“Remains the best public course in an urban setting. A massive, sprawling muscular course that is hard to love, but easy to respect” – SCORE Golf Review Panelist, Summer 2013
The quote above, respecting the course as opposed to loving it, really captures my feelings of Eagles Nest. On a mild and very blustery May afternoon, a good friend and I teed it up at Eagles Nest, taking advantage of a special rate which is offered annually at the Toronto Golf and Travel Show. Buying greens fees in March for a May round seems odd, but the value is substantial. It felt like the first really mild day all year and as a twosome in the late afternoon we were offered a chance to tee off early to avoid a foursome set to play just before our set time; a nice touch by the starter.
I quickly realized local knowledge is very helpful, as my friend constantly warned me of subtleties which make Eagles Nest even more difficult than it would appear at first glance. Playing white tees with a slope rating of 131, and with significant elevation change, a strong wind and early season fescue still very penal we knew we’d have to have a good ball striking round to score well. The layout is a strength, the course plays as 18 independent holes with very little risk of anyone spraying shots onto your fairway. The conditioning is sensational, but what one would expect for a course with an opening season rate of $120 with cart. Tee boxes were fantastic, fairways tightly mown with subtle undulations but very playable. Greenside posed considerable challenges with extensive bunkering and tight collection areas for wayward approach shots. The elevation change provides some scenic vistas looking over York Region and all the way south to Toronto.
I played the first 12 holes with a deliberate, strategic, almost conservative approach to the game and was doing very well. My final six holes saw me take more aggressive approaches – both off the tee and in my approaches to greens, and saw my score balloon. The takeaway from this is that mistakes at Eagles Nest are costly. The pace was not fast and as a twosome we were held up often on the back, but the foursome ahead of us endured delays too. I was very surprised to see only one marshal and he was stationed near the 5th hole, overseeing play on 4, 5, and 7. We saw no one on the back nine watching over pace of play. An almost 5 hour round was surprising and disappointing (not as disappointing as my final six hole score, mind you!)
The greens rolled fair and true, with speed but gentle slope so they were very playable. It was clear the course gets lots of play as there were already several ballmarks needing repair. Bunkers were well maintained and the fairways had some winterkill in spots which did not detract from play. This is a course which requires thoughtful and well struck shots from tee to green.
The proshop is well stocked with apparel and other souvenirs from a memorable golf experience. Practice facilities are very generous and helpful to navigate the seemingly constant winds they get in Maple (Vaughan, ON). I would like another chance at Eagles Nest, feeling my experience there will help me to position shots better and ultimately score better.
This is very special course in the GTA, a strong public play option but one that has a GTA price tag; it is not an inexpensive round. Some deals can be had on sites like Golf Now or GTA Golf Club. For an annual treat, it is worth experiencing a country club experience for public players.
Aura – 8 out of 10 – The clubhouse makes the statement. This is designed and marketed to be a special golf experience. The website adds to the aura with stunning visuals and a polished and professional look.
Value (cost / experience) –6 out of 10. As a value conscious player I always get a little trepidation when I am paying either side of $100 to play golf. The experience is special, the course is very nice, but I would not promote Eagles Nest as a value golf destination. It is a quality, high end GTA golf course. The quality of the course provided the value for me.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10. Perhaps mid to late season, when the course is lush and green I may have a difference score here. My critique rests with the back nine layout, which I liked but did not love. The front nine, in my opinion, is the superior nine. That said, the course is very well maintained and the greens are very fair while being fast (even in early May). The holes off the tee, with one exception (number 9 just didn’t suit my eye), provide a clear position to land safely. But like greenside which has several challenging places to get up and down, wayward teeshots can make it difficult to approach the green safely and I really like that sense of challenge
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – Tough, fair and fun. I would like to come back…to get a crack at those last six holes again! –7.5 out of 10
Highlight (what is great about the course) – Holes 3, 8, 12 and 18 are beautiful golf holes. The elevation changes are used well and the backdrop of the suburban and urban landscapes are sensational
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I would like to see the course maintain more consistency in its commitment to support pace of play. The staggered 10 minute tee times are an important and appreciated touch. While I acknowledge playing as a twosome creates potential for pace issues, to see the foursome ahead of us having to wait too on the back is not appropriate.
Just So You Know – If you love the layout and course design of Eagles Nest, you can play their sister course Turnberry. This is another well -conditioned course but with an emphasis on par 3’s. 16 of the 18 holes are par 3. Maybe based on my round at Eagles Nest I need to get over to Turnberry to sharpen up the short game!
My Best Shot – Hole 11, Out of Breath (blaw wearie), and the website calls it possibly the toughest hole on the course. A pulled drive got caught up in fescue but with a good lie and good sightlines, my 4 hybrid sailed smooth and landed soft and released up to 3 feet! The birdie putt landed in the heart of the cup. At that time, I was thinking ‘career round’!