Whenever Fred Astaire’s dance moves were lauded yet Ginger Rogers’ forgotten, the admirers were often reminded that whatever he did, she had to do backwards – and in high heels. Today, amid more equality-driven times, the role of women in relation to men remains a hotly debated topic. So it’s nice to see a welcome role reversal is at play in Adelaide and, by association, all of South Australia as becoming the home of the Women’s Australian Open has had the nifty flow-on effect of drawing all golfers to the City of Churches.
Shunned by top-level male tournaments for longer than was fair, Adelaide is now embracing being the home of the premier female tournament in the land. Next month, the city will host its fourth consecutive Women’s Australian Open when the best golfers of the fairer sex descend on The Grange Golf Club from February 14-17.
It’s a position Australia’s fifth most populous city is revelling in – in much the same way Adelaide has become synonymous with the ‘pink ball’ day/night cricket Test most summers. The city may not have the mighty population of its eastern and western siblings, but it doesn’t lack any ingenuity.
And it certainly wasn’t short-changed when it comes to quality golf courses. Aside from The Grange, with its twin East and West courses, the city is blessed with three more stunners in the shape of Kooyonga, Glenelg and the matriarch of them all: Royal Adelaide. While all are private, visiting golfers can play at each club by going through the correct channels. One of the most flavoursome occurs via the Four Reds campaign, which not only paves the way for golfers to tour the ‘Big 4’ clubs, it blends each stop with one of South Australia’s famous red wines. After a round at Glenelg, for instance, you’ll be greeted with a bottle of Henschke Keyneton Euphonium. At Kooyonga, it’s Rockford’s famous Basket Press Shiraz. Four Reds will even get you back to your accommodation should you enjoy the 19th hole a little too much.
While these are naturally the venues that capture the imagination of visiting golfers, there’s a plethora of top courses that don’t receive the same degree of national or international attention.
Greg Blewett, the former Australian Test cricketer and now a 1-handicap golfer, is a member at Kooyonga and a self-confessed fan of the layout, as well as Royal Adelaide, Glenelg and more courses among the ‘usual suspects’. But he insists the fabric of South Australian golf has far more texture than a mere four clubs.
“Don’t overlook Tea Tree Gully,” he says. “I was a member there for 30 years and have played a lot of good golf courses around the world and I still rate it highly. It’s a tricky course but always in good condition.
“I also really like Links Lady Bay. I’m a massive fan of Barnbougle in Tasmania and I get a similar sort of feeling at Lady Bay: you’re out of the city, it’s a bit more relaxed, you’re close to the beach and the golf course is good.”
Blewett, who has represented SA in amateur golf, says his home state offers great destinations in every direction.
“I grew up in the Barossa Valley, but it’s always a great day out. You jump in the car, head up there and enjoy the wineries. McLaren Vale is the same.”
Of course, should visitors venture in the McLaren Vale direction, it brings into play not only Links Lady Bay (which Australian Golf Digest ranks 60th in the country) but also the fine courses at Mount Compass (ranked 96th), Victor Harbor and McCracken. Yet there’s still more exploring to be done.
“Go to Kangaroo Island,” Blewett says. “Most people put their car on the ferry to go across and once you get there, it’s just untouched. A lot of people don’t realise how big Kangaroo Island is. There are beaches, forests and more wildlife than you’ll see anywhere.”
The island, which ranks as the third largest along the Australian coastline, will someday soon be home to The Cliffs, a spectacular 18-hole coastal course, luxury lodge, spa, health club and hotel. The Darius Oliver-designed layout will weave through the island’s sand dunes, taking advantage of the Southern Ocean vistas. Indeed, South Australia has been the action state for proposed golf developments. Aside from Kangaroo Island, new courses are set to emerge at Robe on the south-eastern coast plus a recently announced revival under new Chinese owners of Wirrina Cove Resort, which is near Links Lady Bay.
Closer to the city are yet more places to explore. “Like the Adelaide Hills. A lot of tourists don’t get there, yet it’s 15 minutes from the city,” Blewett says.
And on the suburban fringe are several more courses that show off the city – literally. Mount Osmond Golf Club offers golfers the best views in Adelaide. Set high above the eastern edge of the city, throughout the round is a series of lookout-style vistas of the city and Gulf St Vincent. A short drive away, visitors to Blackwood Golf Club tour 18 holes in a semi-rural setting on a layout that’s rich in natural features. The land offers great movement, with several spurs and ridges defining the fairways to give many holes intriguing and demanding contours. Most are lined by stands of towering pines or gum trees, which frame the targets and add to the allure and ambience.
All of which adds up to a golf destination packed with diversity and flavour. So long stuck in the middle when it comes to getting the exposure it deserves, golf in Adelaide and South Australia is at last receiving its due. And a big part of that is thanks to the Women’s Australian Open.