328 Tapleys Hill Road,
South Australia 5023,
- +61 (0)883 565 511
4 miles W of Adelaide
Members and guests only
The Royal Adelaide Golf Club was formed in 1892 and has been based at the western suburb of Seaton since 1905, less than 20 minutes from Adelaide’s town centre and less than 2 kilometres from the coast. Although the present day course occupies the same land as the course that was first called Royal Adelaide, only eight of the modern day holes bear close resemblance to that layout.
‘Cargie’ Rymill and Club Secretary C.L. Gardiner laid out the first rudimentary course in 1905. An article on Dan Soutar by John Scarth and Neil Crafter in Golf Architecture takes up the story: “In 1906 the Club went in search of a professional opinion on the layout for the definitive course. They selected newly turned professional Dan Soutar, with Club minutes recording that no member was to give any opinions on the course to Soutar except the Committee."
“Soutar himself wrote later that year in his book The Australian Golfer: “Early in 1906 I was asked by the Club to go over and suggest any necessary alterations or improvements to the new course. I formed a most favourable opinion of it and when the alterations are made in accordance with my suggestions, the Club will have an excellent championship course, equal to any in Australia.”
“The Committee “decided not to adopt Soutar’s new course at present” and work started almost immediately on making bunkers on the Rymill layout. Interestingly, the new course made use of 14 of the greensites that were planned by Soutar."
Alister MacKenzie made a four day visit to South Australia in the middle of his Melbourne based assignments in 1926. The club was keen to canvass his views as to a possible re-routing of the holes as the Grange to Adelaide tram line which bisected the property was due to be electrified. MacKenzie, always quick to ferment his ideas, proposed an immediate crossing of the railway line between locker room and first tee so that the 1st was played west of the railway on a piece of land that was to occupy the first 13 holes. The club demurred on strong protest from the membership so the 1st retained its historical position.
MacKenzie was enthusiastic about the course’s potential, remarking that it offered “real links land, a delightful combination of sand dunes and fir trees, a most unusual combination, even at the best seaside courses” adding that, if his suggestions were acted upon, the resultant course would be “superior to most, if not all, English championship courses.” Rebuffed at the 1st, it is in the run of holes from the 3rd to the 8th that Mackenzie’s legacy is most clearly delineated. Somewhat analogous to the role played by the four hills that define the front nine of the West course at Royal Melbourne, MacKenzie’s plan made the most of the large sand dune positioned around the 3rd green.
Although the sea hasn’t bordered the course at The Royal Adelaide for some 10,000 years, it remains, like Royal Lytham & St Annes, more of a links course than an inland course. Royal Adelaide is a favourite golf course of many Australian golfers and it’s easy to see why.
Part of the above passage is a brief edited extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
When you arrive at the club, you quickly feel like you belong there. It’s palpable how the members are proud of their club and its history. With such a low-key nature to the club, I quickly felt at home and all visitors are made extraordinarily welcome. With a rich history of hosting the Australian amateur championship and Australian open championships, this Alister MacKenzie layout has a lot going for it. The novelty of having an active train line running through the course didn’t disappoint as the train shuffled its way through the course on a number of occasions during our round. If only the passengers on that train were aware of how historic that stretch of railroad ties were that meandered through the golf course.
When Dr. MacKenzie visited the club during the Golden Age, he re-routed many of the holes to take advantage of the natural sand dunes, much to the delight of the golfing population. The short 3rd hole, barely 300 yards from the tips, is arguably amongst the short-list of greatest par 4s in the world without a bunker and is your first experience of playing through the dunes. The wise man will leave the driver in the bag. During the Open, the club grew the rough up along the dunes surrounding the green, which wreaks havoc with even the slightest of wayward tee shots.
An honourable mention goes for the tee shot on number 4, the tee box was lowered and you play back through the dunes over a hill through a corridor of tall trees, with the landing area nowhere to be seen. It is quite a striking visual compared to the openness of so many other tee shots. On the front side, the 4th through the 6th are a very tough stretch of long par fours, especially the 6th hole, tipping out at 440 yards.
With a wind in our faces, and a back pin, even the best of players would be proud to hit this green in regulation. Tom Doak has been working on a number of holes at Royal Adelaide over the past year. On the 6th hole, which mostly runs parallel to number 4, he joined a portion of the two fairways together so it’s one larger apron. Furthermore, there used to be a large bunker on the right side of number 6, which has now been filled in per consultation with Tom and his team. It was interesting to see old photographs of the 6th hole in the clubhouse to witness how it has evolved over time. In addition to number 3, the other signature hole on the front side is the spectacular par three 7th hole. The front of the green is surrounded by a ring of pot bunkers which is an impressive sight. The new blue tee is lower and back to the left of the old tee box, offering a new view of the hole over the sandy wasteland.
Click the link to read Fergal’s full report on Royal Adelaide