CLUB OF THE MONTH: SANDY CREEK GOLF CLUB

BAROSSA VAL­LEY • SOUTH AUS­TRALIA

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS MICHAEL JONES

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 diŽcult 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.

Sandy Creek’s diminu­tive down­hill par-3 4th hole is a beauty.

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.

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.

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