Without doubt the best three course facility in Canada (and arguably any two of the Osprey courses would make the best 36 hole facility as well), Osprey Valley is one of those pure golf facilities that players embrace. For years, it lacked a range and clubhouse, but that didn’t matter. Players came anyway.
The reason they showed up was clear — three great golf experiences, designed by Doug Carrick that offered value for their hard earned cash. It remains the case to this day, though now I’d argue the facilities offer even greater value as the price of golf rises in the Toronto area.
The first course built at the facility was the Heathlands, the least interesting piece of land on the property. The course has a storied history, having fallen out of the hands of the original owners and into the grasp of current owner, Jerry Humeniuk. Though Humeniuk’s vision for golf doesn’t mirror that of most of his contemporaries, in many ways the minor key take on golf suits the style of the original course.
The Healthlands is Carrick’s homage to Scotland, a lumpy, fescue filled course build largely on flat land. Though it has never been played as Carrick intended (problems with the original owners meant the clubhouse never got built, leaving players to tee off on the third hole next to the parking lot), the course remains one of Carrick’s most successful. While the designer has spent much of his career after Heathlands building big budget projects that allowed him to indulge some of his more elaborate design concepts, Heathlands is simply great, classic golf. Fairways are narrow and green sites are smart and elaborate. Bunkering is kept to a minumum. In my mind, all other faux links courses in Canada need to be judged against this one. There are some let downs (the original opening hole, a short par five, is just short now, and the third hole, which used to be the opening, is just hard), but that is more than made up for by the current sixth, a simple and demanding par four.Give Carrick and his team a lot of credit for having the vision to dream up three entirely different courses when they built the badly-named Hoot and Toot, which I refer to as Parkland and Wasteland. The Wasteland has a few throwaway holes, including the opening par five and the short 17th (with its Trumpesque waterfall), but the remainder is among Carrick’s most distinguished work. The architect occasionally uses on grade greens (like #2), allowing players to role the ball onto the putting surface. The best holes are either tough as nails (but ultimately fair) like the beastly 472 yard fifth, or the majestic and intriguing 440 yard seventh, with its remarkable uphill approach. Sure the final three are a bit of a letdown, but for 15 holes, the Hoot is as good a course as Carrick has designed. That leaves the Parkland course (Toot), which is the most overlooked of the bunch, but deserves more attention than it typically receives. Like the Hoot, the Parkland course opens easily enough, but slides into a fine series of downhill tee shots to winding fairways. While greens are often on grade at the Hoot, the parkland course features perched putting surfaces, many of which rest on the knolls of hills. There are a few plain moments, but no real letdowns at this course, and the finishing kick of 15 through 18 is arguably the best of the three courses. The 16th, with a tee shot that plays over the well bunkered crest of a hill and then steeply downhill to the green, is exceptional, and Carrick’s flair for angled strategic bunkering is noticeable on the closer.
All three courses are likely in the Top 50 in Canada, with the wasteland and heathland ranking well up that list of the best places to play. It may be quirkly, and in some cases the business model behind Osprey Valley may not make sense to people, but there is no denying its place among the best that this country has to offer.