South Australia is home to some of the world’s great wineries. If you have a penchant for a good drop of red, and you love playing golf, here’s how you can combine the two pursuits into a terrific (responsible) driving holiday.
One of the memorable aspects of a round at Lady Bay is the strength of its quartet of par-3s. Arguably the best of the one-shotters is its longest – the 197-metre 17th. It is a beautiful hole. With the coastline off in the distance and tufted grasses swaying in the breeze and shimmering between tee and green, you feel immediately transported to the great links of Ireland. The green sits slightly above the tee, so the eight bunkers surrounding three sides of the putting surface are partially obscured from view. That said, the green opening is wide and receptive to tee shots landing short and running on.
Little more than 10 minutes’ drive down the coast is the New Terry Hotel and Golf Resort, formerly known as the Wirrina Cove Resort.
New owners took over the course in 2018 and immediately invested in improving the course. Irrigation and drainage was upgraded, while all the bunkers and some greens were remodelled. It is now presents a vastly improved golfing experience to what was offered before the change of ownership.
Not unlike Lady Bay, New Terry possesses a varied and quality set of par-3s. Many have a preference for the opening one-shotter—the 148-metre downhill 4th hole – because it boasts a look that pays homage to Augusta National’s famous 12th hole.
But for a tough challenge, I like the penultimate hole – a 186-metre journey across one of the highest points of the course, which makes its susceptible to the wind blowing off the sea in the distance beyond the putting surface. When the prevailing wind really blows here some may need a driver to reach the green, which is protected by two bunkers left and another short right. If you find the green and have a shot at making a birdie or par, take a minute to soak in the view of the ocean through the rolling hills.
Talking of views, there are few better than you will find from the 1st tee of the Victor Harbor Golf Club –a scenic 40-minute drive east to the other side of the peninsula.
Golf has been played on the current site for nearly 96 years and each golfer that has teed it up has been greeted by an uninterrupted view of Granite Island and Encounter Bay off in the distance beyond the 1st green below. The opening drive here is one of the most picturesque in Australian golf. This is not just a pretty hole either. At 402 metres, this par-4 is heavily tree-lined on both sides of the fairway. While the hole plays considerably shorter because of the highly elevated tee, the breeze here is also a factor on your length and accuracy.
One of the most memorable holes at Victor Harbor comes early in the round and is a fine example of nature dictating the design of a hole. The 150-metre par-3 3rd features a tee, surrounded by trees and shrubs, perched on one side of a deep gully and the green on the other side. A water hazard at the bottom of the gully doesn’t come into play for most players but the five bunkers surrounding the angled green certainly do.
Bunkers are even more plentiful at Victor Harbor’s second course, just 10 minutes’ drive away, at McCracken Country Club and Resort.
McCracken covers more dramatic terrain than its neighbour. The modern and spacious clubhouse and resort occupy the highest point of the layout. From here you can enjoy views of the course and in particular the three holes – the 1st, 10th and 18th – that lead to and from the resort hub.
The opening hole sets the scene for the remainder of the journey on this Tony Cashmore design, which weaves past more than 70 bunkers and a dozen lakes spread throughout layout. The 482-metre par-5 1st hole is a steep downward journey from the front of the resort, past fairway bunkers left and right, a lake left and onto a green that is tucked in behind a second lake that cuts into the fairway from the right. The hole, courtesy of the downhill grade, plays much shorter than the meterage on the scorecard and this brings the lake into play for the golfer looking to find the putting surface with their second shot.
Longer hitters will have similar goals when playing the 494-metre par-5 8th, which also plays downhill from an elevated tee. The first half of the excursion to the green is gradually downhill, before the fairway makes a steep drop to a lower level. The final 50 metres to the green features the most impressive bunker scheme on the course with a clover-shaped trap cutting in from the left and a long deep bunker lining the right of the fairway. This really narrows the opening into the large putting surface, which presents a real risk for players taking aim at the green in two shots.
Cashmore’s green complexes here are very good, with some imaginative shaping and contouring, while they are complemented by the quality of the Creeping bentgrass putting surfaces.
If you have a game at McCracken and have time to spare, plan a stay at the McCracken Country Club Resort and one more game in the area; this time at South Lakes Golf Club, just 20 minutes’ drive away at Goolwa, and nestled between the Southern Ocean and the mouth of the Murray River.
South Lakes is an easy-walking links-style course with wide Santa Anna couch fairways and the bunkering found throughout the layout has simply been carved from the sandy soil below.
I really liked the back nine holes with the quartet starting at the long par-4 14th being a highlight of the round for me.
The 381-metre 14th is rated the second hardest on the course and certainly doesn’t give up pars easily. The dogleg right is lined by out-of-bounds well to the right of the fairway that climbs over the crest of a small hill and creates a blind second shot for short hitters. Long hitters will still have an obscured view of the green and might be able to see just the top of the flag in the middle of a smallish green, which slopes from front-to-back.
From Goolwa, the drive south east to Kingston S.E is a beautiful one that takes in the edge of Lake Alexandrina and on through Coorong National Park. It is a three-hour trek but worth every moment.