"Doug Carrick has done an outstanding job on the designs."
~ from Greater Toronto Golfer''s Guide
Enhancing that emulation is the sheep's fescue grass which, as it ripples in Osprey Valley's ever-present wind, reminds you of Ireland. And that's not surprising, because Carrick is a diligent student of the game who learned his trade under Robbie Robinson, one of Stanley Thompson''s disciples. He has made pilgrimages to Britain to play the true links courses, taking photographs and trying to learn what makes them great.
"I really studied them before taking on the Osprey project. I tried to emulate some of the characteristics of those courses, especially around the greens; all the little hollows and different types of shots you get over there, bump and run, and that sort of thing. A lot of modern designs take the ground game out of golf," Carrick observes. "And that has a lot to do with over-maintenance. At Osprey, they don't over-water the golf course. They keep it relatively dry and that's good because then it plays more like a links experience. And the wind always blows."
That wind often hinders rather than helps at Osprey Valley, which does not have a weak hole among its 18. It is, as the architect says, "a good, strong, walkable golf course."
The first hole, a shortish par 5, dares the player to carry the cross-bunkers in the dogleg. Hitting a crisp approach through the gap in the fence, avoiding the grassy hollows and bunkers, starts the round off with a birdie. Cross-bunkers also come into play on the par-4 second hole, as well as a number of others. As in most Carrick designs, players attacking the line over these bunkers will be rewarded with a more advantageous approach angle.
The wind makes the long, par-3 fifth hole even longer than it says on the card. "This is a tough hole, with the wind, the bunkers on the right side, grassy hollows on the left, and mounds wrapping around the green," says Carrick. No. 6 is a "bear of a par 4," the architect says. There are no bunkers which is only fair since this hole plays right into the teeth of the wind. "It's a test of power. You can roll the ball on to the green,but you have to roll it through a swale."
The par-5 ninth hole is a double dogleg where you must hit the green or face dire consequences. A creek runs down the right side of the fairway before emptying into a pond, and the challenge is to cut off as much of the creek as you dare on the tee shot. There are a couple of choices on the second shot: a play to the left, over some bunkers cut into a dune, or play far to the right and face a longer approach over water to a well-bunkered elevated green. "Very rarely does anyone hit the green in two," says Carrick. "That's quite a feat."
Unlike a true links course, Osprey Valley does feature some ponds. The tee shot on the par-5 11th must carry water before heading down a valley, threading through a series of bunkers. Bunkers also tantalize the second shot, and there's on more sandpit right in front of the green. As at many green sites on this course, grassy hollows are popular hazards on this hole. They are plentiful as well on the next hole, a mid-iron par-3 nestled into the dunes. Although greens here are not overly spacious, club selection on this hole is important, since there could be a two-club difference depending on the pin position.
A dual-tiered fairway offers options on the second shot on the straightaway, par-5 14th hole, which is bracketed by dunes. "You have the choice to go up, or down to the right below some cross-bunkers," Carrick says. "The ideal line is to hit it over the cross-bunkers which, if you are a long hitter, will put you on the green in two or leave an easy chip. If you bail out, you have to fly it over some deep pot bunkers. Risk and reward, right?"
As on other holes here, an ancient stone fence adds character to the par-4 15th. The best line off the tee is down the right side, just over the tip of the amoeba-shaped waste bunker. You can roll the ball into the par-3 16th, but make sure you arrive at the right terrace of the three-tiered green to guarantee par. After surviving the 17th, another "bear of a par 4," according to the architect, your round concludes with an elegant par 4. A following wind will assist you in carrying the three cross-bunkers.
Aficionados of Osprey Valley will be thrilled to learn that it will have two distinctive siblings opening for play in the year 2001. The south course, some of it built on a former gravel quarry, will be a sand wasteland course "a la Pine Valley," says Carrick. It will wind through natural ponds and a pine plantation; about 3,000 trees have been transplanted to enhance the routing. The north course will be more of a traditional parkland course.
~ from The Great Golf Courses of Canada, by John Gordon