Kooyonga was laid out on scrubland between the city of Adelaide and South Australia’s coastline in the 1920s by W.H. Rymill who acted as proprietor and architect. Rymill has previously been very influential at Royal Adelaide and although Kooyonga was not designed by Alison, Colt or MacKenzie, its style is firmly from that special decade of course design squeezed between the Great War and the Crash of 1929.
Kooyonga was named by Rymill himself after a house he constructed by the beach under his mistaken belief that the word was aboriginal and meant ‘plenty sand, plenty water’. The primary influence here is sand. The club has done a very good job in preserving the look and feel of Rymill’s original bunkers; the more irregular shaped hazards are more recent additions. Characteristic of the 1920s designs are the bunker faces that ‘sit up’ and present themselves to the golfer with a much more pronounced lip than you ever see on modern courses. As a consequence, the hazard is both more visible from the tee or the fairway and some degrees more penal when you find yourself in them. The contents of the bunkers is largely made up of the sandy belt of natural soil a common feature in the Sandbelt.
Kooyonga is one of the most interesting of Australia’s classic golf courses and knocks most modern courses into a cocked hat.
The above passage on Kooyonga Golf Club is an extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
The first noticeable characteristic of Kooyonga is the distinct peach color and light texture of their bunker sand, which almost seems a little more like dirt than sand. However, I found this unique finely textured sand to play quite nicely.
The couple of bunker shots I had came out quite well, just like the fine beach sand one might find on a seaside course. I also noted that the sand was maintained at a depth that helped avoid plugged lies and the bunker faces were kept firm and packed, in order to allow the ball to roll down. The landing areas I found to be fairly generous. However, beyond the maintained turf awaits some long native grasses, nasty scrub and in some cases that fine dirt similar to that in the bunkers. Nowhere is this truer than on the 451 yard par 4 eighth. Standing on the tee, it looks inviting to take the drive down the left side in order to shorten the hole. However, that turned out to be a big mistake. The fairway slopes that direction on this dogleg left and I fell for it - hitting a beautiful high draw that seemed quite nice until I saw it bound across the fairway into this unforgiving expanse of unmaintained dirt that runs nearly the entire length of the hole on the left side. After two attempts to extricate myself from this quicksand, I was back where I should have drove the ball in the first place - down the right side where there was an infinite amount of grass available due a very generous landing area and an adjacent hole.
Other than my adventure on #8, I found #17 to be the most memorable hole. A shortish dogleg left par 4 with the front right of the green guarded by the only water hazard on the course. Having only played a couple of courses in Southern Australia, I do not have enough knowledge or experience to personally rank Koonyonga. However, what I can say for certain is Koonyonga is a real treat to play. It is well maintained, has loads of character and presents a variety of design characteristics that will test even the best player’s skills. With this, it is most certainly deserving of its high ranking in Southern Australia.
I love Kooyonga. It's a treat to see and a treat to play. Beautiful fairways, arresting bunkers, and superbly undulating greens - all in proportion. It's a perfect size for the land as well as being entirely individual with so many different holes with their own personality. Take me back anytime.
Today I had the pleasure of playing the outstanding course in Adelaide. It is a short course at only 5900m but it bears its teeth around the greens with lots of bunkers and large undulating greens. Well worth a visit to this Herbert Rymill layout along with the other great courses in Adelaide.
I was fortunate enough to play the marvellous Kooyonga GC on the "Redbelt" here in Adelaide, South Australia. Before playing there, many golfing tragic's mentioned I should play it last out of the big four because it was the best in S.A. I can see now upon reflection what they mean as it is the best, but is very closely followed by Royal Adelaide in my humble opinion. It's a wonderful example of a championship course in a rich sandy area only 15 from the Adelaide CBD. Undulating fairways, some terrific blind driving holes, well protected greens make for accurate drives required for best entry, and skilled wedge shots to well contoured greens that were a smig slow at the moment in my opinion. Big thanks must go out to Will Toleman also from the Pro Shop who really looked after me before, and helped afterwards! Great restaurant and bar for all your 19th hole needs!
H.L. 'Cargie' Rymill was a keen golfer and student of the game. He had a huge impact on the game he loved and left a lasting legacy seen to this day in the iconic courses he touched in Adelaide.
Rymill had a significant role in developing Royal Adelaide, Glenelg, The Grange, and Kooyonga as well as other courses in Sth Australia. Although he was a long-term member at Royal Adelaide it is Kooyonga that will be remembered as his crowning achievement because he found the land, conceived the project, gather the backers, designed the course, and continued overseeing the development of the course and club for many years.
Kooyonga GC was founded by Rymill when he spotted the land from a tram in 1922, and recognised the potential immediately. By 1924 he had 18 holes in play over land that included some delightful dunesland and some flatter marsh type terrain.
Kooyonga is surrounded by residences on all boundaries, and cannot easily extend its course to meet the length expectations for courses hosting national events. But such is the quality of the course that conversion of some of the shorter par 5's to par 4's to create a par 70 course would make this a fine test worthy of an another Australian Open.
Kooyonga is an intriguing course. Most of the course is set in a rolling dunescape, now framed by gum trees and other natives planted by Rymill and his team.
The routing is unusual in that the course opens with consecutive par 5's, and has two par 3's one after the other at holes 14 & 15. To me that speaks of a designer who works with the land, does not impose his will upon it.
Overall I rate Kooyonga as one of the classier courses in Australia. It would be a wonderful members course. It is not overly long, but has plenty of variety, constantly asks the golfer to make decisions, is beautifully maintained, and great fun to play.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.