Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club
The clubhouse at Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club rests atop one of the higher points of the town and commands unending views of the surrounding desert. From here you can look out over the hopes and dreams of the miners who are only one strike away from the fortunes of the opal lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle that must be one of the most difficult ways in the world to make a living.
Unfortunately, the clubhouse wasn’t open when we arrived. But it didn’t matter because the clubhouse isn’t the starting point of this golfing adventure. No, the starting point of this golfing adventure begins with George.
George is an opal jeweler, second-generation opal miner, and the son of the owners of Opalios opal shop. We’re not exactly sure why the check-in for the golf course is at Opalios, but we entered the shop as soon as it opened. We paid our 10-dollar green fee, and in exchange, we received a small plastic bag. Inside was a scorecard, a map, 2 tees, and 3 generic golf white golf balls. The balls had no branding on them, and no numbers- just a blank white ball. We imagine this makes identifying your ball while playing an adventure in itself! “Hey, what ball are you playing? White, of course!!”
In addition, you receive a roughly 6×4 inch piece of “Astro” turf. There is no grass at Coober Pedy Golf Club, so you place your ball on the turf, swing away, pick up the turf, and carry it with you to your next shot.
For an additional 10 dollars, you can hire some rental clubs, which we quickly learned was a wise investment and one that we very highly recommend!
Choose Your Clubs
Located on 17 Mile Road (!), we had to downshift into second gear to make it up the steep last 50 yards of the entry into the car park. We sat there, quietly looking out over the dry, barren landscape that was laid out below. We were mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of colors. Fairways of dry cracking red earth, greens of black sand, skies of bright blue, and mounds of white and orange colored dirt scattered everywhere. Even though there were so many colors present, the sun was so blindingly bright that we couldn’t see them. But we could see that the only color missing was green!
We found the container standing behind the clubhouse, which is where we were told the rental clubs could be found. We rummaged through the 6-inch wide PVC pipe that is used to house the clubs- one cylinder for a handful of 4-irons, another cylinder for 5-irons, and so on. The woods were either persimmon or first-generation metal woods- nothing but old school! Real old school!
I grabbed a Fazer 3-wood, a Patty Berg 5-iron, a generic wedge, and a putter for Menekse. Meanwhile, I settled upon a Lynx 5-iron, a Newton JN1000 SW, and something that faintly resembled my mother’s old Bulls Eye putter.
As we climbed up the stairs to the first tee, there was a hot wind blowing that didn’t provide any relief from the angry sun. Coober Pedy plays to 6240-yards from the white tees and 5674-yards from the red tees. Par is 72 from both tees.
It was so bright and coupled with the dust in our eyes, that we couldn’t see anything. Perhaps the only thing more relentless than the sun was the million flies!
Golf is So Much More Than Just a Game
Each tee box was equipped with 2-yard by 2-yard mats, so teeing off was easy. And we have experience with sand greens, so that also wasn’t so new to us. But hitting fairway shots, and especially half wedges around the greens off the small turf was nearly impossible. Our wedge shots were either hit fat deep into the carpet or more often, skulled, which resulted in our generic ball rocketing across the green and coming to rest in the scrub that lies long.
The opening hole is a 142-yard downhill shot from the highest vantage point on the property, not that we could see anything! You have to climb a short set of stairs to reach the best view of the entire area.
After the first three holes, we stopped keeping score. Not because the golf course doesn’t warrant scores, but because we wanted to savor the moment. It’s not about the score here, but about the experience. We have come to realize golf is more than just a game to us. It has become an integral part of our golf and travel journey.
As we plotted our way through the golf course, it became quickly apparent that there is a different type of golf played here, and one we’re not accustomed to. But there were also a few shades of familiarity. Like 150 meters markers. And ball washers?
While hanging out in Coober Pedy for a few days, we learned that the name of the town is derived from the Aboriginal word Kupa Piti, which roughly translates to “white man in a hole”. As we walked the course, we admired the numerous rusted-out trucks and other homemade mechanical contraptions that are easily 50 years beyond their prime. The surroundings coupled with these mechanical things made it feel like we were playing golf on the set of a Mad Max movie!
We soaked everything in about the experience that we could. We even took raking the greens as an art form! Raking the greens counterclockwise (it is the Southern Hemisphere after all!), we created beautiful ridges. We then took our time smoothing over crevasses in order to create a smooth putting surface. It didn’t help the speed one bit, but we took pride in our art!
We especially loved the GUR markers that were scattered here and there across the golf course. Ground Under Repair- really?!
Located behind the sixth “green” was a sign that read Keep off Grass. And we are happy to report- mission accomplished!
The final hole at Coober Pedy is almost a half-circle dogleg left 487-yard par 5. I found it perfect for someone who pulls the heck out of a rented 1963 5-iron. With original grips!
St Andrews Membership Included!
In our travels, we search out the most unique golf courses that the world has to offer. One of the most distinct uniqueness of Coober Pedy is the golf course itself.
But the aspect that sets Coober Pedy truly apart from every other course in the world is that this is the only golf course where members have reciprocal playing rights to the Home of Golf, St Andrews. That’s right, for a yearly membership cost of just 75 dollars, not only can you play Coober Pedy every day of the year, but you can play all the golf you want at St Andrews. And no doubt members of St Andrews are just as happy to know that their membership includes reciprocal rights at Coober Pedy! There is one caveat, however, that both memberships are only valid in the months of January and February. So, if you think that is a great deal, keep in mind that January or February are probably the worst months for playing golf at either course!
This is Why We Travel and Play Golf
So, is Coober Pedy a spiritual golf experience? Perhaps not. But there is something mystical about trying to feather a rented 7 iron off a rock-hard deadpan lie to an unreceptive green. At the sand green home of golf!
Should Coober Pedy be on your bucket list? It is hard to say. Like the town itself, it requires a unique spirit just to get Coober Pedy. If yours is a list of the world’s greatest golf courses, then no. If yours is a list of the world’s most unique, then absolutely. And if your bucket list is a combination like ours, then Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club is a must!! It is easily the most unique golf courses that we have played in Australia, if not in the world! Places like this make us realize why we travel and play golf! We are so happy that we took the extra effort to come here and know that you will be happy as well. Just don’t forget to bring your fly net!