I was waiting my turn to grab my morning coffee from the café in Osprey Valley Resorts’ clubhouse before heading out to play the Hoot when I overheard a rather boisterous debate going on at a nearby table. The subject of the kerfuffle was which of the three courses at Osprey is the best and which they should play that day. Debater number one (Bob) was lobbying for the Heathlands. “It’s the toughest of the three and requires a higher degree of shot making skills to score well. A good score there is the most satisfying,” stated Bob. Debater number 2 (Fred) conceded that the Heathlands was the toughest of the three but that just because a course is tough does not make it better, or more enjoyable, and put forward that the Toot is where they should tee it up. “It gives us mid handicappers a better chance to score well because it is not as tight and penal and it is more forgiving so I can score lower and go home happier,” rebutted Fred. At this point Debater three (Ron) chimed in, “You’re both wrong. The Hoot is by far the most enjoyable to play. It’s got the most character, between the other two difficulty and the wasteland scenery by far the most interesting.”
As I paid for my coffee and headed out of earshot towards the first tee their argument continued but the only thing Bob, Fred and Ron could agree on was that Doug Carrick did a masterful job designing all three courses and each was beautiful and outstanding in their own right.
From my perspective trying to pick which course is a better playing experience is like splitting hairs –next to impossible. Each course offers a unique layout, challenges different parts of your game and is aesthetically completely different. All are a test and all are worthy candidates on anybody’s best of list.
If I had stayed and join in on the debate I would have had to agree with Bob that the links style routing of the Heathland is the truest test of pure shotmaking. You can’t let your guard down at all on this course. The course is routed through a fairly flat piece of land and water hazards are only a factor on a handful of holes. However, the fairways are narrow, the rough is fescue filled with humps and bumps that will cost you dearly if explored too deeply and the greens are tricky. Although bunkering is kept to a minimum they are strategically placed and always seem to be in your line of sight heavily influencing your decision making. Notable holes are the monstrous 553 yard par 5, 17th hole and the tricky par 4, 11th. Hole 17 has a hazard running down the entire right side, the left side is protected by the aforementioned humps and bumps and well placed bunkers. The sloping elevated green complex is protected by a pond short and right. The 4th hole is a wonderful dogleg par 4 measuring 313 to 411 yards. A double creek crossing necessitates that the drive be positioned down the right side in the vicinity of the 150 marker to open up the best angle to the slightly false fronted well bunkered green site.
Fred made some valid points on the playability and the picturesque parkland beauty of the Toot. The fairways offer generous landing areas and the greens are accessible and fairly large. However, many are elevated and protected by huge deep bunkers so if you miss club and short side yourself the “A” sand game better be on hand. Notable holes include the risk/reward grip-it-and-rip-it short par 4, 6th hole while the closing holes 16 though 18 is the strongest finishing stretch of the three courses. A big drive on the shot 242 to 350 yard 6th hole will get you close to the dance floor but the pitch shot to the green is straight up hill to a green surface which can’t be seen from the fairway and slopes away in every direction. Huge deep bunkers are the penalty for the misguided shot.
In the end I may lean towards Ron’s camp. I think the wasteland layout of the Hoot offers a little bit for everyone and the combination of beauty and beast in just the right measure gets my vote for king of Osprey. Played from the correct tees the course is equally challenging and playable for players of all abilities. From the back tees it is the longest of the three at 7201 and from the front tees the shortest at 5140. The fairways are more forgiving than the Heathlands but not as generous as the Toot. Featuring waste bunkers that stretch from tee-to-green on many holes and water hazards are a factor throughout much of the course. Notable holes on the Hoot are many but I have to single out the entire collection of par 3’s. Each is varied in design with the 4th hole playing sharply downhill to a false fronted, bunker protected green site perched on the far side of a valley. Number 8 is a mid iron shot across a chasm to a heavily sloped green on the other side. Short is not good! The 10th hole is the longest of the three’s playing 216 yards from the tips. This flat hole is characterized by a waste bunker that runs down the left side from tee to green. The final par 3, #15, may be the most interesting hole on the entire property. A mere 82 yards from the front and 160 from the back the teeing ground sits elevated above a deep waste bunker that stretches from the tee to the elevated green complex on the far side. The putting surface is wide and shallow and breaks every which way.
Whether your preference is a links, parkland or wasteland layout you really can’t go wrong tipping it up at any one Osprey’s courses and a drive out to Alton (ten minutes south of Orangeville) is well worth the road trip.
Osprey Valley Resort
18821 Main Street, Caledon
Editor / Publisher
On The Tee Magazine
BAGS Junior Tour