Top 10 Doug Carrick Courses

Well I was going to wait until Friday for this Top 10 list, but I haven’t anything to write about, so here goes. This time the Top 10 courses designed by Doug Carrick. Note that I have not seen Greywolf, Carrick’s well regarded course in B.C. nor Humber Valley, his new one in Newfoundland. The Carrick office is quiet these days — can someone explain why he is not getting phone calls and Graham Cooke has all kinds of work? Doesn’t make sense to me.

10 — King Valley — Though it has never been in good shape in the times I have visited it, King Valley is a traditional parkland throwback and largely unlike anything else Carrick has done. It continues to stand the test of time nicely.

9 — Copper Creek — Through 11 holes this course is tremendous. The remaining holes, however, are built largely on flat land and, with the exception of 16, lack much of the drama of the start.

[photopress:muskokabay1.jpg,full,alignleft]8 — Muskoka Bay – before it opened, this was said to have the potential to be Carrick’s best. However, it turned out to be simply another strong Muskoka golf course (with a few notable exceptions like #9, #10 and #11) — which is its strength and failing at the same time.

7 — Angus Glen South — Despite the debacle surrounding the North Course, Angus Glen South remains a delight to play and relatively consistent throughout. The homes that have been built along its opening holes don’t help its aesthetics, but they don’t factor into the shot values. The best holes, like the 9th and 13th, are gambler’s specials and utilize Carrick’s fondness for carry bunkers.

[photopress:osprey_valley1.jpg,full,alignleft]6 — Osprey Valley Wasteland — I refused to call this “Hoot” or “Toot” and can’t figure out which is which anyway. Maybe the most underrated of Carrick’s courses (though the Parkland course at Osprey Valley comes close), the Wasteland course has an ingenious routing and is very playable while not having the wide fairways that Carrick typically designed during the period. Through 16 holes, the course is occasionally extraordinary, but did we really need the waterfall on 17 or the awkwardness of 18?

5 — Bigwin Island — Featuring two of the best holes in Canada in the #9 and #18, Bigwin Island is one of the top mid-period Carrick courses. Though some are critical of its wide fairways, the use of carry bunkers offers options to the bold and those that aren’t so gallant.

4 — Osprey Valley Heathlands — The best of Carrick’s early work, this course stands with his best more than a decade after it opened. The most accurate of the faux-links done in Canada, Heathlands has been hurt by the consistent monkeying with the routing — it has never truly played as the designer intended.

3 — The Carrick — This course, located in Loch Lomond, Scotland and due to open next year is a fascinating piece of minimalist design with strict limitations on the movement of land throughout the construction process. If it were not for the rather plain opening and closing holes, this would rank near Carrick’s best.

2 — Cobble Beach — Carrick at his most clever and quirky, this will [photopress:cobblebeach1.jpg,full,alignright]open next summer and should drive plenty of people to Owen Sound. The best holes — like the 489 yard par four fifth, feature lumpy, bumpy fairways that wouldn’t be out of place on Highlands Links. A near masterpiece. I’ve only played it once — but if it holds up under repeated play there’s a chance this is Carrick’s top effort. During my solo tour around it, I immediately went right back to the first tee and played two more before my hosts forced me to head to dinner.

[photopress:eaglesnest5.jpg,full,alignleft]1 — Eagles Nest — Carrick’s best work on a site that was excellent (the valley holes) and plain (the rest). A muscular work that allows for plenty of shot options (#4, #7, #14, #17), Eagles Nest is rock solid all the way through and as the course matures and the waste bunkers take on a more natural look, it is truly starting to resemble some of the dune-filled courses it attempts to replicate.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  • OK Rob. I’ll have a go at you here. Eagles Nest is an aestheitically pleasing cart ball beast. Great individual holes on an absolutely terrible piece of land. It’s not a course one would want to play on a regular basis.
    Cobble – no play yet, no comment
    Carrick – likely no play ever, no comment
    Heathlands – brilliant routing and variety out of nothing. Other than the artificial cookie cutter dunes, this is damn near perfect. Fun, fun fun.
    Bigwin – great setting, but something’s missing. Forget #’s 9 & 18. Ya gotta love the clubhouse.
    Wasteland – we agree completely.
    Angus Glen South – agreed but over rated by many.
    Muskoka Bay – Aesthetic masterpiece and perfect for the community it will serve. Cart Ball and the over the top tee at #4 give it the yuk factor.
    Copper Creek – better than Angus and targeted to a similar market.
    King Valley – A good member course and I agree it will stand the time test.

    I’d put Osprey’s parkland course in there as well. Good call on leaving out Magna.

    As for why Doug is not getting calls, I can’t imagine. The guy is the master of creating a diamond from a stone. If anyone has a mediocre sight, Doug can make it work. The guy should have a full time practice in Florida or Arizona.

  • I agree with henry about angus glen. I am surprised that Greystone is not on your list. It still is one of the few courses that I have played where I can understand what the architect was trying to achieve. I think it is a much stronger course than the bottom two on the list. Especially when played from the tips.

  • Have you played Riverbend, Rob?

    In order, my preference would be:

    Eagle’s Nest – Have to disagree with HenryE…it actaully gets better with more plays, is walkable, and has better land than many other Carrick courses

    Osprey Heath
    Osprey Wasteland – this grouping of 3 are tough to choose from

    Copper Creek
    Angus South
    Angus North (it’s not nearly as bad as some say)
    King Valley
    Osprey Parkland

    Haven’t played Muskoka Bay or Greywolf or Magna…can’t wait to see Cobble.

  • Having only played the Osprey Valley duo on this list I am far from an expert, but having had the honour of playing Magna I can only say if the other eight courses listed here are better than it then I have to get out and try them.

    Also I would say let’s just leave it at a celebration of Carrick’s best instead of taking a shot at Graham Cooke while you’re at it.

  • Chris, I do believe that most of the attention Magna recieves can be attributed mostly to the extreem level of course conditioning and not so much from the actual design of the course.

  • Absolutely the Magna conditioning is phenomenal but there was nothing about the design that I can remember as off-putting. Unless of course we’re talking again about the merits of “man-made” ponds and such. I thought there was good use of the limited elevation changes and the course seemd very playable without ever coming close to being “easy”. Again having not played most of these it’s just my $.02.

  • Robert,

    I can not believe you could possibly rate Bigwin and Angus South ahead of Muskoka Bay!!!!!

    It is very clear to me that you need to GIVE YOUR HEAD A SHAKE AS YOUR EYES MUST BE STUCK!!!!

    Muskoka Bay deserves top 3 at worst in this list of courses (although you probably had a tough time on the course).

    I would encourage you to take in all aspects of a property not just how it ate you up.


  • KGB: See response in McBroom Top 10 list. And guess what? A golf course is more than just a pretty vista.

    Rather than just bashing and running, why not explain why Muskoka Bay is better? I’m intrigued. I don’t think it is a bad golf course by any means — I just think the others are better. If you read my reviews you’ll see my reasoning — and it has nothing to do with how I played there.

    I’ve played Muskoka Bay twice — once well and once passably. But that really has nothing to do with it.

  • Re: Magna — there are surely some strong elements of Magna (#1, #13, #14, #15, #18), but there are a lot of average sections as well. I agree — the course’s reputation stems more from factors that don’t relate directly to the golf.

  • Rob

    Wait until you see Humber Valley. I refer to it as blend of Highland and Bigwin. Bunkering is great and lots of tees to choose from. You have got to check this one out.

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