You know, I’ve always looked at pictures of Australian sand-based inland courses, such as those on Melbourne’s sand belt, and this place, and thought that whilst they look pretty classy, it was missing any sort of wow factor, visually anyway. I was not feeling terribly drawn to them from the photos, but knew that all those enthusiastic advocates couldn’t all be wrong.
Now I’ve played one – I totally get it. It’s all about the gameplay – it’s a completely different playing experience to most parkland courses. You’re just looking at the terrain in front of you and realising you’re going to have to do it differently, and you soon realise that this version of golf is simply more fun. The playing surfaces are so quick and firm - you have to conjure up so much more imagination when selecting your shots, playing the contours, visualising how it rolls out.
The first thing that struck me about Royal Adelaide was the conditioning – it was absolutely immaculate (aside from the purposefully rustic areas away from the playing surfaces, of course). The greens were some of the truest I’d played in years. Not only that, I felt that the set-up was pretty much perfect, e.g. matching green speeds to the degree of contouring on the greens, mowing lines that were acutely attuned to the accentuation of gameplay, and tightly mown fairways around the greens to always give that Texas wedge option. Copious amounts of kudos to the greenkeeper / superintendent / whatever you call them in your country – he’s a master of his craft.
But a few holes in, and you realise that the whole course is a masterful lesson in understatement. Whilst on first glance it all looks a bit pedestrian and conservative, in fact pretty much every single hole has one or two little features that completely set the tone for strategy and game play, and elevates it immensely. The bunkering and green tilt on 2, the movement of the land throughout 4, the fairway bunkering on 5, the green angle on 8 – I could go on. Such variety makes me itch to play it again. And again. And again. And it left me thinking – is this the perfect way to create a course that suits all ability levels? Nothing too heroic for the high handicappers, but never easy for the scratch player to put a low score together. Simply put – IT MAKES YOU THINK.
Favourite holes – everyone says 3, and for good reason. Never seen anything like it. 4, 6, the lone moment of penal heroism at 7 (certainly in the wind we played it in!), 10 and 11 stand out for me. Whilst there is some slight flickering of the flame across the final six holes, it was still great golf, with some of the open spaces reminding me somewhat of Hankley Common.
I probably didn’t experience the course as it should be played to be honest, as the wind was rarely below a five club wind, and if we measure how many clubs the wind is by how many multiples of 10 metres / yards it takes off your shot, it got up to a ten club wind on occasion, and balls were moving on greens. They have suspended play at major championships for less. Still loved it though. Not only do I want to play it again, the urge to get to Melbourne has ratcheted up a number of levels. Now when I look at those photos of the sandbelt, I’m starting to understand what I’m looking at.
Date: December 17, 2018