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09

MAIL

BOX

Jones at Capilano

Dear Editor

It is my pleasure to reply to the concerns

raised by Ian Andrew about my article, “Who

routed the course at Capilano: Thompson or

Jones?” published in the October 2014 issue

of

Golf Course Architecture

.

First, my article provides evidence that

Robert Trent Jones Sr, following a visit to the

property in the summer of 1932, may, in fact,

have routed Capilano. My article does not

argue that Jones deserves attribution as the

course designer, as Andrew charges. Andrew,

himself a golf architect, knows that routing is

only an opening element in a long process of

creativity, imagination, and hard work. In no

place do I state that Jones should be considered

Capilano’s designer; my closing paragraph

makes it very clear that Stanley Thompson

absolutely remains the course designer.

Second, because Thompson visited the

Capilano property in February 1932,

and Jones visited it some five months

later, Andrew seems to be asserting that

Thompson surely had done, at minimum,

a rough routing of the course before Jones

arrived there. Andrews writes: “From this

information it’s rational to conclude that he

[Thompson] walked the site in February and

then produced a routing on a topography

map in his hotel room.” But where is the

absolute, unadulterated historical evidence

that Thompson provided these preliminary

drawings? Could those drawings not be from

the hand of Jones, given to Thompson in

Toronto? Without the drawings, there is no

way to be sure who drew them. Based on

the evidence given above, there is no way to

know for sure who routed Capilano.

Third, Andrew rejects Jones’s claim,

made in his autobiographical book

Golf’s

Magnificent Challenge

, “I routed the holes for

Thompson at Capilano.” In the same breath

Andrew discards the direct statement made

by Thompson’s biographer James Barclay,

in his biography of Thompson,

The Toronto

Terror

(2000) that “Jones did the course

routing for Stanley Thompson’s classic layout

at Capilano.” Andrews discards this crediting

on the basis that Barclay was simply parroting

the assertion that Jones had made in

Golf’s

Magnificent Challenge

. But why would James

Barclay, Canada’s most devoted golf historian

(who died in 2012), accept Jones’s word at

face value? If I had been in Barclay’s shoes,

writing the life story of Canada’s greatest golf

architect, as a Canadian, I would have very

seriously questioned Jones’s assertion and

gone as deeply into the records of Capilano

and into the archives of Stanley Thompson’s

business operations as possible. And Andrew

is wrong when he writes in his letter (in

bold face) “The problem is they both cite

the same exact single source.” Unfortunately,

Barclay did not cite sources for any of his

information; his book has a bibliography,

which includes Jones’s

Golf’s Magnificent

Challenge

, but there are no footnotes or

precise reference notes to show us where

he found anything. It is possible, is it not,

that Barclay might have known this nugget

of information in some other way? I just

don’t see a Canadian golf historian giving

away credit for the routing of one of Stanley

Thompson’s classic layouts to an American

architect, without thoroughly reviewing all of

the facts involved – and definitely not just on

the basis of Jones saying so.

Fourth and finally, Andrew falls prey to a

fundamental misunderstanding about the

relationship between Stanley Thompson

and Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The fault is that

Andrew sees Jones as merely another one of

Thompson’s “juniors” and as a “subordinate”

and not as an “associate” and “business

partner,” which is what Jones was from the

time the two men established “Thompson and

Jones, Inc.” in 1930 until the formal dissolution

of their partnership in 1941. As a reading of

my book

A Difficult Par: Robert Trent Jones

and the Making of Golf

makes clear, Jones

was not ever one of Stanley’s employees, and

Stanley never treated him like one. From the

very beginning of their partnership, which

started in 1930 with the design of Midvale

Golf & Country Club, Thompson pretty much

gave Jones authority to design the courses

he was working on. Jones never worked for

Thompson. By the mid-1930s, as several letters

between Jones and Thompson (preserved in

the Cornell University Archives) show, it was

Thompson, not Jones, who was beseeching

Jones to continue their planning for mutual

golf course projects. Stanley and Trent were

partners, and Stanley was fully capable of

assimilating a Jones routing for Capilano into

his overall design.

As someone deeply interested in the history

of golf course architecture (I teach a course

on the subject at Auburn University), I

enjoy exchanging ideas and debating issues

like this one, always in a friendly, positive

manner. So, I thank Ian Andrew for his letter.

I was hoping to meet and talk through this

issue with him at the annual meeting of the

Stanley Thompson Society at the Oshawa

Golf & Curling Club outside of Toronto.

Unfortunately, I did not see him there, but

I look forward to the day when we can sit

down together and exchange our ideas.

Yours sincerely

James R. Hansen, Ph.D.

Auburn, Alabama

This is a slightly abridged version of James

Hansen’s response to Ian Andrew’s original

mail, both of which are available in full via

www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

.

We are delighted to receive letters from readers,

and the best in each issue will be rewarded with

a GCA golf shirt. Send letters by post to

6 Friar Lane, Leicester, LE1 5RA, UK, or e-mail

us at:

letters@golfcoursearchitecture.net

Last time’s

Gopher Watch

proved a difficult one – we had answers including St Andrews and

Prestwick, but there were quite a few who correctly spotted the excellent par three twelfth hole

at Portmarnock in Dublin. The brilliant Irish links is missed out by many golf travellers to the

Emerald Isle, as they head west in search of big dunes, but more fool them – with maybe the best

turf anywhere and a pile of great holes, it’s a course everyone should see. First out of the hat was

the entry of a good friend of

GCA

, German architect Christian Althaus. Congratulations, and the

golf shirt is headed for Dusseldorf.

Only a relatively short journey for the roving rodent this time. No clues, it’s a pretty easy one. If

you think you know where he is, answers as usual to

gopher@golfcoursearchitecture.net

GOPHER

WATCH