Osprey Valley (Heathlands)
Review by Drew Sinden
(originally submitted in 2003)
I have played this traditional links style course 5 times and every time I go I like it more and more. This is the closest course I have seen in Ontario to what I experienced in Scotland.
Since I last played there, they have added 36 more holes, and to everyone’s account that I have spoken to, they are as impressive as the original 18. I plan to try them out this summer.
You start out on the actual third hole since the site for the clubhouse had not been erected. This starting point is closest in proximity to the parking lot and drive shed; I haven’t yet heard whether they have developed something more permanent for their 19th hole. A gentle dog-let opening par 4 calling for a well-placed tee shot of about 235 yards, a water ditch down the left and a row of bunkers right call for accuracy, not length. The narrow green sits above you and is guarded by mounds. Miss right and you could be in big trouble.
The greens are usually of average to quick speed, depending on summer conditions. I’ve always found them to be of decent speed and smoothness.
Number four from the tips requires a healthy poke from an elevated tee across a lot of brush to a fairway that gently slopes right. If you can’t hit it at least 255, then forget the back decks. The place to avoid here is right, which is tempting as it cuts off a little distance. Any mishits and you’ll hope your ball made it to the deep sand pit. Bogey at best from this side. The green here sites well above you and is very deceptive. If the pin is right, then you have little green to work with, and if it is left, then beware of the very difficult front bunker. Par here is a good score.
Number five looks very Scottish with its stone wall running across in front of the tee. It shouldn’t come in to play on this difficult par three, ranging in length from 150 to 185 yards, depending on tee and pin placements. The front to back pin selections can add at least 2 clubs here. The long, angled green is protected by a deep bunker right, and gentle mounds left. If you do miss the green, I think left allows for a greater up and down opportunity.
Number six is a very long, straight-away, par four. Deep rough on both sides have you squeezing the trigger a little tighter. If you find the short stuff, you are faced with a long to mid iron to an isolated green that sits well above the surrounding fairway. With no backdrop, the approach is visually intimidating and you’ll do well to gauge the distance. Trust the yardage and think positively and you’re as good as home.
Number seven heads back in the opposite direction. A relatively generous driving area is sloped toward the green and can give you an extra 20 yards if you land in the left middle of the fairway. A short iron shot to a narrow green must avoid the edges because everything falls away from the green, especially right. The nice thing about these collection areas is that it allows for some real short game imagination. You can putt it, chip and roll it, or if you’ve got real game like Phil, you can attempt the flopper. I don’t recommend the latter, but then I don’t have a short game.
Number eight is a cute little par three that calls more for accuracy than length. At around 150 to 160 yards, it shoots to a green that slopes off a pot bunker and hay right to a menacing pond left. Anything pulled is wet, and anything right could be on your next swing. Hit the green and go directly to the next hole.
Number nine is a superb five par. This hole is definitely unreachable, unless your name is Daly or Woods. Keep your tee shot in the short stuff, and definitely avoid the ditch right. There is some room left before the mounds and bunkers. The second calls for a good rip up the shoot that should leave you about 90 to 130 yards if you have played two good ones. If you have strayed left or right, call the hunting dogs because you are in DEEP trouble. The third shot here will really get your heart rate up. The green site about 30 to 40 feet above you with a steep embankment right that funnels anything hit there into a watery grave. Make sure you take an extra club as this is always into an unprotected breeze. A five here will feel like a gift, so take it and run.
Number ten shoots back across the same water hole to a green sitting in a ravine. Everything slopes back to front and the pin is often right over the water. Select the proper club and put a good swing on it and everything will be fine. If not, remember to fish your ball out with a club because, as I recall, that water can get pretty cold.
Number eleven goes straight back into the wind and again calls for three well struck shots to get home in regulation. The third shot is made extremely difficult due to a very ominous looking green. Again the green sits well above you and is sloped severely in several areas. It is critical to get your approach onto the same tier as the hole. Even more critical is to just get it aboard. Even from inside 100, the deep pit in front of the green looks inevitable. Anything hit to the edge of the green will funnel away and leave a treacherous chip across moguls and swales that I wouldn’t ski, let alone golf.
If you survive 11, then twelve will seem rather simple. Don’t be fooled. This par three calls for a slight cut back into a breeze and must land like a butterfly with sore wings. At about 180 yards, it is guarded by a daunting and deep bunker short right. This is to be avoided in favour of just long. Anything beyond just long will get caught in a very thick downhill lie. Good luck!
Number thirteen is a bit of a nothing hole. A par 4 at about 420 yards long, it is simply straight away and, relatively speaking, open. Avoid wide left or way right and a par 4 should be yours for the taking. I guess they can’t all be heart stoppers.
Number fourteen is an awesome par 5 that usually plays into the teeth of the wind. A strong drive (in the 285-300 yard range) could get the big hitters chomping at the bit to give it a go. I think the prudent play after a good drive is to play a conservative mid to long iron to the 100 yard plate. The fairway at this point is halved by a long diagonal bunker. You must decide whether you are going to go to the left, which is higher and narrower, or to the right, which is below the green level. I think left is a real gamble, but it does allow for a better angle to the pin. Once you get to the green your troubles are not over. This is by far the most slope you will have seen thus far on the course.
Number fifteen is a fantastic par four because, depending on your drive, you could have either a 5 iron or a nine iron to this narrow isolated green. A stone wall sits in the left rough out about 230 yards or so. I’ve seen it gobble up many wayward drives. The fairway slopes severely downhill and to the right at about 245-255 yards and will sling drives an extraordinary distance. Catch this crest and you will have a realistic birdie chance, don’t and feel satisfied with a well earned par.
Number sixteen is another par three that from the tips is a mighty blow. A well struck long iron with cut spin will feed right towards the pin. Avoid long and left if you dislike chipping out of the pines. Gentle bunkers short right are not the worst spot to be.
Number seventeen, in my mind, is the most difficult hole on the course. Always playing into a right to left crosswind, this fairway, that bends in the opposite direction, is difficult to find. Wayward shots caught in the wind can add an extra 50 to 60 yards to this monster par 4. You must hug the right while avoiding the horde of bunkers. A good drive will leave you a medium to long iron to a very small target that again falls away sharply on all sides. This hole plays more like a par 5 and should not be taken lightly.
Number eighteen offers a narrow landing area both in the fairway and on the green. A heavy thicket of trees right if jail and forces you to favour the left. In doing so, you minimize you angle to the green. This hole is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Be tough and play to your strength.
Number 1 is a gambler’s paradise. A dogleg left par five affords the big hitters to rifle one over the mounds at the corner. Be careful not to go too far left, there is actually more fairway to the right of the hills and it gives you a nicer lie. From a big drive you are left with about 225-235 yards to the green. A well placed bunker in front is not a bad spot compared to wide right or long. A boomerang shaped green has an upper tier in the back left corner which is probably the most inaccessible spot. A pin here might be best served by three well placed shots.
Number 2 is another strong par 4. A good drive is needed because the fairway slopes uphill and offers little roll. Keep down the left middle for maximum distance but beware of the run off left into the first cut. The approach to the green is uphill requiring a solid shot from around 150 yards. You must stay away from the left bunker, the only real danger at greenside.
There you have it, seventeen awesome holes and one good hole. Not a gimme among them and no gimmick holes. The greens are tough but not stupid.
All in all, a truly great course. Carrick has incorporated all aspects of the game into this design. You must drive the ball well (long doesn’t hurt), miss in the right spots and have a creative flare with your short game. The wind always blows at Osprey, so it wouldn’t hurt to bring a knock down shot that you can control.
Choose your tees wisely and the course is playable, don’t and you may be going home in a body bag.