Adelaide is serving up a new concept in golf, combining four of Australia’s finest courses with four of the world’s best wines.



By Andrew Daddo


IT’S a golfer-orientated experience that has been given the delicious label.

 There have been stacks of best reasons to visit Adelaide. It’s the festival capital of Australia. With the Adelaide and Fringe and Womadelaide and Crush Festivals, they should call it Festelaide. From 1985 to 1995 there was the Formula 1 Grand Prix (before it was stolen, and don’t think they’ve forgotten). Now there’s the Clipsal 500. Adelaide even has the nation’s premier bike bash – the Tour Down Under – a ferocious trundle through some of the hilliest bits of South Australia.

There are beaches and sharks and stunning seafood. Adelaide has two maniacally supported AFL teams, one of the best cricket ovals in the world and houses of worship for everyone, as you’d expect in the City of Churches.

It’s true, the South Australian cup runneth over with premier wine regions as well. Best of all, Adelaide has golf, the quality of which may come as a surprise to everyone but the blessed people of Adelaide.

A little while ago, some people – who knew how good the golf was – decided it was time to spread the word. You see, great under-noticed golf courses are nothing like great undiscovered surf spots. No one wants to share their secret surf spots, but just about everyone wants to share their great golf course.  There can be no greater source of pride than hearing someone at the bar of a wooden-panelled clubhouse waxing lyrical about your home course. The very mention of your home track would be enough to crane over just a little to hear what’s being said. “How did they keep Glenelg a secret? It’s as good as anywhere. It’s like a Melbourne Sandbelt course without the Melburnians. It’s fantastic.”

Glenelg is fantastic, it’s a course that should most definitely be on every Australian golfer’s bucket list. As should Kooyonga, Royal Adelaide and The Grange. These four clubs, all four absolutely world class, are the thumping heart to Adelaide’s Sandbelt.

Adelaide’s Sandbelt? Each of the four is not only built on sand, but also the unique red sand of the region, capturing the traditional outback spirit of Australia. So maybe if they called it the ‘Red Sandbelt’ it would find a place alongside the more famous Victorian cousin.

So the trick was to get the word to the masses. Whilst not quite creating a festival, the four Red Sandbelt courses got together with the gourmets and oenophiles and created the newest (and possibly best) reason for visiting Adelaide that didn’t involve football. It’s called Four Reds.

The Four Reds experience gives you the opportunity to reconsider the traditional take on the golf trip. It’s, dare I say it, very Adelaide. It’s also very simple – four great courses followed by four great South Australian wines at the 19th hole.

At the very least, if your golf was terrible, you’ve got a genuinely good reason to get to the end of the round.

This is ‘experiential destination golf holidaying’ at its best because you’ll be like an explorer, an adventurer. Is it overstating to say you’re a pilgrim on the golf journey of a lifetime? Probably. But gee, there’s a lot to recommend this new perspective on the very old concept of golf tourism.

Royal Adelaide
Royal Adelaide

Whilst not easy to gain access to any of these four private courses, the Four Reds initiative clears the way. Royal Adelaide Golf Club is consistently ranked in the top 10 courses in Australia and floats around the 50 mark in world course listings. It’s a ‘Royal’ so you know it’s good, but how good is a revelation that has to be experienced to be believed.

A nine-time host of the Australian Open, Royal Adelaide has the propensity to underwhelm on arrival. It’s flat, it’s open and there’s a train line running through it: that’s a working train line and it’s in play. Once you get onto the course proper, the dunes, the fir trees the conditioning and the superb red bunkers will blow your mind. It’s tough, too.  And from the pegs, it’s a monster.

At the end of the round, it’s into the clubhouse for a seasonal food platter and a bottle of Clarendon Hills Bakers Gully Syrah. This is a boutique McLaren Vale winery with a massive reputation. If you’ve got a nose for reds, you’ll pick up the perfumed roast meats, the black current, the liquorice and a spicy overlay. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, read the back of the bottle like I did and bluff your way through the experience. It’s a big wine for a big day’s golf.

Kooyonga Golf Club has hosted five Australian Opens, the last won by Peter Thomson in 1972. More recently it staged the Jacobs Creek Open, which was co-sanctioned between the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Tour. The club says it’s a wonderful example of a championship golf course in undulating sand hills just 15 minutes from the CBD of Adelaide.

I’m fairly confident you’ll be saying a bit more than that. It is indeed wonderful, and those are undulating hills, but it’s also a wonderful test of golf on a superbly presented golf course. It’s like Metropolitan or The Australian where it’s like playing on carpet. And for some ridiculous reason I still can’t fathom, it reminded me of Turkey. I loved Turkey, and Kooyonga moved me.

The paired wine here is Rockford’s Basket Press Shiraz. Now, I don’t pretend to know too much about wine but I do know I really, really like this. It’s so good I had to visit the winery to meet Mr Rockford himself, Robert O’Callaghan, a favoured playing partner of the legendary golf writer Tom Ramsey.

O’Callaghan not only makes superb wine, but does so like an artisan – it’s an old plant with pioneering-era equipment. He unloads his grapes by hand into a massive old-school press and the hearty hold of passion hangs over you all the way to the cellar door. It’s definitely worth the effort to see how he does it, and given the wine’s pretty hard to get hold of, you’ll be well served by getting onto his mailing list.

Some people venture to Adelaide just to visit the Barossa. To play Kooyonga, have a tasting plate and a Basket Press with friends afterward, and then enjoy the Barossa is a much better idea.

And it’s only an hour or so away – just enough time to bludgeon your buddies with memories of that drive up the first, or that holed putt on 14.

The East Course at The Grange Golf Club has undergone a redesign, thanks to Greg Norman. The Great White Shark won his first tournament here 38 years ago, so to come back and tinker must have been a joy. The bunkers are massive, really giving you a great taste of the red sand. Michael Clayton had his way with the West Course in the lead up to 2008 Eisenhower Trophy, and was slated to do the East as well, but the membership decided to have two distinct courses.

Like Royal and Kooyonga, The Grange is beautifully conditioned. When you couple the golf with a bottle of Hentley Farm’s The Beauty Shiraz, it’s all starting to feel a bit religious. I did notice the pain of the bad shots dissipate as The Beauty settled in.

Hentley Farm’s worth the work, as well. Not just a terrific Barossa Valley winery in scenic Seppeltsfield, it’s also home to The Restaurant, set in an old stable on the property. Could it be the best food in the state? In 2013, it was named South Australia’s restaurant of the year. (In SA, they vote with their cutlery, not their heads, so it’s forks and Hentley Farm got four out of four.)

If there’s a secret in all of this, it may well be Glenelg Golf Club. It’s rated No.39 on Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses but feels better than that. It’s tough, it’s scenic, and it’s in great nick with these magnificent red bunkers all over the place – 93 of them, to be precise. And whilst the members at the other clubs are proud of their lot, I got the feeling the Glenelgians reckon they’re onto a very good thing and the world needs to know.

This was the last stop. Sitting up there on the terrace tucking into what may have been the best regional platter of the Four Reds tour with a glass of Henschke’s Keyneton Euphonium Blend for company, it was pretty clear this is one hell of a golfing destination.

South Australia is good at lots of things, but it’s great at looking after visitors. There’s an old school charm that resonates in Australia’s biggest country town . . . and that’s intended as a compliment, not a sledge.

Four Reds paves the way into the heartland of Adelaide’s very best golf, and then teases you with a taste of what’s waiting once you strike out for other parts of South Australia.

For more information about holiday packages, visit


The Grange Golf Club
The Grange Golf Club