Best in Adelaide, best in State, one of Australia’s top courses and a regular in the World’s Top 100 – Royal Adelaide is a well decorated masterpiece, tweaked in its design by several prominent architects over the years, including the venerable Dr Alister MacKenzie. This true championship course plays very much as an inland links in the manner of Australia’s famed Sand belt courses. The firm, true and beautiful surfaces are a pleasure to play on, and the impeccable standards are carried over into the clubhouse and the club’s service levels. Royal Adelaide is a joy to visit for any golfer.
“No seaside courses that I have seen possess such magnificent sand craters as those at Royal Adelaide.” Dr Alister MacKenzie.
In its full context, Royal Adelaide, located in Seaton with its broad open spaces, is laced with more difficulty than would first appear, except when encountered in calm conditions. The membership is usual grateful if they manage to play to, or fractionally better than, their respective handicaps.
After its inception in Glenelg in 1892, The Royal Adelaide Golf Club relocated in 1904 to reside amongst the dunes and sand-filled craters of Seaton, adjacent to the city’s western railway. Like other renowned Australian courses, the layout benefited from a lightening visit of the worlds then most celebrated architect in Dr Alistair MacKenzie in 1926. Fresh from a design project at Royal Melbourne West, the Doctor briefly assessed RAGC and prepared a brief that saw many of the punishing fairway bunkers converted to undulations. Additionally, he re-routed the majority of the course to remove hazardous railway crossings and he was adamant the site’s natural features were utilised by creating holes around and over the majestic dunes and craters.
Suitably impressed with the landscape and invigorated by the abundance of sand, MacKenzie exited the club stating ‘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’.
In addition to guiding the Club’s decision makers of the day in how best to produce a masterpiece golf course, Mackenzie’s footprint is best appreciated in his vision of the exceptional 3rd hole. This hole is just as relevant today as it ever was, despite the unforeseeable technological advances in equipment which fortunately have not diminished the hole in its extraordinary challenge. The outstanding feature of the design lies in the location of the green underneath a dune with a burly, snarly little ridge that protects the left side. As you contemplate your strategy at the tee, the essential decision is simply whether you back your driving ability to produce a straight solid blow over the hill or caress a shorter club to the crest. Either way, played with hesitation or lack of commitment, you will be hard pressed to escape with a five on what arguably is one of the best short 4s on the planet.
Another Royal Adelaide gem worthy of note is the par 4 11th, the notorious ‘crater hole’. The approach is played from the crest of the elevated fairway over a colossal hollow to the green encased at the base of a sandhill lined with copious pine trees. Holes 3 and 11 have long been regarded as some of the best designs in Australia and quite rightly have barely, if ever, been tampered with. However, over the years minimal modification has occurred elsewhere at No’s 4, 8, 13, 14, 17 and 18 – each of these holes bolstered to accommodate the rampaging and excessive distance achieved with modern equipment.
Royal Adelaide is a unique and quirky layout that has evolved over time. Under the guidance of qualified course architects, at its core it hasn’t varied so much that MacKenzie would struggle to recognise it today. Blessed with some truly world class holes and fantastic conditioning year in year out, it rightfully deserves its recognition as one of Australia’s elite courses.