is my favourite.

One of my biggest issues as I went to compile a list was how many courses I canít use as examples. Here was my list of courses that have rebuilt all their greens: Banff Springs, St. George's, Cutten, Islington, Summit, Ashburn, Gavea, Sao Paulo, (and almost all) Sunningdale and Seigniory. So, I canít use them, even though some greens only have minor changes. Then I have a second list of courses where lots of greens have been rebuilt: Burlington, Capilano, Galt, St. Thomas, Peterborough, Westmount and Oakdale (the original 18). There are original greens on each of those, but more rebuilds than you may think. There may be more courses, but Iíve not researched every history for green rebuilds. My ten-year dig was about original projects/renovations/false credit. I donít include places like Waskesiu where my research says something different than the club. Iím going to stick with what I found and not include them.The best courses to see his original greens are Jasper Park and Cape Breton Highlands out of his very best-known work. Or the small nine-hole layouts that are often really intact like Allandale near Barrie. Some of the mining courses, but not all, many were done by Geoff Cornish.
 
My favourites are Allandaleís 1st (seen on this thread), Jasper Parkís 10th and Cape Breton Highlands 7th. The bucket pin on the 7th is insanely clever set in the middle of a tier. Peterboroughís tight cluster of 11th, 8th and 17th is fabulous. I do have pictures of all the original greens for Jasper Park, Banff Springs, St. Georgeís, Capilano and Cape Breton Highlands. There are some incredible lost surfaces like the original 14th at St. Georgeís was a roller coaster. So was the original 14th at Capilano.

Some lost greens that I was sad to see go include the 7th at St. Georgeís and Cutten Fields wild 14th which had a crazy clever lower tier in front behind the bunker. You can play that same green at the 4th at Oshawa G&CC. The best original green (my opinion) in Thompsonís repertoire may be the 2nd at Kawartha G&CC. It has a high tier in front and huge rise after on the right and a lower tier in the back left. Itís a one of one. So is the 2nd green at Cape Breton Highlands known at the top-hat green. Thatís a wild set of contours too. He did do a lot of isolated tiers, that one happens to be higher than most and crowned. That was the great joy of the original 7th at St. Georgeís (the upper left crown).

Iíve gone to see a lot of his smaller courses and nine-holes and I do know they are definitely pitch green heavy. Thereíre some beauties at places like Dundas Valley, Huntsville and Owen Sound, but they are not what anyone would call great green contours. Same with the 8th at Oakdale (Thompson 9), but the long drawn of diagonal false front is among my favourite features because it leads the ball to the rear bunker.


So, I stand corrected, he did not do interior contouring enough to say that was a feature. If I were picking the source of almost all his movement, it would be best described as waves on the ocean. Often punctuated with a false front or tier when he was in the mood. But often it was just that rolling waves. On lesser work and early work, most greens are pitch greens with the variation of imperfection. And that's not interior contouring using Maxwell and others as what is.

I'll try post some lost green images if I get a chance.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2024, 08:43:48 AM by Ian Andrew »
Change is good.

Ian Andrew

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2024, 08:27:28 AM »
14th at Capilano



St. George's original 14th green
Change is good.

Ian Andrew

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2024, 08:32:46 AM »
Catarqui's 4th 1930 and 1995 (hope you can see the feature in the front middle)






Change is good.

Ian Andrew

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2024, 08:41:42 AM »
2nd at Kawartha (hopefully you can make out the front tier...
Change is good.

Peter Sayegh

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2024, 12:29:13 PM »
14th at Capilano


Ian, do you know when/why this green was abandoned/replaced?

Gorgeous picture.
Was the routing changed or the green relocated?
I'm betting you have an "after" picture of the changes.

Thanks.

Ben Page

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2024, 03:11:45 PM »
Thanks so much, Ian - these are really informative and appreciate the time you put into them; looking forward to researching those courses further with that added information. The waves comment certainly fits with my understanding, but I've seen a few of those little bowls or puffs on other pictures that I thought suggested there might be a bit more to his greens.


As you say, so much is also hard to tell due to the multiple renovations/restorations. One other course that leapt out to me was Green Gables (another where I'm really not sure what is still Thompson or faithful to Thompson). I presume the below isn't a ST green?





I believe Jeff Mingay also shared this excellent image of 17 green, which looks a blast:


Ian Andrew

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2024, 05:57:11 AM »
Ian, do you know when/why this green was abandoned/replaced?
Was the routing changed or the green relocated?
I'm betting you have an "after" picture of the changes.
I don't know, but it was well before Doug was hired.
Same routing, same green site, different green
I do, but its too far away to see contours.
Change is good.

Ian Andrew

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2024, 06:07:05 AM »
One other course that leapt out to me was Green Gables. I presume the below isn't a ST green?
I have the 1958 aerial, that feature shows up clear as day on that aerial. Have to assume its original. There would have been no money to make any changes between the build in 1939 and the aerial in 1958.


Some more images around the build ... this green is still there



This is the old 18th, which is not.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2024, 06:16:51 AM by Ian Andrew »
Change is good.

Jeff_Mingay

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2024, 04:19:32 PM »
Great stuff, Ian.


I agree, the 4th at Cataraqui is a beautiful green ... featuring 2-3 pin positions over about 5,000 square feet!  :)


Like the old 14th at Cutten Fields, it's become pretty severe as green speeds have increased. Cutten Fields' 14th only had 2-3 pins over about 6,000 square feet; and a wicked false front, as you know. During our recent renovation, all the greens were rebuilt and converted to bent grass, mostly to get rid of Poa and minimize the potential for severe winter kill. The bent grass is only going to further magnify those 1930s era slopes. Still, we painstakingly tried to preserve the character of the 14th green while adding a few more pin positions and lessening the severity of the false front, slightly.


It's pretty close to what it was, still.
jeffmingay.com

Wayne_Kozun

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2024, 09:42:47 PM »
@Jeff - How long will it be before the poa starts to encroach on the bent and become a significant portion of the greens?  I was thinking about this today as it was 10 years ago that many clubs got decimated in the Toronto area due to ice during the winter.  That took care of a lot of the poa at the time, but I presume that over the years it will grow back.

Jeff_Mingay

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2024, 09:52:01 AM »
Cutten Fields was decimated by ice and winter a few times leading up to our project because of a high percentage of Poa on the greens. It's tough to say how long it'll take for Poa to come back, Wayne. Some superintendents have more success battling it than others. Bill Green at Cutten Fields will be fighting hard, I know that.
jeffmingay.com

Drew Harvie

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Re: Stanley Thompson - greens
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2024, 05:25:34 PM »
Great additions to the thread, Ian! And some wonderful photos. Cataraqui's 4th would be among my top 10 Thompson greens I've seen as well.


One thing I've been thinking about: the internal slope might not be an industry leader against some of his contemporaries, but the actual green surrounds are among some of the best in the Golden Age. Sometimes, that's greens utilizing the natural terrain (thinking the par 3's on the front nine at St. George's in particular). Other times, it's a man-made feature to create drama (15th, JPL). Maybe he wasn't the best at designing and building contour within the green complex---with a few exceptions---but I've always found his green sites and surrounds have been A+.

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