In Canada, it’s not every day a new golf course opens. Rarely have we seen courses built since the ’08/’09 market crash, and for those courses and developments that do make it through the planning phase and put shovels to the dirt, they garner a lot of attention and hype.
The Nest at Friday Harbour is the newest golf course from Doug Carrick, which is part of the ambitious Friday Harbour project.
Out of the gate Carrick provides a warm introduction. The 340-yard par 4 first features a bunker on the left part of the fairway and some pretty intense (and awesome) fairway movement.
The approach is to a smaller green circled by bunkers left, right, and short. There isn’t a whole lot of interesting movement here, providing a good opportunity to make a birdie or par right off the bat.
The second is a really smart short par 3. Just 145 yards from the back tee, it’s a short iron or wedge for most.
Where the hole becomes really cool is the narrowing green at the back. This is something Stanley Thompson does a fair bit (12/13 at Banff and 2/17 at St. George’s), and is a nice reminder of the family lineage that Carrick carries.
After the relatively short opening duo, The Nest finds its bite with the 473-yard par 4 third. There’s only one bunker left, but in order to get down the hill and catch the speed slot you need to challenge it. Anything out to the right side is safe, but leaves a longer second shot in.
On the approach you’re greeted with another lovely view of the land, which was sculpted to create interesting topography. Everything you see at The Nest is man made with the fill having been scooped out of nearby Lake Simcoe.
There are two bunkers on the left side of the green, but they don’t really come into play unless the pin is positioned left. The main defense is the hummock short of the green, which could cause balls to run back and have an interesting pitch shot.
Looking back you see some of the terrain you play over.
The fourth is a good attempt at a bunker-less golf hole. At 381 yards, it’s shorter, but the fairway is divided into an upper left and lower right section.
I would have liked to see Carrick get really daring here and make the lower right side (also the shorter side thanks to the gentle dogleg right) blind into the green, or at least some sort of penalty for not taking the higher, longer route. It’s a nice attempt, and a noble concept, but I don’t think it was executed as well as it could be.
The green here is cool. Very wide with a collection area short left and featuring a lot of movement.
The fifth is a mid-length par 4 at 422 yards. Moving ever-so-slightly to the left, a strange fairway bunker is hidden from the tee, which will rarely come into play at 347 yards from the back tees.
I think the strategies involved on this hole are quite good. Keeping the ball down the left side of the fairway opens up a better view and angle to the green which has two bunkers guarding its front right side. The ideal line is directly at the bunker on the left, but whether or not it’s placed at the correct yardage is a question in my mind. Still, it’s a nice approach shot to an attractive green complex.
Turning back north we arrive at the first par 5 on the golf course and the first of two back-to-back par 5’s. At 558 yards, it’s a middle length par 5 playing slightly uphill. Bunkers on both the left and rights side of the fairway pinch the landing area at roughly 300 yards from the back tee, but there’s enough room here to swing away.
For those who layup, you will have a fairly standard shot, but those who are daring enough to try and get home in two have to negotiate four bunkers around the green. Cleverly, Carrick left the short left bunker far enough back that it shouldn’t come into play unless mishit, but from the fairway it looks to be close to the green.
As you make your way to the green, and for those playing their third shots, you’ll realize the bunker it is far enough back that it shouldn’t come into play for a good hit or those laying up.
I was really impressed by this green complex, which is pretty awesome. Great shaping here.
The second of back-to-back par 5’s is a bit more reachable at 537 yards playing down the hill the 6th just climbed. I would venture to say this is the signature hole at The Nest with the Friday Harbour lighthouse looming over the hole. The tee shot is pretty cool, with three bunkers cut into the hillside on the right. Staggered, they run from 226 yards all the way to 309 yards carry. The more you take them on the shorter the hole becomes.
For the second and third shots a pond to the left comes into play. Those who elect to layup will be greeted by a bunker on the right side.
This green is also a beauty. Three predominant ridges running through the green makes for a ton of interesting pin locations. Among modern golf courses in Canada, this is up there for the green with the most movement.
The eighth is a relatively plain 206-yard par 3. A pond guards the right side of the green. Missing slightly left tends to kick the ball towards hole giving golfers a bit of room to avoid the water hazard.
The ninth is one of the most fundamentally sound holes at The Nest, and thus, one of my favourites. Carrick’s best moments are when he relies on Golden Age features, and the ninth is straight out of William Flynn’s playbook (Flynn of Shinnecock Hills, Cherry Hills and Merion fame).
For this 462-yard par 4, two bunkers on the outside corner of the dogleg await while bush and shrubs sit to the right.
Where the ninth is really quite special is Carrick, like Flynn, asks the golfer to play their tee ball to the outside of the dogleg for the better angle even though “Architecture 101” is to have golfers challenge the inside corner of the dogleg for a better second shot. So flipping this architectural rule on its head keeps golfers on their toes.
For another example, here’s a drawing from Merion’s East course restoration highlighting William Flynn’s 15th hole (from The Nature Faker), which favours those who play to the outside corner of the dogleg.
The approach summarizes the entire strategic concept with two bunkers front right.
Kicking off the back nine we have a similar hole to the first. The 10th is a shorter par 4 at 362 yards. Two bunkers on the right and one on the left angle this fairway to the right.
I liked the way the tee shot is angled to the right while the green is angled to the left. It’s a simple twist, but I think one that is subconsciously admired by most who see it as it makes shots feel quite a bit different.
Cresting over the top of the hill to the bottom of the property, the 572-yard par 5 11th is a wonderful driving hole. One bunker on the left is 290 yards to cover, but once you get past this bunker you could potentially get down the hill for an even bigger tee ball.
Once you start working down the hill you realize the massive rolls in the fairway that keeps golf fun. One bunker in the layup area around 100 yards out is wonderfully cut directly in front of the green’s sightline.
Everything kicks to the right on the 11th, and with a bunker on the low side right, it plays fairly gentle. This is a birdie hole. I really liked the knob sculpted short of the green for those who go for this hole in two. Depending on where the ball lands it would kick it all over the place.
Carrick’s architectural family linage once again is on display here with some love for the long par 3 (like Stanley Thompson) on the 243-yard 12th. In truth, I think this is one of the better holes at The Nest, with two bunkers bleeding in from the left side removed from the front edge of the green. Those two bunkers hide a kicker slope, which could either help or hurt the golfer. For those who elect to fly it all the way there, the staggered bunkering coming in from the left come more into play. Exceptional.
You can see the room behind the bunkers below:
Balancing out the long par 3 you just played, you turn and play the short, 326-yard par 4, 13th. With lots of room here, it’s a good birdie chance.
In reality, this is a somewhat weaker hole used to balance out the longer holes. I don’t think there’s too much going on here, but it’s still a good chance at birdie.
The 14th is the final par 5 on the golf course at 570 yards. There are a couple of bunkers are on the left side of the fairway and one on the right that needs to be challenged to gain distance from a speed slot.
Just like the 11th, a bunker cut into the layup area is the perfect line for those who are going for this green in two. However, those who lay back won’t have to worry about this bunker nearly as much as its much more in play for the layup.
Over the bunker is a kicker slope propelling the ball to the green. This makes the hole play much shorter for all involved if they challenge and pull off the carry over the bunker.
I also liked the way the green sat on the land and featured some nice movement.
The 15th is a long par 4 coming back towards the clubhouse. There is ample room off the tee, but two bunkers on the left are the main defense.
The green is guarded by a bunker short right and is perched up from the surrounding area.
The finishing three holes at The Nest work into the trees, which is quite frankly a bit awkward. Golf courses traverse various terrain all the time (like Cypress Point dancing between the pines, dunes and rocky coast, or Beacon Hall switching between the tree-lined front and the open, heathland inspired back nine), but I’m surprised they saved this for the finale as it’s not really a “wow” moment to finish on.
The 16th is a 397-yard dogleg left par 4. Without much trouble in the landing area off the tee, it’s a gentle hole.
The green is quite wide, but I really liked the back left tongue tucked behind the bunker.
The 17th is a relatively plain, low profile 186-yard par 3.
The finishing hole is a nice closer. Just shy of 440 yards, it plays longer working back up a hill. A single bunker decides the strategy on the inside corner at 296 yards to fly as it asks the golfer to challenge it. Wonderful variety in strategies.
On the left side of the green sits two bunkers which the golfer will have to deal with when hitting anything left of centre. I thought this was a more laid-back finisher than most, but a smartly designed golf hole.
The Nest is certainly a wonderful effort from Doug Carrick. His usual tropes are here, but as opposed to say, TPC Toronto or Bigwin, I found them to make a bit more sense. The scale matches the shots required, and it’s never really too wide, which has creeped into Carrick’s more recent work in an attempt for “playability.” This results in perhaps Doug’s most interesting golf course from a strategic point of view where there’s minimal wasted shots throughout the round.
The Nest is worth the visit and an excellent option for a buddies’ trip if travelling to Muskoka from Toronto. Or, if you just wanted to make a day trip of it, it’s close enough you could do that, too. Kudos to everyone involved at Friday Harbour…The Nest is certainly a success.