It is often said “you are only ever 20 minutes from anywhere in the city of churches”. Here, we expand that perimeter to showcase the Top-12 Courses you will find within a 45-minute drive of Adelaide’s city centre.
1 ROYAL ADELAIDE GOLF CLUB
Royal Adelaide’s finish at No.1 here is confirmation of the long-held view that the Seaton links is the South Australian capital’s premier course.
There have been plenty of alterations made to the layout since the course originally opened for play in 1906, but it has retained its distinctive character of being an open links course, which is a rare find in Australia.
The host for nine Australian Opens and, more recently, the 2017 Women’s Australian Open is still undergoing some design changes under the guidance of minimalist American course architect Tom Doak. His changes – which have included altering some fairway mowing lines, clearing some overgrown areas of trees and scrub and the refurbishment of some bunkering – while seemingly small, have had a great effect on the quality of the layout and the golfing experience it offers. Doak’s remodelling work has been carried out using plans submitted by Dr Alister MacKenzie during his Australian visit in 1926 as a reference.
Even the iconic short par-4 3rd hole has been tweaked with more room created to the left of the sharp dogleg right fairway. The 266-metre two-shotter is part of the Doctor’s design and, although these days it is far more easily reached from the tee by longer hitters, it remains one of Australia’s best short par-4s. The drive is blind over the crest of a hill to a fairway that is now slightly wider between rough left and a high grass-covered sand dune to the right. The green is an odd shape and has been referred to as resembling a “leg of mutton”, which is fairly accurate. The green lies between a small ridge on its edge to the left and a knoll to the right. The beauty of this hole is that if you are brave, and long enough, to go for the green from the tee, you can make anything from an eagle two to a double or triple bogey.
The design changes aside, the quality of Royal Adelaide’s playing surfaces continues to improve year-on-year and it is now clearly one of the best-presented courses in the nation.
Green fees – $275 (non-affiliated Golf Australia members), $225 (affiliated players).
2 KOOYONGA GOLF CLUB
Kooyonga is a thinking player’s golf course.
One of the game’s greatest strategists during the past 70 years – as a player then course designer – was Peter Thomson. Having just won the 1972 Australian Open around the Adelaide layout, Thomson gave an insight into what was required to play well at Kooyonga.
“It needs to be played with the head as much as the hands,” Thomson said.
Originally created by Herbert ‘Cargie’ Rymill and opened for play in 1922, Kooyonga has been re-worked in recent times by the Golf Course Strategies design team of Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford.
Crafter, a lifelong member of the club, and Mogford reshaped some of the greens and cleared out the vegetation that was starting to encroach on the playing lines. As was seen during the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year, Kooyonga now offers several playing options on each hole with its wider avenues asking you to find the right position to make your approach into the greens.
It was these changes that enthused Golf Australia’s Top-100 judges and helped earn Kooyonga a spot at No.25 in the biennial ranking published in January this year.
Kooyonga packs plenty of punch for a layout that doesn’t cover a large parcel of land. The creative routing, variety of holes and outstanding presentation makes Kooyonga a ‘must play’ course for any golfer visiting Adelaide.
Green fees – $220 (Golflink card holders).
3 THE GRANGE GC (West course)
It’s a decade since designer Mike Clayton oversaw the replacement of all 18 greens, the reshaping of several fairways and the clearing of trees and scrub to open up the playing lines on many holes.
With more width available off the tee, there are questions asked of the golfer at almost every turn, which was clearly evident when the course hosted the Women’s Australian Open two years ago.
Heading into a round, the first of Clayton’s dramatic changes can be seen at the 423-metre par-4 3rd hole. Apart from being lengthened, the dogleg right fairway was opened up significantly by the removal of trees, which has exposed a spectacular sandy wasteland that was formerly used as a site for mining sand. A long bunker cuts into the right side of the driving zone but there is sufficient fairway to the left for the cautious hitter to find. A deep bunker short and left of the green ensures any player that skirts the right side fairway bunker is rewarded with a clear approach to the flag.
All of Clayton’s designs boast a quality short par-4 and here he actually shortened an existing par-4, the 7th, to create a more memorable hole. With the green lying 285 metres from the tee, some players have a real chance of reaching the green with their drive in the right wind conditions. For those players who lay back with an iron from the tee, the pin position will dictate the best side of the fairway to approach the green from.
Green fees – $200 (manager introduced), $75 (members’ guest).
4 GLENELG GOLF CLUB
Glenelg Golf Club was ranked No.30 in Australia’s Top-100 Courses earlier this year – and for good reason, too.
The outstanding conditioning of its couch fairways and bentgrass greens compliment the challenging par-71 track, which rewards precision over power.
Like any good golf course, Glenelg offers multiple playing lines from the tee, which could see every member of your group selecting different clubs. Again, accuracy is a necessity around this layout, with 90 well-placed bunkers eager to swallow anything slightly offline.
The par-3s at Glenelg are a real highlight. Each offer a unique and exciting test and will have players reaching for all manner of clubs. The 166-metre 11th is the toughest of the one-shotters, playing uphill and into the prevailing wind, but it is also one of the best holes on the course.
Another highlight at Glenelg is the maintenance of the rough surrounding its bunkers. The grass is cut to a length that keeps to the original design of the course, allowing the bunkers to come into play as they were intended.
The 12th hole is a very gettable 459-metre par-5 and is ranked 18 on the card.
Take a moment here to appreciate the entire property from highest point of the Adelaide plains.
Green fees – $190 (manager introduced), $80 (members’ guest).
5 THE GRANGE GOLF CLUB (East course)
Greg Norman was commissioned to redesign this original Vern Morcom creation in 2012, nearly 36 years after winning his first professional tournament around the layout.
Norman’s redo of the East course represented a $3 million exercise and allowed the club to achieve two key goals. One was to replace the greens, many of which were still original surfaces, and the other involved incorporating a Wetland and Aquifer Storage and Recovery Scheme, a first in Australia. Covering the eastern edge of the East course, this feature secured the club’s future water supply but required sensitive and sensible incorporation within the layout. Norman’s team pulled it off with aplomb, actually adding holes in the process. Space that initially housed just two holes morphed into three, a short and middle-distance par-4 at the 4th and 6th with a long par-3 nestled in between.
The par-3 5th is a beauty. Measuring 155 metres, the green is a classic ‘Redan’ that sits diagonally from right-to-left to your approach, and slopes from front to back. All the left side pin positions here are guarded by two deep bunkers, while a false front to the green can complicate getting up-and-down if your tee shot falls short.
Green fees – $200 (manager introduced), $75 (members’ guest).