The world’s best female golfers will descend on the ‘City of Churches’ this month to contest the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Adelaide Golf Club. If you’re planning to be there, take your clubs and sample some terrific courses while you’re in town.
It is our smallest mainland state capital but that is all part of the charm that is Adelaide.
A mate who works as a pro at one of the city’s best golf courses perhaps describes this charm best. “It literally is the 20-minute city,” he says. “You can be anywhere you want to be in Adelaide within 20 minutes.”
I’ve tested the theory. He’s right. For golfers it is a fantastic city to visit because you can stay in the heart of the city, eat in fabulous restaurants, stay in a great hotel, soak up the nightlife and when you’re ready to play golf, you are within 20 minutes’ drive of some world-class golf courses.
Of course, you don’t have to be bound to the city. Within a 60-minute drive of the CBD there are the wineries and attractions of the Barossa Valley to the north east, the beautiful Adelaide Hills to the east and the scenic Fleurieu Peninsula to the south.
If you are thinking of visiting Adelaide for the Women’s Australian Open, you can be sure the welcome will be warm and the golf great.
Royal Adelaide Golf Club will host the women’s national championship from February 13 to 16 so unless you’re lucky enough to secure a start in the pro-am you might want to organise your round here for another time. For visitors from interstate or overseas, that’s as simple as getting in touch with the office.
In the ‘City of Churches’, Royal Adelaide is the golfing equivalent of the Vatican and, as the city’s most famous golfing attraction, every visiting golfer should make the pilgrimage to the Dr Alister MacKenzie-designed layout. Its rise to world-class status began with the arrival of ‘The Good Doctor’ during his visit to Australia in 1926.
In recent times, Royal Adelaide has recaptured its past glories through design changes recommended and overseen by acclaimed course architect Tom Doak.
Royal Adelaide is the centrepiece of the Adelaide Sandbelt, which boasts another four courses all ranked in Australia’s Top-100 Courses by Golf Australia magazine.
Royal’s nearest neighbour – The Grange Golf Club – is just two minutes’ drive away and offers something the other Sandbelt clubs don’t: two courses. The twin layouts traverse similar land and share some design traits yet are different enough to provide variety while complementing each other. The Mike Clayton-redesigned West course has enjoyed more than a dozen years play since a major revamp and remains a layout with plenty of space and multiple playing angles.
“The idea wasn’t to make the (West) course (at The Grange) harder, it was to make it more fun.” – Mike Clayton
“The idea wasn’t to make the course harder, it was to make it more fun,” he said. “Like many older courses, they become overgrown with trees through over planting. Then as these trees grow the views of the hole are lost and the ground hazards on the inside corners of doglegs cease to be relevant because of the trees.
“With the trees removed, it has opened up the course to become more strategic than it was because there is certainly more space to drive in to. But you still have to figure out which part of that space you need to hit to leave the best approach to the green.”
The bunkering is a true feature of Grange West, directing golfers either towards or away from the sand depending on their game plan. The bunkers aren’t impossible to escape in many instances but will make pars difficult to save.
Lengthy par-4s mix with shorter options, such as the 294-metre 7th, which tempts golfers to try and drive close to the green on what looks like an open passage to the flag yet offers plenty of obstacles in the form of sand and ground-level bushes. The closing stretch remains a highlight, particularly the 15th to 17th holes, a trio of tough par-4s that don’t give up many birdies.
Across on the East course, the changes conducted by Greg Norman’s design team have settled nicely after being completed in 2012. Norman’s connection to the course is famous as it was the site of his first four round pro victory in the 1976 West Lakes Classic.
The layout uses the club’s wetlands areas to great effect on the 4th to 6th holes and the bunkering is noticeably different to those found on the West Course. Standing alongside the clean edges and distinct shapes are several unkempt waste bunkers that extend far longer than conventional bunkers do.
Most of the East Course greens are large but they play smaller due to the dramatic runoffs and false fronts. One of the finest greenscapes can be found on the shortest hole at The Grange. The 15th hole measures just 118 metres and a significant portion of that length is on the green, with its long, skinny, angled putting surface. It is a demanding short iron shot as the deep greenside bunkers and hollows are difficult to get a second shot close to the hole.
Heading south along Tapley’s Hill Rd, passed Royal Adelaide, it is an easy 12-minute drive to Kooyonga Golf Club, which has also undergone significant changes during the past few years.
Designers Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford, of Golf Course Strategies, have overseen a raft of changes that have enhanced the visual appeal and playability of the layout. Like Clayton’s work at The Grange, Crafter and Mogford have opened up the playing corridors by removing areas of overgrown vegetation as well as redoing the layout’s bunkers to create a consistent look and style across all 18 holes. Part of that process includes redoing one green per year.
In recent times, new bunkers have been added on the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 9th, 11th and 13th holes, which has tightened the landing areas for longer hitters. On the 17th hole, a new green, stonewall edging around the greenside pond and surrounding mounds was recently completed to enhance the beauty of the approach on the par-4.
What hasn’t changed is the impeccable conditioning you will find at Kooyonga, which will host the Women’s Australian Open for a second time in 2021. The bentgrass greens are outstanding, while the Santa Ana couch fairways are close to flawless.
The same can be said for the playing surfaces at Glenelg Golf Club – a further eight-minute drive south via Tapley’s Hill Rd.
The course went through an extensive six-year redesign, overseen by Neil Crafter and Bob Tuohy, which opened for play in 2004. The most dramatic change, which transformed the layout, was the conversion of all the fairways from kikuyu to couch and the greens from Poa Annua to bentgrass. Today, these playing surfaces are a memorable highlight of any round here.
One of the most striking aspects about the Glenelg layout is the collection of ochre-coloured revetted pot bunkers. Few, if any, shots around the layout won’t feature at least one pot in play and their look and strategic positioning both match the architecture of the layout and blend in beautifully with the landscape. Throw in the numerous stands of stunning pine trees and you have a quintessential sandbelt-style golf course.
The heart of the Barossa Valley, is about 70 minutes’ drive from the Adelaide CBD. There you will find ample opportunities to combine a love of good food, wine with a round of golf on a fun course.
The town of Tanunda is at the heart of the region and just a few kilometres from town you will find the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort and the adjoining Tanunda Pines Golf Club.
The Tanunda course, which was purchased by a syndicate of some of Australia’s best known local vignerons, has improved its design and presentation markedly in the past 15 years. Several holes were redesigned, greens replaced, bunkers added and all the fairways converted to Santa Ana couch.
For mine the newest holes – the 10th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th – are Tanunda’s best offerings, with the downhill par-3 11th and the 460-metre par-5 15th being memorable standouts.
The 335-metre par-4 10th hole features a narrow fairway and plays uphill to a smallish putting surface, protected by two large bunkers – one short and right, with a deep sandy pit cut into the left fringe of the green. Missing this green here is likely to result in a bogey. Having putted out, you continue to climb uphill to the highest point on the course and the 11th tee.
The par-3 11th measures 180 metres from the back pegs, while the green lies 45 metres below the level of the tee. This can make club selection tough, especially into the prevailing headwind.
Tanunda Pines has started to realise its enormous potential and is a great place to soak in the views of the valley, walk fairways lined by massive gums and leave the city far behind.
Tanunda’s nearest golfing neighbour is Sandy Creek Golf Club (formerly Gawler Golf Club), which is the oldest club in the area and dates back to 1904 when it was a nine-holer next to the river near the centre of Gawler.
Golf has been played on the current site since 1965 but it is only in the past few years that the layout has been widely acclaimed for its quality, especially since a major redesign in the late 1990s.
There is a lot to like about Sandy Creek, which covers varying terrain from dramatic to relatively flat. There are some steep slopes and these have been used to create some good holes, with the uphill par-3 4th being the first of them. It’s a 174-metre one-shotter with a narrow, two-tiered green demanding correct club selection and precise ball-striking.
The 4th is the first of a stable of very good par-3s at Gawler. If you drop a shot at No.4, you will have a chance to get that shot back with a solid pitch shot at the 117-metre 6th. For such a short hole, played even shorter because of the highly elevated tee position, the green here is massive. Bunkers ring the putting surface so the best play is to the middle of the green and you might just get close.
The 6th marks the start of a very good sequence of holes that feature modern green complexes and an interesting use of the natural landscape. For mine the best, and most memorable of these holes, is the 405-metre 10th, which has been allowed to blend in with the natural landscape. Large dunes encroach on the fairway from the right and about 150 metres from the green, where the fairway is only a few metres wide for 40 or 50 metres or so. It’s quirky, and probably unfair for higher handicappers, but I really like it because it’s different and makes the hole more memorable.
When the people of Adelaide want to get away from the city life, they don’t have to go too far to find an idyllic retreat.
You can be in the heart of the Adelaide Hills within 30 minutes’ drive east of the CBD. And once you’re there, you feel like you could be hundreds of miles away from the capital. But from its highest points, the city is right there below you.
The region is famous for the quality of its food and wine, with lots of cellar doors scattered throughout the Hills, producing some excellent cool climate wines.
There are also some fabulous golf courses where you can test your game.
Mt Osmond Golf Club is one of the oldest in the Adelaide Hills having been formed in 1927. Edward Holden – founder of Holden cars – was the inaugural president and the club quickly established a reputation among Adelaide society as the perfect weekend getaway to a country club.
Today, Mt Osmond is a well-manicured challenge having been extensively redesigned by Tony Cashmore, who has created high ranking layouts like Thirteenth Beach and the Henley course at The Heritage in Melbourne. The reconstruction of the course was completed in 1997, with large rolling putting surfaces and visually imposing bunkering elevating the test and enjoyment on offer.
Mt Osmond, by nature of its location, mixes holes with dramatic elevation changes with several easier walking holes that have been terraced into the edge of the sloping topography.
The trio of holes that complete the front nine are memorable for their visual appeal as well as the challenge they present. Perhaps the most striking is the 275-metre par-4 7th, which holds no surprises as the tee sits high above the wide fairway. If, like me, the thought of hitting a driver somewhere down near the green appeals, go for it. But there are two bunkers left and right of the slight dogleg left that are difficult to escape from and ensure a bogey is a good score.
Heading deeper into the hills, you will discover the picturesque Blackwood Golf Club, just 25 minutes’ drive away. While the club dates back nearly 90 years, it wasn’t until 1961 that golf was played on the current site on a layout created by Vern Morcom. Six holes on the back nine were changed in the early 1990s by designer Tony Cashmore.
The closing quartet of holes might just be the strongest in South Australia, outside of the Adelaide Sandbelt. But it is the 15th and 16th holes that you will long remember.
The 475-metre par-5 15th yields as many birdies as it does bogies (and worse). The hole turns slightly right-to-left passed the largest dam on the course and for those seeking to shorten the hole, they’ll need to skirt the edge of the hazard to put the green in reach for two shots. The real fun comes in the second half of the hole. The green is set into a hill with a second dam and deep bunker protecting the front left of the putting green, which also features a false front to the right.
A short climb up the hill behind the green leads you onto the tee of the 16th hole – a 398-metre par-4 sharp dogleg left around the dam that fronts the previous green, making it play much shorter than the scorecard suggests. Players who can carry their tee shots 200 metres from the back pegs, can hit across the corner of the dogleg to leave a mid-iron into the narrow and deep green. There is a large bunker left and two smaller pots right, where it is preferable to leave your approach shot, as long of the green will see your ball finish at the bottom of a steep slope.
After demolishing a double bacon and egg roll and coffee while overlooking the course from the clubhouse balcony, I took a scenic 15-minute drive west to Flagstaff Hill Golf Club.
Flagstaff Hill was built in the mid-1960s as part of a massive real estate development. In the years since, the complexion of the course has changed along the way. The landscape is set to change again with more residential development already underway.
The most memorable hole here is the club’s signature offering – the 144-metre par-3 8th hole, where the tee shot is all carry across the edge of a huge lake, named Loch Hilan. Obviously club selection is all-important to clear the water, but you also need to avoid three bunkers wedged between the water’s edge and the right side of the putting surface. If you err on the side of caution and take too much club, there is a deep trap beyond the green.
A further 10 minutes’ drive south and you will find The Vines Golf Club of Reynella, which boasts superb Santa Ana fairways and pure rolling bentgrass greens that are generally regarded as some of the best you will find in South Australia, outside the metropolitan area.
While the conditioning will impress, you will also enjoy the quality of the challenge. For mine, I really liked The Vines’ collection of par-3s. The first of them, the 149-metre par-3 3rd hole, is beautiful with towering 100-year-plus red gums surrounding the green. The canopy of the surrounding trees does come into play if you venture off line with your tee shot so accuracy is vital here.
The two back nine par-3s both play to elevated greens. The 145-metre 10th leads away from the clubhouse to a green where most of the front edge is guarded by a cavernous bunker. Club selection here is important as out-of-bounds is directly behind the green, so trying to avoid the bunker with a longer club could prove troublesome.
The shortest of the one-shotters is the uphill 14th. At 129-metres, it’s not a hole where length is the concern but with two bunkers either side of the entrance into the relatively small putting surface, it still pays to be straight.
After your round, I suggest you grab a cold drink and relax outside the clubhouse to take in the view of the course and its red gum lined fairways. The sound of Eastern rosellas feeding and chirping away in the treetops gave me the impression of being deep in the bush, but in reality all this was just 30 minutes from the CBD.
Offering a similar bushland experience is Thaxted Park Golf Club, an easy 10 minutes’ drive away.
Like its nearest neighbour, Thaxted Park’s first few decades after opening in 1964 were a constant battle for water. But four on course dams and an agreement with the local council provides enough water these days to ensure the playing surfaces are first class.
Course architects Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford of Golf Course Strategies have come up with a masterplan for the course, which predominantly involves widening fairways, creating new fairway bunkers, moving and remodelling some greens as well as some tees.
One of Thaxted Park’s most picturesque and memorable holes comes late in the round. The 15th hole is just 107 metres from the elevated tee down to the relatively small green that lies just beyond a creek bed. There is a bunker long of the green that comes into play more often than you might expect, while real beauty of this hole is the amphitheatre setting of the green and the gum trees that surround it.
In many respects this diminutive hole encapsulates everything that is enjoyable about playing golf in the Adelaide Hills – there is a typical Australian beauty about all of them, while the challenge is stern without being brutal.
Regarded as Adelaide’s playground, the Fleurieu Peninsula is a picturesque region with natural wonders like sandy beaches, rugged cliff-scapes and sheltered coves. It’s also home to the McLaren Vale wine-growing region and if you’re looking for great food, you won’t have to search too hard.
In recent years, golf has emerged as a star attraction of the Fleurieu with courses including Mt Compass and Links Lady Bay being ranked among the nation’s Top-100 Courses as judged by Golf Australia magazine.
Mt Compass Golf Course covers ideal land for a golf course – the terrain offers nice changes in elevation but, more importantly, it lies upon a thick layer of sand.
This left original designer Brian Crafter and, later, his son, Neil, the perfect canvas to create some memorable and fun holes.
After more than 18 years of play, the course was in rapid decline by 2013 despite the quality of the design. The course was sold three years later and, under the new ownership, Mt Compass has been improving year-on-year ever since.
Crafter created some very good risk-and-reward holes with the best of them being the par-5 10th. Two long and straight blows here can set up an eagle or easy birdie to open the back nine. Most of the 10th fairway can be seen from the elevated tee. The fairway is cut in two at the bottom of the hill in front of the tee. However, it is 290 metres to the end of the first stretch of fairway and, from here, 150-metres up to the elevated green, which sits diagonally to your approach. Seven bunkers, some impenetrable long felt grass and native banksias line the final approach. Any player looking for the green in two had better be on their game as a wild approach shot will be heavily punished.
Before moving on to your next round of golf be sure to explore McLaren Vale, which is famous for fine food created by world-class chefs as well as incredible wines, in particular Shiraz as well as Grenache and Cabernet.
From the hills to the sea, it is a leisurely 45-minute drive from Mt Compass to the Links Lady Bay Resort, just south of Yankalilla – home to one of the best country bakeries you will find anywhere.
Originally established as a sheep and cattle farm, the land the links layout now covers was transformed in 1998 by owner and visionary Mike Hill, who commissioned the design team of Jack Newton, Graeme Grant and John Spencer to create the course.
The 6,400-metre par-72 layout opened for play in 2000 and today it is entrenched in Golf Australia magazine’s list of the Top-100 Courses in the country.
Links Lady Bay covers a coastal plain wedged between rolling hills and the waters of the Gulf of St Vincent and is routed in two loops of nine holes that head out from the resort, which overlooks the front nine. Each hole runs in a different direction to the previous, which challenges the golfer to become a keen judge of the ever-present breeze.
The 339-metre par-4 4th is one of my favourites at Lady Bay. Flanked by surrounding hills to the left and beyond the green, this hole runs across the highest section of the outward half and offers views of the course, an adjoining vineyard and the gulf.
After playing a blind drive over a gentle rise, you are faced with an interesting approach shot to an L-shaped green. For mine, the green is a little too dramatically shaped but it does place a premium on club selection and accuracy. The pin placement on the green will certainly affect your approach. When the hole is towards the back, accuracy is so important as the green narrows considerably. When the pin is forward, club selection is paramount with a small creek and a bunker coming into play at the front of the putting surface. Leaving your approach in the wrong section of the green is a major blunder here.
Links Lady Bay is not the only resort in this part of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The New Terry Hotel and Golf Resort, formerly known as the Wirrina Cove Resort, is just 10km south of Lady Bay and is set between rolling hills and overlooks the blue waters of the gulf.
After a chequered past dating back nearly 30 years, and several years of declining presentation, a Chinese investor purchased the property last year and has plans to develop a residential estate surrounding the course.
The course has improved markedly during the past 12 months with the new owners investing wisely in irrigation and drainage upgrades. All of the bunkers have been remodelled and the greens are in the best shape this writer has seen them in more than a decade and are now complimentary of the challenging design.
Perth-based course architect Michael Coate designed the layout in the late 1990s on what was the site of the Wirrina Cove Golf Club layout, which was often criticised for being too hard and unfair. Coate addressed those problems by widening, and flattening, some of the fairways, while all the greens were completely rebuilt to USGA standards.
One of the highlights of a round at New Terry is the quality of its par-3s. The first of them is the downhill par-3 4th hole, which measures 148 metres from the plates and looks remarkably similar to the famous 12th hole at Augusta National.
While the tee is more elevated than it is on ‘Golden Bell’, the green complex is eerily similar. The wide and shallow putting surface lies just beyond a creek with a small deep bunker wedged between the water and the front fringe. Through the back, another bunker awaits. Walking over the wooden bridge to the left of the green, take a moment to imagine you’re crossing Rae’s Creek over Hogan’s Bridge.
The 4th is on one of the lowest points of the layout. The final one-shotter occupies one of the highest points and offers sea views out between the cliffs as you attempt to nail a long iron, hybrid or longer onto the green of the 186-metre 17th. This hole plays into the wind regularly and the angled green is guarded by two bunkers left and another short right, which will probably prevent most golfers from running their ball on to the green. Higher handicappers are advised to hit short of the bunkers and chip on to try and make their par.
WHERE TO STAY ...
NOVOTEL BAROSSA VALLEY RESORT
Set in a natural amphitheatre, the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort boasts panoramic views across the Barossa Ranges and Jacobs Creek vineyards. From here you can explore Australia’s most famous wine region, visit a boutique cellar door or take a behind the scenes tour, experience a cooking demonstration at Maggie Beer’s Farmshop, or sample the epicurean delights of the Barossa Farmers Market. And, of course, there is the adjoining Tanunda Pines Golf Club.
For those that love golf, you will love this package from $710 (twin share) and includes two nights’ accommodation in a Studio King Room, green fees for two at Tanunda Pines with shared electric cart, chauffeured half day tour of select Barossa Valley wineries including lunch as well as two welcome drink vouchers upon arrival and a full buffet breakfast for two each morning in The Cellar Kitchen Restaurant. * Terms and conditions apply.
LINKS LADY BAY RESORT
Links Lady Bay Resort offers 28 spacious and luxurious one-bedroom spa suites with large corner spas and private balconies. Each room is designed to embrace the natural space and enjoy the stunning views over the golf course and Lady Bay.
The resort’s play and stay package will see you stay overnight in a King Spa suite and enjoy a delicious hot breakfast at the 6am Breakfast and Coffee Bar in the restaurant. Make your way down to the pro-shop to play a round in a golf cart. Then enjoy a light lunch in the Peninsular Café with a glass of wine, beer or champagne.
Based on a stay on a Friday or Saturday Night, this package starts at $425 twin share per night. Midweek package start from $375. All packages are subject to availability of rooms.
NEW TERRY HOTEL & GOLF RESORT
The hotel has 75 rooms with golf view, deluxe and standard room types, which have their own bathroom suites, TV, refrigerator and reverse cycling air conditioning. Hotel clients have free access to sauna, gym, outdoor pool and spa.
The resort has a summer special stay and play package starting from $210 for two people, which includes one nights’ accommodation, a round of golf for two in a shared cart as well as a cooked and continental breakfast for two.