Developer Mike Hill’s vision for the resort at Links Lady Bay was formed many years ago (whilst working in the area as a sheep shearer, of all things) and it began to take shape in the early 1990s with the acquisition of some land from several local farmers. The intention was to build a course without an exclusive membership or waiting list. Instead, it was to be a resort-style, highly accessible complex that would be enjoyed by all golfers.
The golf course was designed by the runner up in both the 1975 Open and 1980 Masters, legendary golfer Jack Newton, and he – assisted by Graeme Grant and John Spencer – routed two returning loops of nine holes over the free-draining, sandy landscape at Links Lady Bay. The layout opened to much acclaim in 2000, quickly establishing itself as the top public access course in the state.
With wonderful views of the Fleurieu coastline, Links Lady Bay offers golfers an authentic links-like experience with subtly undulating fairways, cunningly-placed bunkers and smooth, true greens – all that you might expect to find on one of the great links courses in Great Britain or Ireland, actually. The long par three 17th is considered the signature hole on the card, played to a sloping green protected by deep sand traps to the right of the putting surface.
To describe this course as even ‘Links’ style is a pretty broad application of the term. Certainly the coastal views are special and there is an homage to the history of the game in a few places, as accurately noted by the previous reviewer, but that’s about where the similarity ends.
LLB was originally a 9-hole layout [today playing as the second nine], constructed with the intention of selling the surrounding land for housing I believe and not completed as a full 18 hole course until several years later. Today the buildings are noticeable but don’t affect play much at all.
As mentioned in the introduction, LLB was designed by the Newton, Grant and Spencer team. They were not around for that long a time and only designed or consulted on a small number of courses [although Graeme Grant went on to design and build Ocean Dunes on King Island]. I note that it is rated number 74 in the recent Top 100 Australia which I think is very flattering.
Holes 1 and 2 are mid-length par 4’s rewarding positioning the ball in the correct part of the fairway
Hole 3 is a good par 5, gently turning left and uphill to a sloping green, well bunkered. This is one hole where the houses are quite close to the fairway/green
Hole 4 is a beauty. A short par 4 running along the edge of the hills, so sloping left-to right, slightly downhill with a ball devouring creek short of a very tricky green.SI 15 understates the difficulty.
Hole 5 is a long par 4 with the same previously mentioned creek running along the right side of the fairway. Often into the prevailing wind - tough
Hole 6 Par 3. Lots of deep bunkers
Hole 7 Par 5. I don’t like it. At about 300 metres there is a huge ‘red penalty area’ intruding into the fairway from the right which extends to the green. Totally unlinkslike and an eyesore. I presume it is part of the water storage system for irrigating the course, no other reason for it.
Hole 9. Uphill par 4 back to the clubhouse.
Holes 9 and 10 are excellent, challenging holes, classic links. Love them
Hole 12 long, uphill straight par 4. SI 1 and rightly so
From now on things go a bit awry. Unlike the previous correspondent, I dislike the next 4 holes.
No 13 is a short par 4 which shares a green with 16. Why? Only driveable if you can hit a high drive 220 metres to a small landing area which slopes away right to left. The 3rd at Royal Adelaide it ain’t!
Hole 14 Par 4. Divisive. Accurately described previously it is a hole that can penalise a well thought out shot. Again, the RPA seems out of place and may have been a dam prior to the course being built.
Hole 15. Very uphill Par 3. Nothing special but the writer who described the course as flat must have missed this one. The climb to the green will certainly test your fitness.
Hole 16. Straight par 5 with ridiculous camber to the right. The fairway is in the best condition of all holes on the course because most people can’t get the ball to stay on it.
Hole 17 Par 3. All is forgiven. Possibly the best on the course. Generally straight into the breeze and so plays longer, sometimes a lot longer. Par here is something to remember.
Hole 18 Par 5. A good, challenging finishing hole.
A few comments in finishing. I accept that this review may be controversial but that is the nature of this website and should promote a healthy discussion. The best way to judge is to play the course and decide for yourself.
To my untrained eye the designers may have been handcuffed by the first parcel of land they were given [the back nine] thus the unevenness of the layout. A makeover of this part of the course would help but is probably too costly in today’s golf environment
Before you reserve a tee time, check the local weather. It is often windy but that is OK. If it is calm you could experience one of Australia’s gifts to unknowing golfers: blowflies - millions of them. There are a few cattle farms nearby. Play at your own risk and take a couple of litres of industrial strength insect repellent.
As with many country courses there will be wildlife. Be watchful off [and occasionally on] the fairways.
The Clubhouse sits above the course with a great view of the Fleurieu coastline. A good place to wind down.
The course is generally in good condition but on one occasion recently we played as the greens were being [heavily] cored. Putting was a lottery. We were neither advised of this as we checked in nor given a discount. On this basis, perhaps ask in advance.
How to rate it? Not as good as Mount Compass or Victor Harbor but worth a round. I would actually split hairs and go 3.25 but that's way too delicate and so 3.5 Balls
I can see why they use the word Links in the name, with the sandy base and the style of bunkering throughout, but in the true sense this is not a links course: more a links-style course. The wide open vistas of the nearby ocean, thick fescue rough and the double green at the 13th/16th are more nods to the games history.
I like this course; the routing is interesting the way the two nines loop around and back on each other, meaning that the prevailing sea breeze is always coming from a different direction each hole. But the highlight for me is the consecutive short par 4s on the back nine at 13 and 14. There is a teaser for these on the front nine at the 4th, but that hole is more about the short approach onto the right part of the green. The 13th is a driveable hole for the big hitters, or for those playing from the correct tee boxes, but with OOB left and only the barest look at the green slightly doglegged to the right, it's not an easy shot. And there are maybe a hundred bunkers in proximity to the green (there may not be an actual hundred, but it certainly feels like it approaching the green when the resting place of your drive is not immediately apparent!). Then on the 14th all is visible from the tee, but the presence of a snaking (usually dry) creek and a small lake to the right and right front of the green means that maximum distance on the drive may not be the smartest play.
Having the two short par 4s played consecutively is a design feature that could be criticised, but I like the mini-break effect they create together and the many different ways each of the holes can be played.
The course is far enough out of the city of Adelaide to feel like a country escape, but close enough that a visit doesn't take up a whole day; a happy medium for those looking to get out of the city for a quality game. Mind you, there are several great golf courses in Adelaide such that leaving might never need be an option! If headed past LLB toward the Fleurieu Peninsula or Victor Harbour, a game at Mount Compass (formerly Fleurieu GC) is recommended.
A true links style course set in a wonderful location here in the Fleurieu region in South Australia backing onto the Lady Bay Vineyard. For the first time here, I really enjoyed my experience! With many dogleg holes keeping the player thinking about the best line to the green complexes. A fairly flat course, with good use of natural terrain that does take the golfer up and down in parts namely the par 3 15th! Amazing bunkers much like the golfer experiences in the UK & Ireland. Water surprisingly comes into play on a few holes. Fairways were wide enough but they do punish the errant drive, some holes more than others. Greens were of a great standard testing all comers. Great conditioning on display here which makes me think this course will rise the rankings.