COURSE RE­VIEW: LINKS LADY BAY

South Aus­tralia’s No.1 ranked Pub­lic Ac­cess Course has not rested on its lau­rels and is one of the most im­proved lay­outs in the coun­try.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BREN­DAN JAMES

South Aus­tralia’s No.1 ranked pub­lic ac­cess course has not rested on its lau­rels and is one of the most im­proved lay­outs in the coun­try.

Famed golf course de­signer Dr Alis­ter MacKen­zie once wrote: “A plea­sur­able golf course is not nec­es­sar­ily one that ap­peals at first sight, but rather one that grows on a player like good mu­sic, good paint­ing, or good any­thing else”.

The man, who de­signed Au­gusta Na­tional and Royal Mel­bourne, went on to add: “there are many bad golf cour­ses made in an at­tempt to elim­i­nate the ele­ment of luck – a mis­take surely. Luck is the zest of life, as well as of golf.”

The Links Lady Bay cer­tainly doesn’t fall into MacKen­zie’s cat­e­gory of bad cour­ses. In fact, if MacKen­zie were still with us to­day he would prob­a­bly cast a wry smile as he looked out over the lay­out and be moved to say “what a plea­sur­able course this is.” And I would have to agree. The de­sign team of Jack New­ton, Graeme Grant and John Spencer cre­ated a won­der­ful links course that heads out from the club­house/ re­sort in two loops of nine holes. Each hole runs in a di‡er­ent di­rec­tion to the pre­vi­ous, which chal­lenges the golfer to be­come a keen judge of the breeze from all points of the com­pass.

Strate­gic mound­ing and bunker­ing on each hole in­tro­duces the ele­ment of luck – whether it is good or bad – with the bounce of the ball be­ing heav­ily dic­tated by the lie of the land. For this rea­son, as MacKen­zie quite rightly points out, The Links Lady Bay is an en­joy­able course that calls for a full reper­toire of shots from a va­ri­ety of lies. Put sim­ply, I don’t think a round at Lady Bay could ever be called bor­ing.

Lo­cated 70km south of Ade­laide at Nor­manville on the Fleurieu Penin­sula, The Links Lady Bay is a test­ing 6,400 me­tres from the Tour­na­ment course (Blue) mark­ers. The white mark­ers o‡er a shorter 6,020 me­tres and is more suited to the longer marker.

The coastal plain wedged be­tween rolling hills and the wa­ters of the Gulf of St Vin­cent was re­zoned from gen­eral farm­ing to res­i­den­tial (golf course) back in 1994. The Links Lady Bay Unit Trust pur­chased more than 135 hectares of the dairy farm­ing land later that year.

The land pro­vided an ideal can­vas for New­ton, Grant and Spencer to make their 18-hole de­sign de­but two years later. The first nine opened in 1998 while the sec­ond nine took a fur­ther 18 months to com­plete and is now played as the out­ward half.

I re­ally like the open­ing hole. I’m a great fan of a golf course that eases you into your game. At 356 me­tres, there is noth­ing over­whelm­ing or tough about the par-4 1st. There is am­ple area down the dog­leg right fair­way to land your drive but the best line is from the slightly higher plateau in the left half of the fair­way. This will give you the best view for the ap­proach into the green, which is set in an am­phithe­atre cre­ated by sand dunes.

The 339-me­tre par-4 4th is one of my favourites on the front nine. Flanked by a steep range to the left and beyond the green, this hole runs across the high­est sec­tion of the front nine and o ers nice views of the course and the Gulf of St Vin­cent. Af­ter play­ing a blind drive over a gen­tle rise, you are faced with an in­ter­est­ing ap­proach shot to an L-shaped green. In my opin­ion, the green is a lit­tle too dra­mat­i­cally shaped but it does place a premium on club se­lec­tion and ac­cu­racy.

The place­ment of pins on the green will cer­tainly e ect your ap­proach. When the hole is to­wards the back, ac­cu­racy is so im­por­tant as the green nar­rows con­sid­er­ably. When the pin is for­ward, club se­lec­tion is paramount as the green is wedged be­tween a small creek and a bunker that is in the cor­ner of the L-shaped putting sur­face. Don’t do as I did and leave your ap­proach in the wrong sec­tion of the green.

While length is al­ways a bonus to any golfer on any golf course, it cer­tainly pays to stay straight around Lady Bay. The de­sign team cre­ated sev­eral good short par-4s, like the 4th, where the drive MUST find the fair­way and the ap­proach MUST be di­rected to the best part of the green for stress-free putting.

This is no more ap­par­ent than on the 330-me­tre 10th. A pic­turesque hole with large bunkers left and mound­ing to the right of the fair­way, the green is cut near the top of a gen­tle rise. A short iron is all that is needed to reach the green from the val­ley but it is a tough shot to get close. Bunkers lurk short and a ridge runs through the green sep­a­rat­ing the pin ar­eas at the back. Any­one putting from the wrong side will need in­cred­i­ble touch to walk away with less than three putts.

Ac­cu­racy aside, long hit­ters will come to the fore on two back nine holes. The 425-me­tre par-4 12th is a brute, es­pe­cially into a tough south-east­erly breeze. The drive is through a

AR­GUABLY THE BEST PAR-3 AT THE LINKS LADY BAY IS THE 197-ME­TRE 17TH. IT IS A BEAU­TI­FUL HOLE. WITH THE COAST­LINE OFF IN THE DIS­TANCE AND DEEP FES­CUE SHIM­MER­ING BE­TWEEN TEE AND GREEN …

chute of sand dunes to an open fair­way but well be­low the green. While your ap­proach must be straight it must also be long enough to get back to the flag. The green is more than 30 me­tres long and any ap­proach drib­bling on the front of the putting sur­face could leave a mon­ster putt.

Ar­guably the best par-3 at The Links Lady Bay is the 197-me­tre 17th. It is a beau­ti­ful hole. With the coast­line o  in the dis­tance and deep fes­cue shim­mer­ing be­tween tee and green, it o ers a real touch of what you will find on the north-west coast of Ire­land.

Played into a west­erly, a full-blooded drive might be needed to get home. Down­wind I sug­gest bounc­ing a mid-iron in short and let­ting it run to the flag. There are no haz­ards in front of the green and hats o  to the de­sign­ers for leav­ing the en­try to the green wide open so play­ers of all stan­dards have a shot at mak­ing par. But trou­ble is never far away if you’re o  line with eight bunkers sur­round­ing the putting sur­face, with sev­eral semi-hid­den to the right. The greens at The Links Lady Bay have al­ways im­pressed. The Bent grass putting sur­faces were fault­less and in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion dur­ing my visit. They were quick, with­out be­ing silly, and rolled as true as the bent­grass greens you might find up the road at Royal Ade­laide or Kooy­onga.

If there was one crit­i­cism of The Links Lady Bay I had for many years it was the con­di­tion­ing of all the play­ing sur­faces, with the ex­cep­tion of the greens. The bunkers had in­con­sis­tent amounts of sand and the fair­ways didn’t match the high stan­dard of the putting sur­faces. The Links Lady Bay has im­proved dra­mat­i­cally in the past few years. Dur­ing my visit to com­pile this re­view, I had never seen the course look­ing bet­ter. It was no co­in­ci­dence ei­ther as ev­ery judge on the Golf Aus­tralia Top-100 Cour­ses panel that voted for Links Lady Bay com­mented pos­i­tively about the im­proved pre­sen­ta­tion.

I loved The Links at Lady Bay. Sure, I had a good score but at the end of the round I found my thoughts drift­ing to the holes I’d played, not the way I had played the holes. I had my fair share of lucky bounces and a few bad ones as well but it had been an ab­so­lute plea­sure to play. But that’s golf and that’s the way the great de­sign­ers, like Macken­zie, be­lieved it should be played.

The par-4 4th hole lies at the foot of a range, which pro­vides a spec­tac­u­lar back­drop.

There is very lit­tle mar­gin for er­ror when ap­proach­ing the green on the par-4 12th hole.

Bunkers and mounds sur­round the beau­ti­fully-shaped green on the par-3 6th hole.

The driv­ing zone on the par-4 10th gets nar­rower the fur­ther you hit from the tee.

Wispy fes­cues and golden rough sug­gest a taste of Ire­land to be found in South Aus­tralia.

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