By Mal Chenu
The Women’s Australian Open is one of the few truly world-class golf tournaments held in Oceania. Testament to the calibre of players the event attracts; no fewer than five world No. 1s have lifted the Open’s trophy – the Patricia Bridges Bowl – in the 24 Opens staged so far.
The Royal Adelaide Golf Club will play host to the 25th ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open from February 16-19, 2017. This will be the second of a three-year partnership with South Australia and follows a hugely successful staging at The Grange Golf Club in 2016. Adelaide’s knowledgeable sports fans and event lovers embraced the Open and flocked to see the birdies and eagles, with more than 30,000 spectators catching the action over the four days. Large galleries are expected again with plenty of interstate and overseas visitors likely to swell the crowds at Royal Adelaide.
Golf Australia’s chief executive Stephen Pitt was thrilled with the reception the Open received in Adelaide last year. The tournament had not been played in the city since 1994 and the locals lapped it up. Pitt said the 2016 staging was a landmark event for Golf Australia and one of the best ever.
“All the people there – the players, media, sponsors, interstate fans – were struck by the beauty and the vibrancy of the city of Adelaide, and I can’t speak highly enough about the way the government, the clubs, the sponsors and all the local institutions embraced the event and helped us create something that was magnificent. We’re really confident of an even better event in 2017,” said Pitt.
Pitt has indicated the tournament is likely to remain in Adelaide beyond the current three-year agreement. Kooyonga Golf club will host the Open in 2018, while The Grange has expressed interest in hosting again in 2019.
Haru, Lydia and Karrie all expected to return
Last year saw little-known Japanese player Haru Nomura shoot an almost faultless final round 65 to win the tournament by three shots snatching victory from Kiwi World No. 1 Lydia Ko, with five-time-champion Aussie Karrie Webb back in third. This was Nomura’s first LPGA Tour event success and saw her commence her climb up the LPGA Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings from 67 to 20.
The classy trio are the last three winners of the tournament and are expected to return to Adelaide in February, along with many more of the world’s finest, hoping to snare the prestigious trophy and share in the $1.3 million prizemoney.
Ranked the 10th best course in the country by Golf Australia, Royal Adelaide’s traditional links course at Seaton is an august establishment. The stately clubhouse overlooks a scenic and testing layout, highlighted by a grouping of holes set among red sand dunes and cypress pines. This is a “gestalt” golf course, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts . It is assembled on its 1906 foundations and has had many improvements since, most notably when it was lengthened and toughened by Peter Thomson prior to the 1998 Australian (Men’s) Open.
Royal Adelaide is renowned for its opening and closing holes as well as its par fours, especially the 3rd, 11th, 14th and 18th. It is a member’s course but some access may be available to interstate and overseas visitors.
Where else to tee off when you’re in SA
Adelaide and its surrounds offer many enticing opportunities to spoil a good walk. The sandy soil base and generally flat terrain mean fast, undulating tracks that are both challenging and picturesque. Here are some of the best:
Very close to Royal Adelaide, The Grange is a similar sandy soil links layout over two 18-hole courses. Both 18s offer fast, gently rippling fairways, some open and others tree-lined. The West course is considered superior with impudent bunkering for big hitters and penal rough for the wayward, while the East course is a more recent addition and includes a few water hazards. The Grange is a private club and access may be granted to interstate and overseas visitors on application.
Kooyonga Golf Club
Just north of the airport, Kooyonga is a very attractive sand belt course in a woodland setting. Tree rows add to the beauty and are not too thick. Accurate drives are well-rewarded on most fairways while misses are summarily punished. The round begins with two dogleg par fives and a heavily-bunkered par three. Tough but fair and a great way to get going! Many of the smallish firm greens are protected by strategic bunkers or run-off hazards. Visitors welcome, but bookings are essential.
Links Lady Bay Resort
A relaxing round awaits at this pretty coastal links layout where ocean views and breezes accompany you like a friendly caddy. Located on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula about 70 kilometres from Adelaide, the course is part of a resort of the same name with a Mercure Hotel onsite. McLaren Vale’s sumptuous wine and food region is a short drive away, along with some of the best fishing in Australia. Beautifully maintained and presented, the course boasts wide, rolling fairways punctuated with bumps and swales and slick, sloping greens. All welcome.
Wherever you travel in South Australia, you’ll find a quality golf course. Here are a few more:
North Adelaide Golf Course is a very good and easily accessible public course with views of the city.
Barossa Valley Golf Club Nuriootpa is a public and members course in the middle of the premium wine region.
Naracoorte Golf Club on the Limestone Coast is a public course not far from the World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves National Park.
Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are at Adelaide Airport.