The Nest at Friday Harbour
Location: Innisfil, Ontario
Architect: Doug Carrick
BLACK – 7,101 GOLD – 6,634 BLUE – 6,179 GREEN – 5,562 WHITE – 4,938
Peak Times: Friday-Sunday & Holidays from 10AM-2PM - $190. Non-Peak Times: Monday-Thursday all day & Friday-Sunday & Holidays after 2PM - $165 All rates include shared use of power cart.
When I first made arrangements to bring the Bunker Squad to Friday Harbour, Club Manager Steve Grass was very specific about one thing, “As you drive to the course, note how flat the farmland is. When you get here and see how much elevation we have, you have to realize the golf course site was originally as flat as the surrounding area. A big part of our story is how this course was built.”
The Nest is part of the huge new Friday Harbour project, just east of Barrie on the shores of Lake Simcoe. With over 1,000 marina slips, condos, townhomes, shops and recreation areas, Friday Harbour is a lot to take in. The upscale resort development wraps around the marina, while the golf course is a few hundred yards up the road. (You can learn more about Friday Harbour HERE).
Initially, there wasn’t much of a marina there at all, so it had to be dredged. And footings for the shops and condos had to be excavated as well. All of that dirt had to go somewhere. So, according to Doug Carrick, he was asked if he could use it on the golf course. Turns out it was nearly 2 million cubic yards of dirt or about 150,000 truck loads.
It’s hard to imagine what to do with that much dirt, let alone how to craft it into a golf course. Carrick had 200 acres to work with and not surprisingly, the Hall of Fame architect came up with an inspired plan. Overall, the highest point of elevation is about 50 feet above the adjacent properties, providing great vistas from tee blocks and the clubhouse, which is perched on the summit. The new landscape features ridges and canyons, gentle slopes and sharp drops, as it traverses the manmade hill.
Perhaps the best feature about The Nest is that it looks totally natural, as if all that dirt and the wonderful contours were always there.
The course utilizes generous fairways that roll up, down and around the ever-changing landscape, punctuated by sparkling white bunkers and bordered by tall fescue. The greens are above average in size and if there was a flat one, I didn’t find it. Rather, the putting surfaces, which were quick and unblemished, feature long slopes, often to different plateaus.
When you combine the constantly changing elevation with the large greens, club selection is difficult. Add wind, which blew at a steady 20 kph plus when we played and hitting a green in regulation is no guarantee of par. You could still be 60-80 feet from a pin on approach faced with a long, often breaking uphill putt. That “successful” GIR really translates to a miss by an extra two or three clubs on approach. One of the really challenging aspects of The Nest.
We played the Blue tees at 6,179 yards on the card. Only two of the par 4’s are over 400 yards but two of them are less than 300. All four par 5’s are right around 500 yards, and even the par 3’s are no worse than mid length. Overall, the course looks short on the card but like a lot of courses with significant elevation changes, the yardage is just one factor. This course requires more thinking than usual.
It’s just a chip shot of 115 yards over a canyon to a severely sloped green that cants left to right and back to front. The hole is at the top of the property, so wind is even more of a factor. Great views from here too.
Holes 6 and 7
Back-to-back par 5’s with #6 heading uphill and #7 coming back down. They’re just about the same length but #6 is as wide as a football field while the next hole is tight and turns downhill.
Holes 16, 17, 18
The first 15 holes are crafted on the hillside; the finishing holes are on relatively flat terrain and carved out of the forest – a shortish par 4, a solid par 3 and a long 4 to finish. A surprising change from the rest of the course but a very strong finish too.
It isn’t at all what we expected. Friday Harbour is a very upscale residential resort community and other parts of the Resort showcase some pretty spectacular architecture. The clubhouse is pure golf, a simple design that caters to players that want a drink and a meal after playing but none of the other distractions that too many modern clubhouses seem to have. It offers comfortable spots to relax both inside and out and great views in every direction. The menu offered some unique selections in addition to the usual club fare and the chef needs to be commended on his creativity and execution. If you’re in the area, even if you’re not playing golf, The Nest would be a memorable dining experience.
The Bunker Squad
It was the first time playing The Nest for all of us.
Mark A (11 handicap)
Very enjoyable. Generally, I love Doug Carrick’s designs and The Nest was no different. Fun to play and you never feel like you got beat up. Probably the best greens we played on this year.
John B (18 handicap)
I appreciate lots of room when I play, and The Nest didn’t disappoint. At $165 per round ($190 on weekends) it’s a bit pricy for me to be a regular but I’ll happily come back a couple of times a year. Next time I plan to find out more about that silo (water tower?) that you can see from everywhere.
Peter M (8 handicap)
Really solid golf course. As noted, you have to think your way around The Nest. Presumably some experience would help but you still have the ever-present wind to deal with. Doug Carrick’s bunkers are spectacular, both visually and from a playability standpoint. Kudos to the greens staff for the excellent playing conditions, especially the greens, even though I still have nightmares about some of those long putts.
For more information about The Nest at Friday Harbour, click HERE.