CLUB OF THE MONTH: SANDY CREEK GOLF CLUB
BAROSSA VALLEY • SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Views of the Barossa, immaculate playing surfaces and kangaroos aplenty combine to make Sandy Creek one of South Australia’s most enjoyable golf courses, writes Michael Jones.
Perched above the world-renowned Barossa Valley, and nestled amongst lines of pine trees, sits the exciting and picturesque golf course that is Sandy Creek Golf Club.
There’s something special about the drive to make an early tee time. I was heading to Sandy Creek Golf Club and as I pulled onto the Northern Expressway out of Adelaide, a childlike sense of adventure was pumping through my body.
Sandy Creek – formally Gawler Golf Club – underwent a successful rebranding in 2015 to better reflect its location as the gateway to the world-famous Barossa Valley wine region. Opening in 1904, it is a well-established tree-lined golf course with lush fairways and exquisite greens, which are said to be the envy of every club north of Adelaide. And, as one of the founding members of the South Australian Golf Union, Sandy Creek has long been one of the state’s finest golf clubs.
No more than 30 minutes after turning onto the freeway, I was turning into the club’s driveway. You can tell a lot about a golf club by its entrance – first impressions are important,
after all. And although the journey up Sandy Creek’s driveway isn’t exactly jaw-dropping, the noticeable history to the land and structures make it feel somewhat special.
As you head to the 1st tee you’ll immediately notice the stunning views over the Barossa, and you’ll more than likely have a gallery of kangaroos watching as you tee o. Longer hitters, who will be tempted to hit driver as often as possible early, will soon realise it’s accuracy that’s paramount. And with fairways as pure as you find at Sandy Creek, you’ll want to make sure you spend as much time on them as possible. So if, like me, you find you’re spending too much time in the pines, utilise a hybrid or driving iron o the tee. You should still be able to reach most greens in regulation, and you’ll probably hang onto a few balls as a bonus.
While the first five holes at Sandy Creek are a lot of fun, they don’t exactly stand out from one another. But as you walk up the hill to the par-3 6th, you’ll begin to see why the course has been winning plaudits in recent years.
At 114 metres, and with an elevated tee, the hole is reminiscent of a classic ‘betting hole’. Take a few moments and indulge in the panoramic views of the valley before knocking a wedge onto another of Sandy Creek’s immaculate greens.
The fun continues at the par-5 7th hole, which, at 465 metres, will tempt longer hitters to pull out a long iron or fairway wood and attack the green in two. But, buyer beware, any shot even slightly pushed or pulled will be swallowed by hazards situated either side of the green.
By this point, either by keen observation or by sore legs, you’ll have probably noticed how undulated the fairways are. Sandy Creek isn’t the longest course at 6,095 metres, but it seems to protect itself with undulating fairways that can throw out your yardages. Toss in the gusting winds that sweep through the valley, and you’re suddenly playing a very challenging golf course.
The 8th hole presents another example of Sandy Creek’s spectacular par-3s and forces you to hit over water – from the back tees – with a long iron. The green is not small, but it’s guarded by bunkers on both sides and can be incredibly dicult to hit. It is an absolute round-changer, for better or for worse, and is extremely memorable. Walking to the 9th tee having made par will put a smile on your face.
After you’ve ducked into the redeveloped clubhouse for a quick bite to eat, a tricky tee shot awaits you at the 10th. Club selection here is, again, vital. If you manage to hit the narrow fairway, you’ll need to land your approach shot short of the green – unless you’re sick of playing golf and feel like taking a bushwalk amongst the pines. This is another hole where par is an excellent score.
AFTER MAJOR UPGRADES, THE COURSE IS NOW MORE UNDULATING AND INCORPORATES MORE VISUALLY APPEALING AND CHALLENGING BUNKERING.
The 384 metre par-4 15th plays uphill and is the hardest hole at Sandy Creek, and it won’t take you long to realise why. If you can hit a baby draw – I couldn’t – around the pines you’ll position yourself perfectly for an approach shot into the elevated green. But, if you turn it over too much – I did – you’ll need swimmers and a snorkel. Another round changer, and a seriously challenging hole for any golfer – especially if the wind’s up and kicking.
Just when you think you’ve faced everything Sandy Creek has to throw at you, the 17th hole comes along. At 400 metres, it is the longest par-4 on the course and plays uphill. It demands a quality tee shot and is laced with hazards and out-of-bounds stakes. While it can be one of the most enjoyable holes on the course, it can also bite hard and ruin a good round.
With 100-plus years of history, Sandy Creek Golf Club is one of South Australia’s most established and enjoyable golf courses. Whether you’re on your way to the world-renowned Barossa Valley wine region, or just in the mood for a hit, Sandy Creek is perfectly located and less than an hour north of Adelaide’s CBD. After major upgrades in the late 1990s, the course is now more undulating and incorporates more visually appealing and challenging bunkering. The conditioning of the course is terrific, and will only improve after the appointment of Superintendent Michael Cabel, who has prepared a number of courses for PGA tournaments. Receptive greens reward good shots, while hazards aplenty await mis-hits.
Sandy Creek’s picturesque location, pristine conditioning and four par-3s are, in my opinion, what make it such a memorable and enjoyable golfing experience. It’s little wonder why Sandy Creek was named Club of the Year (Regional Small) by Golf South Australia in 2016.
The 6th is a tough par-3 with most players requiring a mid- to long-iron to hit across water off the tee.
Sandy Creek’s putting surfaces are large with subtle breaks, which also provide plenty of pin positons.
Sandy Creek’s diminutive downhill par-3 4th hole is a beauty.
The par-4 8th hole calls for a blind tee shot to a tricky and narrow fairway.
The par-5 5th hole is the cornerstone of a strong four-hole sequence on the front nine.