LONG regarded as the cathedral of Australian golf, Royal Adelaide will ask the world’s finest female golfers to sing a special hymn in order to raise the Patricia Bridges Bowl when the club hosts the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open next month.
Course superintendent Nathan Bennett and his team will be charged with the responsibility of preparing the great dame for her first significant event since the 2008 World Amateur Team Championships and first professional tournament since the 2006 Jacob’s Creek Open. Royal Adelaide last held the Women’s Australian Open in 1994, when a promising young player named Annika Sorenstam claimed her first pro victory.
Not that much preparation is required to ready the venerable layout. As summer dawned, the lush fairways contrasted with the dry, wispy rough, as the course was effectively ready for tournament action then.
A lot has happened at Royal Adelaide since Team Scotland captured the Eisenhower Trophy eight years ago. The club has welcomed the expertise of acclaimed American course architect Tom Doak, whose first tasks were to tidy up the controversial 17th hole, remove bunkers, relocate others and implement alterations that better reflect the original Alister MacKenzie design. Doak also added a spare hole, a neat little par 3, on previously unused land near the 17th green. It opened for play in November.
Among Doak’s already-completed changes is an improved bunker scheme on the fifth fairway, which was explained to club members as a superior way of having the fairway traps architecturally ‘talk to’ the greenside sand. Elsewhere, superfluous fairway bunkers at the fourth, sixth, ninth and 11th holes were removed and a new tee created at the par-5 second to take play across the train line, plus improved mounding in numerous places. Doak also removed a greenside bunker and two distant fairway traps at the demanding par-4 14th.
The alterations are subtle but effective. Changes like linking fairways and fairway cuts now echo Royal Adelaide’s look in years past. More changes will come, but only once the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations and hosting of the Women’s Australian Open are complete.