Mount Compass Golf Course

Mount-Compass-Golf-Course

The frequently travelled road between Adelaide and Victor Harbour features the gorgeous Fleurieu Peninsula, the McLaren Vale wine region and countless tourist destinations. Just off this highway lies Mount Compass Golf Club, about 45 minutes’ drive south of the Adelaide CBD.

The 6,116-metre, Neil Crafter-designed par 72 course is a delight to play, and whilst Mount Compass is not widely known, it has progressed steadily upward in each of the last 4 bi-annual Golf Digest rankings. It is maintained by a relatively small green staff, but despite this, the conditioning of the course is excellent. Usually courses of this quality employ 2 or 3 times more staff and yet will not achieve the presentation excellence of Mount Compass.

The course has a very natural sense to the holes and utilises the flowing terrain beautifully. The greens are creatively varied in size and are nuanced to enable much variation in pin placement – always the sign of a designer that plays and has a significant understanding of the game.

Presented with such an amazing sand base, Crafter encountered the almost perfect blank canvas with which to express his creativity in designing bunkers at Mount Compass. Of the 89 bunkers littered across the property, most are clearly reminiscent of links in Great Britain. Edging of natural roughness abounds. Perhaps the best examples being the considerable trap behind the 6th green and to the right of the 1st fairway.

In keeping with the Northern Hemisphere links theme, strategically hidden pot bunkers are also a feature, deep with copious sand at the bases, a sideways escape is usually all that can be achieved from one of these coffins!

Holes worthy of mention amongst a very solid bunch are the par 4 6th very short but with a daunting expanse of wasteland that must be carried. The bending Par 5 10th can be accessed in 2 blows by the bold and accurate but can be played in multiple fashions to suit one’s appetite for aggression. Most will agree the 173-metre par 3 12th is the most memorable, the slightly raised green requires water carry the whole way. Those less practised or a bit apprehensive can bail out to the left and will rely on deft short game skills to secure a coveted par.

The Links Lady Bay

Links Lady Bay Golf

Situated just an hour’s drive south of Adelaide city centre on the Fleurieu Peninsula, The Links Lady Bay makes an excellent addition to any Adelaide golf holiday, but is also a great golf destination in its own right, and the experience is only enhanced by the incredible ocean views on the drive down.

The course features prominently in the bi-annual Golf Digest rankings and deservedly so. It is a championship links test with ever present wind and magnificent views over Lady Bay. Strong enough from the back tees to test the best golfers, yet fair enough to be enjoyed by the average player, The Links Lady Bay also features short holes that would grace any of the most famous links courses in the world – most notably the Par 3 17th. The resort facilities, comprising golf course, accommodation, restaurant and spa are full of charm and quality, reflecting the unique character of the Southern Fleurieu.

Designed as a traditional links, by Melbourne superintendent Graeme Grant in collaboration with John Spencer and Jack Newton, the course opened in 2000. Such was his enthusiasm for the project, Mr Grant reportedly mounted his bulldozer and did not dismount until all 18 holes were shaped! The exuberant designer toiling from sunup to sunset on what he perceived to be a unique and classic links site upon fertile dunes that overlooked the sublime Peninsula coastline.

The site was well suited to links with the fairways constructed of sand hillocks and framed by flowing tall native grasses. The putting surfaces are generous in size and minimally contoured as to not become unplayable in heavy winds. The bent grass manicured expertly to allow a superb roll, the ‘big four’ clubs in Adelaide do not experience better. The bunkering was left to its rugged devices and enhances the sites very natural expression.

Right from the onset, the 356-metre 1st reveals the beauty to come, carved through the dunes toward the green target snuggled in a depression and encased by curvy mounds. The 4th hole, a 339-metre short 4 cannot escape without mention with its elbow shaped green creating havoc with a misdirected approach.

The deceiving 330 metre 10th is another solid expression of a shortish par 4, and the aforementioned 197 metre par 3 17th are the standout holes amongst many contenders on the back 9. Rated No 1 on the card, the lengthy 12th played into prevailing southerlies is the epitome of links artistry, featuring a green almost 30 metres long. At No 13, the layout departs the coastal views and heads inland over a rise with the ensuing 4 holes encased in a valley adjacent to farmland. The best vista is revealed at the 17th tee, overlooking most of the layout with impressive views of the distant ocean.

Links Lady Bay is a fine golf course and probably South Australia’s best modern layout. Escape the bustle of Adelaide – add a day (and overnight) trip to The Links Lady Bay to your Adelaide golf holiday itinerary.

The Grange Golf Club (West & East)

The Grange Golf Club - West Course

The Grange is Adelaide golfing royalty featuring two acclaimed 18-hole championship courses. The West Course has undergone a restoration at the hands of Michael Clayton, the project completed in 2008. The younger sibling East Course received an overhaul courtesy of Greg Norman, completed in 2012 the new East receives high praise and is now closer in quality to the older West course. In 2019 the club hosted The Australian Ladies Open. Co-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour, the tournament attracted a world class field and secured valuable television coverage worldwide.

In 1926, an elite cluster of three clubs were recognised as the Adelaide Sand belt: Glenelg, Kooyonga and of course Royal Adelaide comprised this imposing trio. A group of enthusiastic golfers, mainly of blue-collar backgrounds, collaborated to develop The Grange and to add the final piece of Adelaide’s ‘big four’.

Fast forward to the 1950’s and on the back of strong member numbers, the club capitalised on its success by engaging Victorian designer Vern Morcom to oversee significant changes to the layout. His main brief was to add some more complexity to the course, which he achieved over almost a decade by building 18 new tees, 17 new greens and re-routing and shaping many areas of new fairway. During this time, the club secured a neighbouring piece of land which became the East Course in 1967, Morcom this time having a blank canvas to express his talents.

The Grange began a storied championship hosting era in 1976, hosting The West Lakes Classic which attracted all of Australia’s best players from that era. Making the trip from the US were Bruce Crampton, David Graham, and Bruce Devlin. Other notables included Graham Marsh, Billy Dunk, Jack Newton and the defending champion, Bob Shearer. Teeing off late on the first day, a 3rd year trainee professional from Queensland with broad shoulders and a mop of blonde hair accompanied Bruce Crampton to the first tee. Obviously unaffected by being paired with arguably Australia’s best player at that time, Greg Norman announced himself on the world stage with an outstanding 64. He went on to record his maiden victory that weekend sparking an electrifying career in the game. Not to be outdone, in 1978 another bold Queenslander in Wayne Grady recorded his first tournament victory at The Grange. He and Norman would go on to win major championships in the USPGA and Open Championships.

In comparison to the other ‘big four’ venues, The Grange courses possess more of a parkland aspect, with many holes across both courses gaining definition from rows of established pines. The fractionally better West course possesses a cluster of notable par 4s to complete the round – the 17th especially memorable as it cleverly follows the movement of the terrain. Sweeping through an opening in the pines initially to the right and then marginally uphill, it requires your full attention. The extensive course redesign by noted Australian designer Michael Clayton in 2008, featured significant changes primarily to greens and bunkers, although the odd shifted tee and target has helped improve the experience. His trademark encroaching tree eradication has, as always, improved the visual and playing surface quality.

From humble beginnings, The Grange is pure quality these days and you would be hard pressed not to play both courses when visiting the city of churches.

Glenelg Golf Club

Glenelg Golf Club

Recognised as one of Australia’s premier golfing facilities, Glenelg Golf Club offers a world class challenge. The course complexity is envied by many rival clubs, while its strategic design elements, impeccable turf quality and coastal aspects provide for a truly memorable day of golf. Traditional links characteristics add to the golfing experience and architects have utilised the topography of the site to place a premium on a golfer’s shot making ability. Natural sand dunes and native vegetation abound; indeed, the club has taken great care in restoring much of the golf course back to its original landscape. Glenelg Golf Club sits comfortably in the top echelon of classic Australian courses.

Having originally opened in 1926, a considerable parcel of land became available to the club as part of the Adelaide Airport project in 1946. The club engaged Vern Morcom to design what is essentially todays Glenelg Golf Course.

In 1998, years of unchecked tree and vegetation growth rendered the site grossly overplanted and the club commissioned an extensive restoration program, the end goal to re-establish its predominately pine tree landscape and return the more exposed areas of the course to a links like experience.

Two of Adelaide’s golfing royalty in Neil Crafter and Bob Touhy were engaged to facilitate the removal of excess plant species and to improve the layout to defend it against the advances in golf equipment technology. This was achieved by lengthening several holes, by adding championship tees and by rebuilding all the bunkers with riveted walls. The bunker works were the first of its kind, on such a large scale, and made a very positive aesthetic improvement to the layout.

The standout holes amongst a very strong collection are the 301 metre par 4 1st hole that eases you into the round with its strategic elements, offering multiple ways to attack it. In a similar fashion, the 4th 315 metre par 4 is devilishly bunkered to punish those taking an overly cautious route from the tee.

On the back 9, the 382 metre par 4 10th is a stout start to the inward journey, turning slightly left up a fairly steep rise, the green isn’t visible from the tee but comes into stunning view as you crest the hill. The subtly contoured target is superbly protected by four stunning examples of the riveted bunkers. The very next hole is the pick of the par 3s. 168 metres from the black tees and playing uphill through an avenue of tall pines, the ground falls to the right exposing deep and penal bunkering. The putting surface isn’t particularly wide and only an assured confident tee shot will find the target.

Featuring strategic design elements on every hole, encompassing 93 bunkers and 12 seasonal wetland areas, the restoration of original landforms and characteristics of the site to recreate part of the former coastline were fabulous initiatives of the Crafter Tuohy collaboration. This coupled with superior conditioning in the form of fast rolling fairways and immaculate putting surfaces make the modern Glenelg a must play in any Adelaide itinerary.

Kooyonga Golf Club

Kooyonga Golf Club

Kooyonga is a ‘must play’ course for any golfer visiting Adelaide. It is one of Australia’s top golf courses and has hosted 5 Australian Opens, 9 South Australian Opens, 8 National Amateur Championships and more recently in 2018, The Women’s Australian Open.

The challenging layout and sensational playing surfaces provide you with the ultimate golfing experience. The layout is testing but fair. Native trees define the narrow, undulating fairways culminating in well protected greens whose speed and subtle slopes require skill and demand respect. Peter Thomson described Kooyonga from the player’s point of view when he said, “it needs to be played with the head as much as the hands”.

The Kooyonga Golf Club was founded by local golf identity Cargie Rymill. Despite having no formal course design training, Rymill greatly admired and sought to emulate Alistair MacKenzie’s design ethos – so much so that he reportedly carried a copy of the MacKenzie and carefully followed this methodology when it came to course architecture, .

The original site Rymill had to work with featured sparsely vegetated sandhills, and his design firstly set about introducing significant plantings of imported and native trees which these days define the landscape. The course configuration is intriguing with use of consecutive par 5s to open the round and on the back 9 consecutive par 3s. This design characteristic certainly deviates from the MacKenzie doctrine but also indicates Rymill had a quirky, unconventional streak.

Convention is very much adhered to in the use of the site’s considerable elevation changes. Every aspect of your game is tested by the narrow tree and scrub lined driving avenues and generally small undulating and fast greens. Memorable aspects of the design include the narrow but very much reachable par 5 2nd, the gorgeous short par 3s in No’s 7 and 14, and stout par 4s like 6, 10 and 12.

Royal Adelaide Golf Club

Royal Adelaide Golf Club

Best in Adelaide, best in State, one of Australia’s top courses and a regular in the World’s Top 100 – Royal Adelaide is a well decorated masterpiece, tweaked in its design by several prominent architects over the years, including the venerable Dr Alister MacKenzie. This true championship course plays very much as an inland links in the manner of Australia’s famed Sand belt courses. The firm, true and beautiful surfaces are a pleasure to play on, and the impeccable standards are carried over into the clubhouse and the club’s service levels. Royal Adelaide is a joy to visit for any golfer.

“No seaside courses that I have seen possess such magnificent sand craters as those at Royal Adelaide.” Dr Alister MacKenzie.

In its full context, Royal Adelaide, located in Seaton with its broad open spaces, is laced with more difficulty than would first appear, except when encountered in calm conditions. The membership is usual grateful if they manage to play to, or fractionally better than, their respective handicaps.

After its inception in Glenelg in 1892, The Royal Adelaide Golf Club relocated in 1904 to reside amongst the dunes and sand-filled craters of Seaton, adjacent to the city’s western railway. Like other renowned Australian courses, the layout benefited from a lightening visit of the worlds then most celebrated architect in Dr Alistair MacKenzie in 1926. Fresh from a design project at Royal Melbourne West, the Doctor briefly assessed RAGC and prepared a brief that saw many of the punishing fairway bunkers converted to undulations. Additionally, he re-routed the majority of the course to remove hazardous railway crossings and he was adamant the site’s natural features were utilised by creating holes around and over the majestic dunes and craters.

Suitably impressed with the landscape and invigorated by the abundance of sand, MacKenzie exited the club stating ‘if the suggestions put forward for the reconstruction of the Royal Adelaide course are acted upon, it will be superior to most, if not all, English championship courses’.

In addition to guiding the Club’s decision makers of the day in how best to produce a masterpiece golf course, Mackenzie’s footprint is best appreciated in his vision of the exceptional 3rd hole. This hole is just as relevant today as it ever was, despite the unforeseeable technological advances in equipment which fortunately have not diminished the hole in its extraordinary challenge. The outstanding feature of the design lies in the location of the green underneath a dune with a burly, snarly little ridge that protects the left side. As you contemplate your strategy at the tee, the essential decision is simply whether you back your driving ability to produce a straight solid blow over the hill or caress a shorter club to the crest. Either way, played with hesitation or lack of commitment, you will be hard pressed to escape with a five on what arguably is one of the best short 4s on the planet.

Another Royal Adelaide gem worthy of note is the par 4 11th, the notorious ‘crater hole’. The approach is played from the crest of the elevated fairway over a colossal hollow to the green encased at the base of a sandhill lined with copious pine trees. Holes 3 and 11 have long been regarded as some of the best designs in Australia and quite rightly have barely, if ever, been tampered with. However, over the years minimal modification has occurred elsewhere at No’s 4, 8, 13, 14, 17 and 18 – each of these holes bolstered to accommodate the rampaging and excessive distance achieved with modern equipment.

Royal Adelaide is a unique and quirky layout that has evolved over time. Under the guidance of qualified course architects, at its core it hasn’t varied so much that MacKenzie would struggle to recognise it today. Blessed with some truly world class holes and fantastic conditioning year in year out, it rightfully deserves its recognition as one of Australia’s elite courses.