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.
The small seaside town of Kingston S.E (south east) is home of the Big Lobster, the historic Cape Jaffa lighthouse and another enjoyable par-72 layout.
The Kingston S.E Golf Club has a small membership and just one full-time greenkeeper but the quality of the course belies the numbers. In recent years, teams of volunteer workers have assisted in the redevelopment of the layout, guided by a masterplan outlined by Adelaide club professional Allan Telford.
The redesign included the replacement of all 18 greens, seven new fairways were developed including the radical change of two, 27 new teeing areas were built, ageing Cypress pine trees were removed and the irrigation system was upgraded.
The result of this spirited club and community work is a fun layout that is complemented by very good conditioning. The couch fairways have a well-groomed cover, while the bentgrass putting surfaces are smooth and run at a good speed.
The holes are routed across rippled land created by ancient dunes. This has given rise to some memorable holes the 358-metre par-4 9th. It is a very good driving hole with a wide fairway that features a rolling dune running diagonally across it. This can block the view of the green for the shorter hitters because the putting surface is set down in a dish with a small mound in front. That said, the shape of the land at the front and right of the putting surface will feed most shots onto the large green and, hopefully, near the pin.
Dunes are also a new feature of a round at Robe Golf Club, 30 minutes’ drive south via the Southern Ports highway.
While golf has been played at Robe since the mid-1920s, a major turning point in its history came in 2011 when the club took its first steps to expanding to an 18-hole course. The course, which was originally 14 holes, closed two holes and had the land sub-divided, which – along with a Federal Government grant – helped fund the club’s vision.
Course design team Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford (Golf Strategies) was commissioned to create six new holes starting west of the clubhouse and heading off into duneland behind West Beach. The new holes – from the 7th to the 12th – officially opened for play in November last year and are already gaining wide acclaim on social media from those players who have already sampled this sextet of holes.
The new holes follow the natural contouring of the dunes, along the coast. The par-4 7th plays directly to the west and the green lies in a natural amphitheatre among the dunes. Two radar huts from World War II, once secreted deep in the scrub-covered dunes, were restored and are a feature of the hole.
The short climb to the next tee slowly reveals a wonderful par-3, played across the top of a dune and usually into the teeth of the prevailing south-westerly, which brings a lone bunker front left of the putting surface into play. Crafter and Mogford’s work among the dunes at Robe is outstanding and the par-3 8th is the cream of the crop.
The golfing topography is equally impressive at Mt Gambier Golf Club, about 90 minutes’ drive south east and midway between Melbourne and Adelaide, just off the Princes Highway.
It is an undulating course that is widely regarded as being the best conditioned layout in the region.
The conditioning is complemented by plenty of holes where the elevation change from tee-to-green adds to the challenge. For example, the slightly uphill 500-metre par-5 7th offers a wide fairway but the ideal playing line from tee is to the right side before laying up to the left half of the short grass, to safely avoid bunkers short right of the small putting surface.
Having climbed the hill, the next tee looks down upon a kidney-shaped green 150-metres away. The green lies at a slight diagonal to any approaching tee shot, with a bunker left and right catching mis-hits. It’s the best of a fine collection of one-shot holes to be found at Mt Gambier.
The internationally renowned Coonawarra wine region can be found north of Mt Gambier. Lying at the heart of the region is Naracoorte, about 70 minutes’ drive via the Riddoch Highway.
The town is famous for its caves and being the home of South Australia’s only world heritage listed fossil site. Both are found on the south side of town en route to the wineries of the Coonawarra. To the north is the Naracoorte Golf Club, which was carved out of wild, thick scrub, wattles and bracken using horse and dray more than 80 years ago.
Much of the Limestone Coast region was inundated by sea about two million years ago, leaving the plains of today lined by low sand hills.
This left beautiful rolling terrain for golf and the deep sandy soil ensures the layout is not only playable all year round it is ideal for growing high quality turf. All of this combined to see Naracoorte crack a spot in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses in 2017.
Elements of the design and set-up of the layout have obviously been influenced by the great courses of the Melbourne Sandbelt, particularly on holes that have had some remodelling in recent times.
For example, the 458-metre par-5 8th presents a blind drive to a generously wide fairway but if your aim is to go for the green in two hits your tee shot needs to be in the left half of the fairway. The same can be said for any shot laid-up short of the green because the angle of the green – front left to back right – with deep bunkers short right and long left, the easiest approach is to be played straight up the green. Club selection is also vital as the putting surface is trimmed right up to the lip of the back bunker – just like you might find at Royal Melbourne or Kingston Heath – so even the slightly over-clubbed shot will find the sand.
WHERE TO STAY
LINKS LADY BAY RESORT
Enjoy an overnight stay in a Links Lady Bay (pictured) superior King Spa Suite, have a continental breakfast delivered to your room to eat while overlooking the course from your balcony. Then you can head for a round in a cart, with a friend, before dining on some lunch.
A midweek (Monday to Thursday) play and stay package costs $375 per night, while the weekend package (Friday to Sunday inclusive) costs $425 per night.
NEW TERRY GOLF & HOTEL RESORT
Enjoy this picturesque part of the Fleurieu Peninsula at the New Terry Golf and Hotel Resort.
The resort offers a play and stay package with one night accommodation, a round of golf for two in a cart as well as a cooked or continental breakfast for two, starting from $219 (twin share).
New Terry also has a $299 package for two people playing a round at New Terry and Links Lady Bay in a motorised cart. One night accommodation with breakfast will be provided by New Terry Hotel.