Royal Adelaide Golf Club

Tall grass and pines frame the 11th, Royal Adelaide, Royal Adelaide Golf Club

In the city of churches, Royal Adelaide is the golfing equivalent of the Vatican. Every visiting golfer should make a pilgrimage to this Dr Alister MacKenzie-designed layout, one of Australia’s top 10 courses, situated less than two kilometres from the ocean.

The club was founded in 1892 and moved to its current location in 1906. Seventeen years later it was granted approval to use the ‘Royal’ prefix. Pictures of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh hang in the club foyer, opposite a portrait of Royal Adelaide’s own sporting royalty, Sir Donald Bradman. After retiring from cricket in 1948 the Don joined Royal Adelaide and played off a one handicap for years.

The original layout skirted sand dunes and had few trees. Its rise to world-class status began with Dr MacKenzie’s arrival in 1926. Pines had been planted by this stage, though they didn’t seem to alter MacKenzie’s opinion of the landscape. ‘One finds,’ he wrote, ‘a most delightful combination of sand dunes and fir trees, a most unusual combination even at the best seaside courses. No seaside courses that I have seen possess such magnificent craters as those at Royal Adelaide.’

Significant alterations have been undertaken since MacKenzie’s extensive remodelling, with Peter Thomson overseeing changes leading into both the 1998 Australian Open and the World Amateur Teams Championship a decade later. Further changes are planned in the hope that the course will better reflect MacKenzie’s work. And yet there are many elements of MacKenzie’s design that have been left untouched for 84 years. The 266-metre 3rd hole is the Doctor’s design and remains one of Australia’s best short par-fours. The drive is blind, over the crest of a hill, and the fairway grows narrower, flanked by rough to the left and a high, grass-covered sand dune on the right. The green is an odd shape – a ‘leg of mutton’ is how it has been fairly accurately described. It lies between a small ridge on its left edge and a knoll to the right. The beauty of this hole is that if you are brave enough, 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.

Another hole true to MacKenzie’s design is the 353-metre, par-four 11th. The club regards this as the course’s signature hole, and it is not hard to see why. A solid, accurate tee shot must avoid fairway bunkers right and left of the narrow driving zone. Ninety metres from the putting surface, a band of long native grass and sandy soil cuts the fairway in two. Your short-iron approach is to a green set in a crater and surrounded by sand dunes. Covered in tall grass and pine trees, they frame the hole beautifully. Royal Adelaide is a private course. Members of reciprocal clubs can organise a tee time through the manager.

Memorable holes

3rd, 4th, 7th, 11th, 14th and 18th

Where to go

328 Tapleys Hill Rd, Seaton, SA 5023

Book a round

(08) 8356 5511,

Where to stay

The Links Hotel is within walking distance of the course. Accommodation options are also plentiful in nearby Glenelg and Adelaide’s CBD.

Before/after your round

Henley Beach, a popular beachside suburb and a short drive from Royal Adelaide, has great outdoor restaurants where you can watch the sun set over the ocean.

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