Located alongside the Interstate 93 highway in the beautiful White Mountain National Forest, the 18-hole layout at the Owl’s Nest Resort was designed by Mark Mungeam of Mungeam Cornish Golf Design and it first opened for play in 1998.
Highlight holes on the front nine include the downhill 433-yard 2nd and the water-protected par five 4th. The shorter inward half occupies more undulating terrain and feature holes here include the uphill par five 13th and bunkerless par four 16th.
Mungeam Cornish Golf Design comment as follows:"Set high in the Mountains and along the Pemigewasset River, Owl's Nest can be divided into three 6-hole sections. The six holes surrounding the clubhouse feature links-style golf. Perimeter mounding on the sides of the fairways bring stray drives back to the short grass. Six holes meander "through the fields" and around our man made four-acre spring-fed pond. Accuracy is important through this section. If your shots are not on line, they will find a watery resting place! The final six holes, set atop "Sunset Hill," and are among the best you will experience anywhere with dramatic elevation changes and views across the White Mountains."
The Owl’s Nest is a Nicklaus design. The first hole is welcoming. A straight away par four with fairway bunker right, so favor the left off the tee. The downhill 2nd is a classic Nicklaus dogleg right. Aim down the middle to ensure you are not blocked out and there is a water hazard left. The 3rd is the number one handicap hole, fairway bunkers right and water hazards left. The obvious answer is hit it straight. Even though you will have a long approach to a narrow green with bunkers front left. The first par 5 is a reverse S and is 3 shotter. A huge fairway, left is best off the tee. There is a large water hazard right, yet the further right your second shot is the better the angle into this narrow green with deep bunkers front. The first par three is mid-length with a partial water carry. The 6th is a fun hole. Dogleg left with water right and a gaggle of bunkers on the inside elbow. It is not a long hole so you can fly the bunkers to set up a flip wedge or lay back for an attack iron. The 7th is a long par 3. Do not be ashamed to hit driver. The green is surrounded by 3 bunkers, two right and one left. Rated the number 9 handicap hole and frankly, I think it is tougher. The 8th offers a respite, a relatively short par 4. However, there is OB right and left. Favor the right off the tee to avoid the fairway bunker left. This is a long two-tiered green with bunker front left. The 9th is a big dogleg right par 5. Off the tee a high fade is preferred, but beware, there are bunkers on the inside elbow. Possible to get home in two, but you would need to come in from the left. For the rest of us, favor the left for the best approach angle and this fairway does narrow the closer to the green and there is OB right and left.
The back starts with a couple of birdie oppties. The 10th is the shortest and easiest hole on the course. It is downhill, thus take one less club. Eleven is a short dogleg left. There is OB right and a fairway bunker. Take an extra club on the approach for this elevated green. The 12th is a long par 4. Favor the right side the entire way. A ravine bisects the hole, and only the stoutest can reach it off the tee. The par 5 S shaped 13th is named “The Bear” and it is. The tee shot is uphill with hazard left, yet a small landing area. The approach is blind and you need to be right of the rock and it is at least one extra club. The green is two tiered, so it could be two. Tough hole. Other than the view the par 3 14th is forgettable. The short par 4 15th is begging you to be stupid. I am sure some of you can drive it, it is a penthouse or outhouse type of hole. Front bunkers protect this green. If you are laying up favor the right side. The 16th is the longest par 4 and it is downhill with no bunkers. Favor the right off the tee and take one less club on your approach. The 17th is a dogleg right reachable par five. Favor the left side off the tee. The finishing hole is a birdie oppty if you are in the fairway and avoid the bunkers left and right. The green is protected with bunkers in front.
A fun course but not an easy walking course.
New Hampshire has 48 mountains over 4000 feet in height*. The peaks of at least ten of them are visible from Owl’s Nest Golf Club. The course’s finest view—one of the best in our sport—is from the 16th tee, where the proper line for one’s tee shot is between the Franconia Ridge on the right and Cannon Mountain on the left.
There are a number of other holes where the line of the tee shot is critical: Holes 3, 6, 9, 13 and 15 also present the player with risk/reward options. As does the second shot on two of the par 5s (the 4th and the 9th)…..an area where course architects often fall asleep. Options are also present on many approach shots. There are only half a dozen where an aerial approach is required.
The least appealing aspect of Owl’s Nest is the routing. Those readers who enjoy cartball (a variation of the sport which is played with motorized transportation) won’t be troubled by the fact that walking the back nine is nearly impossible. I counted six occasions where the distance from the green to the next tee was over a hundred yards….two hundred in a couple instances. Those of you who prefer walking will like Owl’s Nest less.
*Avid hikers who’ve summited all of them—including the author of this review—are eligible for induction into the New Hampshire 4000 Footer Club.