Course Reviews – Waskesiu Golf Club – A Venerable Thompson Design Worthy of Bucket List Status
The Stanley Thompson golf trail makes stops in every province except Newfoundland. The Saskatchewan stop on this trail is set in the beautiful Lakes country in the resort community of Waskesiu Lake, set within Prince Albert National Park. The layout is classic Thompson and is an underrated, stout course. From its iconic Lobstick tree (and tournaments) to staff who demonstrate genuine Saskatchewan pride, to the course itself, Waskesiu will provide an enjoyable and memorable golf experience. I have written about Stanley Thompson’s crown jewel design (in my experience and opinion) at Highlands Links in Ingonish, Nova Scotia. The similarities make me appreciate more the design brilliance that was Thompson. Playing as a single in a cold, blustery June afternoon, it would seem Thompson barely moved earth to create this course.
Rolling terrain, so much it felt like I rarely had a level lie but not in an extreme or detracting manner, is a similar feature to Highlands Links. Some holes require blind shots and I have never seen a course utilize large mirrors to allow groups on the tee a chance to see down the fairway to ensure the landing area is clear. This was unique for me and it too did not detract from the experience. The halfway house is set on after the 10th hole and you simply must try the butter tarts (thank me later). The log cabin-style clubhouse is very well stocked and practice facilities are very good and conveniently placed. I was unable to stay to try their food and regret that.
The course is not known for its length and is a nice throwback from modern day conditioning standards. I felt the conditions were excellent and appropriate for the historic layout. A park style design, cut from Boreal forest, a short par four is a nice start but facing the iconic Lobstick tree adds to the first tee jitters. I heard the tree has recently been replaced following irreplaceable damage to the older original. I am sure that was a sad day, as the Lobstick tree provides a real identity for this course. After a short, downhill second hole, the course moves out and provides a good variation of holes over the first nine.
The defences of this course are the surrounding forest and the terrain which requires imagination and accuracy. Greens are not too large and with recent rains earlier in the week were rolling true, albeit somewhat slow.
The holes are very unique, using slope, mounds and forest to define them. The first is iconic with the Lobstick tree looming in the fairway. The second is a beautiful downhill par three with trouble left and right for wayward shots. The par 5 8th hole is a beautiful golf hole, one of the nicest par 5’s I’ve played in some time. The back nine provides a great risk-reward hole on the 15th, a drivable par 4. And the home hole rewards a well struck drive with a good luck at the green. Considering the distance many would have to travel, I’d recommend taking a full day and playing two rounds…you will learn much after your opening 18 to allow you a chance to score well on this great course.
Aura – 7.5 out of 10 – There is a strong sense of history here. While this course makes some lists as a value play, it is when you do your research where you will see this is an impressive, historic track. I acknowledge my bias as a growing fan of Stanley Thompson designs.
Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10. A peak fee of $57 is a solid value for a strong Stanley Thompson design. Experience is an excellent word for the day of golf I had, including the relaxing and beautiful drive to Prince Albert National Park.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 7.5 out of 10. With recent rains, the course was in surprisingly superb condition. Playing the day after their annual opening Men’s Lobstick tournament provided me tee boxes which were well mown, fairways that were clearly identified, rough which was not too penal, and greens which were true but a little slow due to the moisture. A shorter course, accuracy off the tee of more of a need than length.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – I loved it. I could play here every day. It was a comfortable, relaxed yet respectful golf experience – 8 out of 10
Highlight (what is great about the course) – The drive to the course, especially once reaching the village of Waskesiu Lake is a treat. The log cabin clubhouse creates a relaxed feel and the first tee shot was the real treat. OK, the Butter Tart gives that tee shot a run for the money too. But both pale in comparison to the amazing staff who demonstrate great appreciation and respect for their course. I did not see elk on the course, but evidence of their presence (hoof prints) were evident on a few holes.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I would make sure this course was on everyone’s top 100 list in Canada. Mind you, I’m just starting my cross-Canada golf journey but struggle to see there being 100 courses in this country better than this. It is golf the way it was meant to be played – rugged, natural and fair.
Just So You Know – $1475 can get you an annual membership and with extended summer daylight hours the chance to play 36 holes a day would be so easy. It’s a family friendly course but can provide good challenge for skilled players.
My Best Shot – Hole 18, after a poor drive I hit a hybrid pure to 4 foot. Lipped out the birdie putt but it left a great feel after a fun round of golf.
P.S. – My sincere thanks to the marshals and pro shop staff who went above and beyond to make sure my experience at Waskesiu was a memorable one. Your book on the history of your course is a cherished keepsake of a golf experience I will never forget and hope to enjoy again in the future.