Royal Adelaide Golf Club
Located in the heart of Adelaide’s Red Sandbelt, Royal Adelaide Golf Club is consistently ranked in or near the top 10 in Australia.
But in addition to great golf, Royal Adelaide is known for having some rather unique features.
One of the more uncommon traits of the Cathedral in the Pines is the train. The relationship between trains and golf is, of course, not abnormal. The train that stops just steps from the renowned Prestwick Golf Club immediately springs to mind, as do the many Open Rota courses that dot England’s Golf Coast. After all, in the early days, this was how members would get to their Clubs.
However, trains typically just skirt past golf courses. But not at Royal Adelaide. Here, the train bisects the golf course. In our travels, we had never seen a train that goes through a golf course. Not yet anyway. The train through Royal Adelaide comes through every 15 minutes during the morning. And sure enough, as we drove into the parking lot, the Grange to City, or GRNG, was passing through.
We played these beautiful links with our good mate Tony Ellis, who you know as The Nomadic Golfer. We met Tony via Instagram and were immediately drawn by his stories of traveling and playing golf full-time throughout Australia. A self-admitted golf tragic, he has the envious goal of attempting to play 100 courses each year. Knowing that Royal Adelaide is one of his favorites, we reached out to see if there was any possibility that our traveling paths would cross while we had planned to be in Adelaide. We were in luck!
Extremely excited to play a Mackenzie-advised course, we arrived early, met Tony, and hit some balls in an attempt to shake off the cobwebs.
The Front at Royal Adelaide Golf Club
Easing Us into a Good Round
The opening hole at RAGC is a 342-meter (374-yard) par 4 dogleg left, that has 2 large fairway bunkers on the right. Tony said that the best target off the tee is a tall power pole in the distance down the right side. Aim it at the tower and draw it around the corner is perfect, he added. With the target in mind, Menekse hit a solid opening tee shot, but her fade pushed her into the short rough on the right.
Hit it straight, and you might find yourself in one of those bunkers. But hook it or draw it too much, and a large bunker short left of the green will come into play on your approach. I was able to gently turn one over and found the middle of the fairway. With a perfect angle to the upfront pin and an awkward 75 meters in, I proceeded to thin my approach long. I did, however, manage to pitch my next shot close and was happy with a par save. Tony said that the opening few holes at RAGC lull you into thinking that you could have a good round. We were off to an iffy start and were nervously anxious to find out!
You’ll first cross the train tracks on the walk from the first green to the second tee.
The Brilliant Third
When we had the absolute pleasure to play the West Course at Royal Melbourne, our knowledgeable host told us that Dr. Mackenzie constructed many of the holes around the enormous sand dunes found on the property. Using the sand dunes to his advantage, he routed the course up, over, and around the ridges. Much has been written about the good Doctor’s similar brilliant use of the landscape during his short visit to Royal Adelaide in 1926. And the famous short 260-meter (284-yard) par 4 third is one of his masterpieces.
The flag is visible from the tee. However, it is an extremely dangerous tee shot should you decide to go for it! There is a large dune down the right side of the third, and beautiful pine trees quickly narrow the hole. The optimum play, in our and our host’s opinion, is to hit any club that gets you to the top of the plateau of the fairway, which then gives you a full view of the green. For me, that was a 5-iron.
Menekse’s tee shot was down the right side, which unfortunately didn’t reach the top of the ridge. When we made it to her ball, we were amazed that, even though she was in the fairway, we still couldn’t see the green!
The already small green is made smaller yet by a collection area on the right side. So even if you hit the green, anything landing on the right third of the green will most likely slip off the putting surface.
A Blind Tee Shot
The large dune that was on your right on the third is now right in front of you and creates a blind tee shot on the 374-meter (409-yard) par 4 fourth. So, you’re going to need to climb to the top of the periscope to get a view of the dogleg left fairway. Tony pointed out a palm tree in the distance that acts as a good target. Starting down the left side, Menekse bombed a great tee ball through the chute that easily carried the dune, before cutting back down the right side of the fairway. Be sure to have a look down at the third green while you’re up there!
The trouble with hitting your tee shot down the right side is that it seriously lengthens the hole. We know because both Menekse and I were on the right. But at least we avoided all the fairway bunkers! Still a long way from the green, Menekse smartly navigated her shot to leave a safer approach to the green.
As I am prone to pull the ball, the only thing that I could see on the tee of the long 393-meter (430-yard) par 4 sixth was a bunker on the left side. So, what did I do? Blocked it way out to the right of course! As we made our way down the hole, I saw that hidden behind that bunker on the left is another bunker! So even if I had thought that I might carry the first bunker, there would be no escaping its stealthy hidden brother!
And once past the trouble, the hole doesn’t get any easier! Because an elevated green, that is protected by a pair of bunkers both left and right, is awaiting your best mid-iron approach!
The 145-meter (159-yard) par seventh plays uphill and into the wind, so it wouldn’t hurt to hit an extra club. The green is surrounded by deep round pot bunkers that make it look like an inverted steel drum! However, the seemingly island green on six is larger than it looks. So, get your yardage, select your club, and trust your swing! Ja man!
While it is not a tree-lined golf course, there are many medium-sized pine trees on the property. And the smell of the trees really reminded me of Oregon, my home. Living amongst those pine trees is another non-golf-related aspect that Royal Adelaide is famous for- the red fox! And we first spotted one as he walked right in front of us stepping off the eighth tee. While they look cute and cuddly, they are wild and dangerous. And we allowed him plenty of space and gave him the freedom to go wherever he wanted to go!
The Back at Royal Adelaide Golf Club
Known as the Crater, the famous 350-meter (383-yard) par 4 eleventh is probably Royal Adelaide’s signature golf hole. And the design hasn’t been touched since Mackenzie first laid out the hole on his visit back in 1926.
As we got to the tee, the slight wind had changed direction. An elevated mound obstructs the view of the green from the tee, and our knowledgeable host Tony said that the best play off the tee is to reach the crest of the mound down the left side of the fairway. A 3 or 5 wood is all that is needed from the tee. Because anything beyond the peak of the mound will most likely find its way into the namesake crater. And, in the Good Doctor’s humor, there is a fairway bunker that stands guard on the left side of the fairway. I hit a 5-wood off the tee and had 147 meters to the pin.
Menekse hit a great tee shot down the left side, but her playing partners were busy chatting when she pulled out a 5-wood for her second shot. With a waste area full of sand and native grasses, and no clear visibility to the green, her shot landed in the crater. Sorry about that babe! However, she hit a great little punch 8-iron, which escaped the hazard, and landed just short of the green.
A pair of greenside bunkers protect short, and a semi-circle dune hugs the back of a largish green. Just beyond the dune are pines that create an amphitheater-type effect. There really is no safe miss here! A beautiful, strategic, wonderful golf hole, that really has no safe miss!
Choose Your Line Carefully
I hit 3-wood off the tee on the dogleg left 354-meter (387-yard) par 4 thirteenth. It is possible to cut some distance off the left-side corner with a driver and an aggressive line. However, if you can’t get one to turn over, your driver could easily run out into the difficult rough that shortens the right side.
From a slightly more advantageous angle, Menekse hit her driver off the tee but was forced to carry the waste area fronting the tee. With the train racing down the track in the background, her trusted fade moved back into the fairway.
There is a large bunker in the middle of the fairway, about 40 or so meters short of the green. While it shouldn’t come into play, it does provide an optical illusion that makes the hole appear shorter.
But the bunker that could come into play cuts sharply into the green pin high on the left. The putting surface slopes from high left to low right and would favor an approach from the right side of the fairway. Just don’t hit it too far off the tee!
As we finished the hole and crossed the tracks on our way to fourteen, another train passed by behind us.
Another Incredible Golf Hole
The par 4 fourteenth was an incredible golf hole. While it may be only 385 meters (421 yards), it felt much, much longer. A cluster of bunkers guard the right side of the dogleg right and need to be avoided at all costs. Also narrowing the approach to the green are large pines that frame both sides of the green. They don’t come into play off the tee but will surely give you pause on your approach.
Making the hole more difficult is the elevated green. Miss it short, and you’re bound to be in one of the two bunkers that protect the front. But play it long, and your ball has a good chance of running off the back of the saucer green and ending up in the tea tree that we’re sure receives a fair amount of play.
The pin was up front left, and from my angle on the left side of the fairway looked like a sucker pin. With no intention of going for the pin, I took aim at the middle of the green with my 8-iron. It was struck well, but at the last second, to my horror, began to turn over. I let out a huge sigh of relief as it landed on the putting surface, halfway between the pin and the deep bunker short. Definitely not where I was planning to be, but I’ll take it!
Controversial Golf Hole
The 390-meter (427-yard) par 4 seventeenth is one of the more controversial holes in Australian golf. A pair of hazards that form four bunkers create a split fairway that has a higher and longer side left, and a lower but shorter side right.
Tony pointed out an electricity pole in the distance as the perfect target. Aim at the pole and let it draw, and you’ll be in the middle of the higher fairway and have a better approach. And don’t worry, you’ll carry the fairway bunkers he added. Convinced that was what I wanted, at top of my backswing, my brain raced forward with the fear of not carrying the bunkers. Hit it hard I told myself and proceeded to rush my downswing, ensuring that I block the tee shot well right. It’s amazing how many thoughts can take place in a split second of a golf swing!
I walked up the left side with my playing partners, wanting to have a look at the better position for the approach. The left side of the fairway is much larger than it appears from the tee, and there is never a need to hurry a swing. Frustrated with my own forced error, I made the lonely walk down to my ball. It was lying in the middle of the fairway, but the seventeenth green is surrounded by brilliant greenside bunkering. Even though I was in the middle of the fairway, I couldn’t see the flag. The pin was way right and was hidden from view behind the large red bunkers.
In all honesty, we’re not sure what all the fuss about seventeen is about. Perhaps because the fairway bunkers were not original to the design. However, we thought that seventeen blends well with the remainder of the golf course.
Our Experience at Royal Adelaide Golf Club
Our experience at Royal Adelaide was sensational. The golf course was easily one of our favorite courses that we played in our 2-year golf journey through Australia. The overall conditioning of the course, even in winter, was exceptional.
We both played descent, however, we each had a couple of holes that doomed our scorecards. I jumped on the bogey train that lasted too long, but in the end, I was happy with the way we played.
Looking back, I noticed that I didn’t hit my driver very often. Because of strategy, I hit a lot of 3 and 5 woods off the tee. The course feels wide open, but there are more obstacles than you might see at first glance.
The greens were grainy, and depending on the grain, really affected the speed. With the grain, we rolled a lot of putts uncomfortably long. Even in the winter! But into the grain, you had to give it a good rap. I didn’t grow up on greens that were affected by the grain, and they presented me with a strong challenge! But they rolled exceptionally true and were in perfect condition!
The third and eleventh at Royal Adelaide are outstanding golf holes! Blending strategy and aesthetically pleasing design, they are two of our favorite holes that we’ve played in our entire golfing journey.
Tony was a knowledgeable and extremely gracious host, and an absolute joy to play with. He did his best to keep us on the straight and narrow, an uneasy task indeed. And he made playing this bucket list-worthy golf course even more memorable.
Every interaction that we had with the Royal Adelaide staff was warm and welcoming. From our sincere greetings at reception until our “come back and see us again” farewell, we were embraced like long-time members.
Everything you need to know to play Royal Adelaide Golf Club
Located in Adelaide’s western suburbs, Royal Adelaide Golf Club, also known as Seaton, is a 20-minute drive west of the CBD, and just 5 minutes to Grange Beach. Adelaide was one of our favorite cities in our Australian journey.
Although Adelaide Golf Club was founded in 1870, the existing Club was formed in 1892. In 1904, the Club purchased land near Grange, and in 1906, the current location was officially opened. The Club was granted “Royal” status in 1923, and Dr. Alister Mackenzie made his brief, but influenceable visit in 1926.
Address: The Royal Adelaide Golf Club, 328 Tapleys Hill Road, Seaton, South Australia 5023, Australia
Phone: +61 8 8356 5511
Royal Adelaide Golf Club is a members-only golf course. However, there are opportunities for both interstate and international golfers. Visitors wanting to play Royal Adelaide can contact the Club directly for booking inquiries.
Royal Adelaide Golf Club measures 6557 meters (7171 yards) par 72 from the Blue tees. A little too much golf for me, I stepped up to the 6121-meter (6694-yard) White tees, while Menekse played it from the long 5516-meter (6032-yard) par 73 Red tees.
Royal Adelaide is walkable, and with multiple tees, the golf course is extremely playable for all abilities.
The green fee at Royal Adelaide is $425 AUD for international guests and $340 for interstate guests.
Puttering around the World wishes to acknowledge and pay respect to the Australian Aboriginal Peoples as the traditional and original owners, and continuing custodians of this beautiful land.