Review: Eagles Nest Golf Club, Maple, Ont.
With a bold vision, a fascinating, largely created landscape and options abounding, there is little doubt Eagles Nest Golf Club, just north of Toronto, is among a handful of the best modern courses to open in Canada in recent years.
Built next to a landfill, the fact that the owners of Eagles Nest were developers allowed Carrick boundless amounts of fill to fashion his demonic version of Cruden Bay, with wildly contoured faux dunes and other intriguing facets that typicall are found on coastal golf in Scotland and Ireland.[photopress:P1010031v1.jpg,full,alignright]
When many first saw Eagles Nest, the comments were typically that the course would simply be too hard for most players. On Carrick’s part, it seemed like a reaction to the type of course he was building immediately prior — places like Angus Glen North and Magna. Though vastly superior to either of those facilities, Eagles Nest’s tighter fairways and penal bunkering was also sure to make the course much more difficult. The truth is that Eagles Nest is a very difficult course, especially as tees stretch it out to nearly 7,500 yards. However, unlike other hard courses, like The National, for example, Carrick has presented players with options for approaches. You don’t have to simply fly the ball into holes like 3, 10 and 11. In fact, often punchy, low approaches work most effectively.
[photopress:17_secondv1.jpg,full,alignleft]The course starts out tamely enough with a slightly uphill par five, followed by a standard par four, before blowing away expectations with a dramatic tee shot on the third that plunges 75 feet to a winding, right to left fairway. The next series of holes — from three until seven, when the course emerges from a natural valley — are among the most distinctive at Eagles Nest.
The best holes at Eagles Nest are tough pars, easy bogeys. Take the 11th, for example, with its tight fairway demanding a draw off the tee and a well struck approach to a long green. Many of the holes at the course actually play more difficult than they initially look. Or take the second, with its deceptive uphill approach, or the 9th, with its perched up green. Often times, as is the case with the 8th, holes appear easy enough, and don’t seem to be concealing anything hidden. But more often than not, there’s subtle factors that make the holes a challenge.
In the end, Eagles Nest is a tremendous blend of vision and manufactured golf. While the two bunker styles — blowouts on [photopress:P1010034v1.jpg,full,alignright]one hand, and sodwalls on the other — are not aesthetically thrilling, they are one of the few missteps on this course. Similarly, the 18th, one of the few holes at Eagles Nest to have any water in play, seems like a relatively standard, though extremely tough, closing hole.
But that’s a minor quibble. There are so many subtle, clever things going on at Eagles Nest that players are bound to miss some of them the first time around. Take, for example, the birds nesting in the cut out earth just below the 9th tee, or the fact the 14th green only becomes exposed to players taking the boldest line. In this respect, Eagles Nest is a feast for the senses and one of the few courses built recently that becomes more interesting the more often you play it.
There’s little doubt Eagles Nest is setting the barometer for new golf courses in Canada.