Not as well known as some other Adelaide golf courses, Glenelg Golf Club is fast becoming one of Australia’s best.
A stinking hot Adelaide day would mean only the toughest (or perhaps craziest) golfers would be enduring the heat. So things were pretty quiet as made my way to Glenelg Golf Club late in the afternoon, still with plenty of time to fit in eighteen holes.
Glenelg Golf Club is situated on the western side of Adelaide, just 15 minutes out of the city. Despite jumping 23 places to 29th in Golf Australia Magazine’s Top 100 Australian Golf Courses for 2012, it’s often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbouring courses.
I was barely out of the car park before I was sweating and looking for a drink. The friendly pro shop staff shoved a drink in my hand and went about ensuring I wasn’t going to walk the fairways alone. Despite my protests they took off to the first green and managed to coax a golfer to begin his round again.
I imagined the exchange going on 300 metres ahead of me.
“What? Start again? Are you kidding me?! For who? That guy?”
Watching a golfer being driven back to the tee is one that you only ever really see when professionals are involved in a playoff or in more unfortunate situations, like when they’ve lost a golf ball. As it turned out the golfer returning in the cart was a professional; 2010 Victorian Open winner Jason Norris who is a member of Glenelg and a perfect tour guide on an afternoon where I was keen to walk as short a distance as possible.
The opening few holes give a good indication of the feel of the golf course. A short par-4 opens things up with a bit to think about off the tee, followed by long par-4 that requires a good tee shot if you want a decent chance of getting close to the flagstick.
It was here that I had the awkward task of explaining my professional partner that it was my ball on the green, and his in the greenside bunker. It was a surprising result for both of us and an interesting example of the nuances in the Glenelg layout.
Glenelg isn’t strictly a links golf course but there are plenty of open areas and opportunities for bump-and-run shots, one of which my very thin 6-iron somehow managed to take from my perfect fairway lie.
The rough is often lined with pine needles and thick grass with a sandy base (think sandbelt type rough) and needs a club or two more than usual, which my partner neglected to do on this occasion. It may have been the heat affecting his concentration.
While some golfers seem to be enamoured with the par-3 3rd hole, I think the short, bunker-laden par-4 4th hole is superior and should really be rated as one of Australia’s best golf holes.
Fire away with a driver if you dare but plenty of bunkers prohibit any real direct line into the narrow green. Even conservative tee shots will need some thought with a small pot bunker in the middle of the fairway.
It is around the turn where I was starting to be shown what it takes to play professional golf, and also where I found the golf course get really interesting.
The 384 metre par-4 8th hole has a tricky tee shot that can be played safely with an iron or aggressively with a driver. The danger for longer hitters is a perfectly placed water hazard on the far side of the dog-leg that will catch anyone trying to get a little too greedy. When the flagstick is tucked behind the bunker it can be tough to get at from the left-hand side of the fairway.
The 11th is spectacular golf hole from the tee perfectly framed by large pines. The 168 metre par-3 is plays up to Pine Hill to a long narrow green with bunkers on either side. Long and left may appear the bail out area, but getting up and down requires a seriously good short game. Put on your biggest grin if you walk off here with a par.
The 12th (460 metre, par-5) is another favourite of mine thanks largely to a throw back style green formation that you don’t see too often in modern golf.
The green itself slopes front to back and is positioned between a ridge on the left and a series of mounds on the right. From the fairway it appears as if someone has moved the green off to the right leaving a big bail out area to the left.
This green is one of my favourite in Australian golf and is reminiscent of the green at Royal Adelaide’s famous 3rd hole. I even love the walk through the mounds to the 13th tee (top picture) where the golf course seems to fit into the surroundings rather than the other way around.
Of course it’s not so much fun walking away with a bogey or more, which is a real possibility for anyone getting a little too fancy around the green. My only qualm with the hole is a lack of choice off the tee that would surely elevate it to one of Australia’s best golf holes.
The course redesign was generally completed in 2004 by Neil Crafter and Bob Tuohy where the biggest changes can be seen on the back nine.
A couple of holes have been criticised for feeling a little out of character with the rest of the golf course most notably the par-3 16th hole. The green is surrounded by water hazards where the designers have made the most of the wetlands at the eastern end of the golf course.
While it does have a slightly different feel about it, I tend to think that the new holes look to be fitting in much better as they mature. The 17th for example, is a fantastic golf hole with similar features to some of the dog-leg holes on the opening nine and the 18th requires some thought as you approach a tight green nestled among bunkers and a strangely magnetic water hazard.
My esteemed playing partner also pointed out a number of recent, subtle changes to the golf course to improve speed of play, course condition and aesthetics, which I otherwise may have missed. All signs the club is a dynamic one and looking to rise it further up the list of Australia’s best golf courses.
When golfers travel to Adelaide, Glenelg Golf Club is often overlooked but this really should not be the case. As one of Australia’s best, it’s a course that everyone should seriously consider playing. No matter how hot it is.