Sunday, 26 December 2010

Royal Adelaide

 The 2nd green

It was the perfect ending to my trip. I spent 18 holes with three wonderful people on a golf course that was tremendous fun to play. What more could one ask for?
Royal Adelaide is in the top 100 according to Golf Magazine, because of that I decided I must make the effort to see such a special course. The golf course was one of my favourites on the trip because of all its quirks and charms, but I must confess I’m surprised that it’s in the top 100.
Many holes, like the 1st ,5th , 8th , 15th  and 18th  are set over nearly featureless land where they have added artificial mounding use to try and adding “something” top the flat sections. This would be my only real complaint about the course since the mounding is truly awkward when the rest of the course was so rugged and natural. They would have been better left alone with the grassing used to frame the hole.
The 2nd green is the first time you know there is more to this course than you can initially see. The elevated surface and clever bunkering makes the second shot in a real good one. The 3rd is one of the most iconic and interesting short par fours in golf, not Australia, in golf! The combination of a steep three foot dune on the left front set at forty-five degrees to the line of play combined with a small green also set on the same angle hard against a steep unkempt slope on the right makes for a delicate little approach. The hole is an absolute gem. Neil Crafter has borrowed this concept with an incredible twist at the 12th at Glenelg. This is a concept that I will certainly borrow for Mike and I to use.
The 3rd green

The 4th rambles over the main dune and over rumpled land to an interesting green. The 5th heads out into the flats before the 6th turns around and finishes with a dynamite elevated green. This was the highlight for me, the combination of terrific bunkering, a cool green , and short grass all the way around, all set back up in the dune line. The 7th continues the excitement with an all or nothing par three over raw dunes to an elevated green surrounded by a ring of bunkers. I thought the old tee would have been even better.

The 6th green site

The 8th plays off the dunes and is quite flat after the initial drop. The 9th is a decent five using the central dunes as a back drop as it curls right. This is a good example of borrowing a distant feature to add character to a hole. The quirky 10th with its crowned fairway and wildly crowned green somehow works really well to make the oddest of interesting holes. I could not build this hole in good conscience, but I love them when I find them.
The most famous hole at Royal Adelaide is the “Crater Hole” which plays up to a landing and then back down to a green surrounded by dunes. Too bad they are not all exposed like the old photo. The setting is great, but the bunkering is surprisingly plain. Good case for restoration, people would travel from all over to see the hole afterwards. The 12th and 13th are solid holes that likely looked much better before the craters grew over. The craters on the 13th would have been great back in the day.
The original Crater Hole

The 14th is another great hole playing to an undulating fairway and then into a plateau green site which is one of the best of the set. The combination of the deep hollow in front (former crater?), trees at the sides and bunkers on the periphery combine to make a great green complex. After that the course loses steam. The long 15th is quite plain and the short 16th, while clever, has little in the way of aesthetics.  
The 17th is currently being rebuilt and features a spilt fairway and a massive green based upon the plan Mackenzie produced for Royal Adelaide. The hole is very interesting and will be a lot of fun to play, but it also won’t match any of the other holes. I’m not sure where this leaves the club when it’s open. This will feel like you’ve left Adelaide and found another course, before returning to one of the simplest holes on the course. It only makes sense if they are going to follow through on the Mackenzie plan. The question is, if they don’t, what will they do?
When Adelaide is great, it left me scrambling to take notes. But just as often I put the notebook away, enjoyed the company of the people with me. My day finished up with a bottle of South Australian Riesling and a beautiful lunch featuring the local fish. The luch was long and featured the most enjoyable conversation with three of the finest gentlemen I have ever had the pleasure to spend time with. The day was absolutely perfect, a perfect end to my travels.

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