South Australia is rich with natural beauty and resources, as well as excellent golf courses. Here are 10 of the best
The first thing golfers think of when picturing a trip to South Australia is, understandably, Adelaide’s finest courses, Royal Adelaide and Kooyonga, as well as the wineries of the acclaimed Barossa, Clare and McLaren Vale regions. And that is perfectly fine. South Australian golfers are happy for this to be the state’s headline act.
But as tour professional David Lutterus will tell you, there is a lot more to South Australian golf than that. As a childhood friend of Jason Day and a pro who has held status on circuits from the PGA Tour to China and everywhere in between, he has seen his fair share of great golf regions. But this proud South Australian knows there is more to his home state than the delights of Adelaide.
“Adelaide has two incredible world-class golf courses, Royal and Kooyonga, which are five to 10 minutes from the airport and Adelaide’s CBD,” Lutterus tells Australian Golf Digest. “When you factor in the lack of traffic compared to other Australian capital cities, the fact there are amazing beaches in proximity to these courses, great restaurants and world-class wine, Adelaide is one of the great golf regions of the world. But there are underrated golf destinations like the Fleurieu Peninsula and the Limestone Coast.
“I have hosted people from Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales since the COVID-19 pandemic began and they all couldn’t believe the golf, food and ease of getting around SA. They all wanted to come back here before other Australian golf destinations.”
Here are 10 of South Australia’s best golf courses.
It comes as no surprise that the best course in South Australia was influenced by the timeless touch of the legendary architect, Dr Alister MacKenzie, and recently improved by the acclaimed Tom Doak. This gorgeous layout weaves between sandy craters and smatterings of pine trees and is continually ranked within the top dozen courses in the nation. Arguably the doctor’s greatest gift to the Seaton site was the driveable, and wonderfully bunker-less, 266-metre, par-4 third hole. The course is also iconic for being split in half by a suburban railway line that can cause a round to be briefly interrupted, but for the overwhelming majority of your game you will marvel at Royal Adelaide’s thoughtful design and blessed natural setting on sandy land.
Where: Tapleys Hill Rd, Seaton SA 5023
Phone: (08) 8356 5511
The Grange Golf Club stands proudly among Australia’s finest 36-hole complexes and the golf world got a glimpse into its charm during two Women’s Australian Opens held there. On the superior West course, designed by Vern Morcom, a parkland feel is enhanced by holes framed by rows of tall pines and a collection of wonderful closing par 4s, such as the 17th hole, provide a thrilling finish. In 2008, Mike Clayton completed a redesign and his changes were mainly to the greens and bunkers as well as the removal of trees in order to open up the course. The East course provides a sharp contrast, particularly after a successful Greg Norman redesign on the course where the Shark won his first ever professional tournament. Norman introduced a new style of bunkering that has members, and visitors for that matter, eager for their next round at The Grange.
Where: White Sands Drive, Grange SA 5022
Phone: (08) 8355 7100
The reddish sandy soil and gentle undulations gave Kooyonga’s original designer, Herbert Lockett Rymill, a beautiful canvas to begin painting one of Australian golf’s true masterpieces. Rymill’s design included the planting of native and imported trees that, over time, grew to dominate the property. However, the most charming aspects of ‘Kooey’, as the members call it – the natural vegetation and bunkering – have been improved and restored by Neil Crafter. The land’s natural elevation changes force golfers to use almost every club in their bag and the course’s defences are its sloping, tight, tree-lined fairways and firm, small greens. Although lacking the space and contour of Royal Adelaide, Kooyonga is a must-play in South Australia.
Where: May Terrace, Lockleys SA 5032
Phone: (08) 8352 5444
For this writer, Glenelg Golf Club feels like the Kingston Heath of South Australia. By that, I mean a relatively compact piece of land has been used to its full potential, architecturally, while its limited elevation changes have been incorporated wonderfully, such as the remarkable, uphill par-3 11th hole. Like most courses in Adelaide, the Glenelg layout boasts rolling, low-slung dunes and sandy outlying areas while trees line the fairways and frame the greens. Among the five best courses in Adelaide, Glenelg is probably the most forgiving, which allows for a good pace of play.
Where: James Melrose Rd, Novar Gardens SA 5040
Phone: (08) 8350 3200
Links Lady Bay
In 1998, the design trio of Jack Newton, Graeme Grant and John Spencer took what was once South Australian grazing land tucked between a hillside and the Gulf St Vincent and turned it into a ruggedly handsome links layout. Twenty-three years later, the course sits elegantly among SA’s best courses and certainly in the nation’s top 100 (No.67 on our recent ranking). The state’s best regional golf course is situated at Normanville, in the southern part of the Fleurieu Peninsula, and is just a little longer than an hour’s drive from Adelaide. Boasting long, wispy rough and an array of deep bunkers – plus considerable exposure to the seaside elements – Links Lady Bay achieves what it set out to be… a beautiful and fun test of links golf.
Where: St Andrews Boulevard, Normanville SA 5204
Phone: (08) 8558 0650
Another Fleurieu Peninsula gem is Mount Compass Golf Course. Like Links Lady Bay, its foundations made it ideal for golf – land that was once used for sand mining. This has helped Mount Compass to grow world-class turf while providing terrain that gifted an exciting and dynamic routing. Mount Compass took on its new current name in 2016 and, after that Neil Crafter, the decorated amateur golfer and Adelaide-based course architect, began work on improving the greens, fairways, bunker conditioning and tree management. Crafter has certainly uplifted the standard of the bunkering while allowing Mount Compass’ routing to take the golfer into wooded pockets and out into open holes, all the while enjoying mostly flat fairways and rolling surfaces. Mount Compass has climbed the summit and those who have played it know how rewarding a trip to this property is.
Where: George Francis Drive, Mount Compass SA 5210
Phone: (08) 8556 8500
Victor Harbor, at the southern end of the Fleurieu Peninsula, first draws a golfer in with the jaw-dropping views from the first tee, which sits 40 metres above the fairway. Uninterrupted vistas of Granite Island and Encounter Bay in the distance will have you stunned from the beginning and is precisely why this magazine included the hole in its Hall of Fame as one of Australia’s most iconic golf holes. Historic Victor Harbor Golf Club was established in 1911 and, with a layout boasting both ocean and hinterland views, is easily one of the most picturesque golf clubs in South Australia. The clubhouse also ensures the breathtaking sights continue after the round, via the bistro, while the bar is also well stocked with wines from the nearby world-famous wine regions. Victor Harbor Golf Club adds to the list of reasons why the Fleurieu Peninsula should be on every travelling golfer’s list.
Where: Inman Valley Rd, Victor Harbor SA 5211
Phone: (08) 8552 2030
On the opposite of Adelaide, Tanunda Pines Golf Club is regarded as the pick of the Barossa Valley courses, but the club confesses that up until a few years ago it had a reputation for being a fine layout in substandard condition. A concerted effort in recent times to enhance the playing surfaces has borne fruit. Visitors are so taken by the course that they’ll often favour playing it twice over some of the area’s other layouts. A club with a rich history, Tanunda Pines’ present chapter really began when Murray Crafter redesigned the course in the mid-1990s. He expertly utilised the landform and weaved holes between the weathered, gnarly, centuries-old gum trees to conjure a layout that asks for a range of shot shapes, making it a true ball-strikers alley. The ancient gums amid the fulsome stands of trees are eye-catching, but the contours on and around the greens are what keep Tanunda Pines compelling round after round. Many greens have tiers and spines that make approach shots, all greenside plays and putting a constant challenge.
Where: Golf Links Rd, Rowland Flat SA 5352
Phone: (08) 8563 1200
Naracoorte is a treasured Vern Morcom-designed golf course that has satisfied many a golf-and-wine lover visiting South Australia’s Limestone Coast. From a wine standpoint, Naracoorte is located brilliantly in the Wrattonbully wine region between Coonawarra and Padthaway grape-growing regions. Naracoorte Golf Club is blessed with gently rolling terrain and deep sandy soil, leaving its turf in top condition year-round. The course, on the northern edge of town, is set in parkland with its 18 holes sitting on a rise overlooking the surrounding Naracoorte flatlands. Gum trees and other Australian natives border each picturesque hole. The combination of sandy soil, native bushland and thoughtful Morcom design allow Naracoorte to draw comparisons to Melbourne Sandbelt courses, but with SA’s incredible wine regions a stone’s throw away.
Where: Stewart Terrace, Naracoorte SA 5271
Phone: (08) 8762 2121
Mount Gambier Golf Club proudly boasts the best-conditioned golf course in an area of South Australia known for its geological wonders. Mount Gambier Golf Club is positioned in the heart of the Limestone Coast and couples excellent turf conditioning with dramatic elevation changes, yielded from rolling sand hills, that make for an exciting layout. Elevated tees on several holes offer stunning views, notably the signature par-3 eighth with its southerly view of the Mount Gambier Centenary Tower. The club was founded in 1909 and is only five minutes from the city centre of Mount Gambier. Travelling golfers are encouraged to explore the sapphire waters of Mount Gambier’s famed Blue Lake or traverse the underground Garden of Eden at Umpherston Sinkhole.
Where: Attamurra Road, Mount Gambier SA 5290
Phone: (08) 8725 7739