The Royal Adelaide Golf Club 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.
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.
The above passage is a brief edited extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
After a week of island hopping including Tasmania and King Island I was back on the mainland and off to see the recently restored Royal Adelaide. Royal Adelaide had fallen from the glory of the World Top 100 according to Golf Magazine, however this was pre restoration and with Doak and his Renaissance Golf crew thoughtfully bringing back all the wonderful nuances of Alister MacKenzie my anticipation of this first visit was very high.
Fortunately, I was treated to a perfect day and the course was in impeccable shape given the next week the LPGA event was to be hosted there.
I can’t say much more than the fact that I simply loved the course. It deserves far more than a single play and far more is necessary to understand and utilize all the strategy necessary to play ones hcp on this great course.
My favorite holes were; the short par 4, 4th hole, with the semi-blind tee shot up over a hill to a great little green ticked into the corner of some dunes, the bunker surrounded par 3 7th hole and the short par 4 13th hole which plays to a slight dogleg left up over a waste area to a tricky green.
Our day was rather windy which certainly increased the challenge there. Not surprisingly for a MacKenzie design there is definitely not a weak hole on the course.
If Royal Adelaide wasn’t on the other side of the world I’d be a regular and if it was my local course it would certainly be the one I would have my heart set on joining.
It’s more than worth a special trip to Adelaide if you ever have any invite to play.
Royal Adelaide Golf Club was founded in 1892 and is one of the oldest golf clubs in Australia. One of the things you notice immediately at Royal Adelaide is the Grange-to-Adelaide train line. It runs through the middle of the course including right by the clubhouse and first hole. Although not originally designed by Alister MacKenzie, he was brought into make changes. MacKenzie’s major contribution was to re-route the course through the dunes on the central part of the property. MacKenzie's re-routing eliminated the back and forth across railroad tracks. Aside from the back tee on the fourteenth, all holes now play on either one side or the other. MacKenzie said, "If the suggestions put forward for the reconstruction of the Royal Adelaide course are acted upon, it will be superior to most, if not all, English championship courses." He wasn't far off.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs