South Aus­tralia’s Fleurieu Penin­sula might just stake a claim as be­ing one of this coun­try’s most un­der­rated golf des­ti­na­tions.


South Aus­tralia’s Fleurieu Penin­sula might just stake a claim as be­ing one of this coun­try’s most un­der­rated golf des­ti­na­tions, says Bren­dan James.

Good wine and good golf seem to go hand in hand. Look at any map show­cas­ing the best wine­grow­ing re­gions in Aus­tralia and you will un­doubt­edly find qual­ity golf cour­ses nearby.

A case in point is the fa­mous McLaren Vale wine re­gion, which can be found at the north­ern gate­way of the pop­u­lar Fleurieu Penin­sula, just 60 min­utes’ drive from Ade­laide’s CBD.

Wine aside, the Fleurieu is also renowned for its nat­u­ral beauty with a mix of rolling hills, rugged coast­line, na­tional parks and beaches, while his­toric towns like Vic­tor Harbor and Yankalilla o„er a touch of old world charm.

The penin­sula has be­come a hol­i­day play­ground, per­fect for day trips or week­ends away, with golf play­ing a star­ring role. Your first tee time should be at Mount Com­pass Golf Course, which can be found just a short 20-minute drive from nearly 70 McLaren Vale cel­lar doors.

The course lies across land that was, up un­til the early ‘90s, a sand mine and the late Brian Crafter was com­mis­sioned to craft the lay­out.

Crafter passed away be­fore con­struc­tion of the front nine holes started. His son, Neil, took over the project and the front nine was com­pleted in 1995. When it was de­cided a se­cond nine holes should be added Neil Crafter was com­mis­sioned to de­sign it. Holes 10 through 18 were opened in 1998. There is no doubt Crafter had a very good piece of land to work with. The sand base has been left alone across much of the prop­erty, while some holes have been given lit­tle more than some sculpt­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

This sand base was ideal for Crafter to cre­ate some won­der­ful bunkers. There are 89 sand traps scat­tered through­out the lay­out. Some have a rough, nat­u­ral ap­pear­ance like those found on the right edge of the 1st fair­way and be­hind the 6th green. Other sand traps are of the smaller pot bunker style but these pe­nal traps have been used spar­ingly.

In fact, the 6th hole is one of the high­lights of a round at Mount Com­pass. The dog­leg right par-4 with wa­ter and marshes guard­ing the di­rect line to the green, is a clas­sic risk-and-re­ward dilemma. Take on the haz­ard with driver and you’ll need to fly the ball a good 200 me­tres to safety. With a bunker ready to catch any­thing right and swampy bushes pun­ish­ing any­thing left, you will also need to hit a pre­cise line for full value. Do that, and you’re re­warded with a wedge or 9-iron to the green. Op­tion B, the strat­egy I al­ways fol­low, is to trace the fair­way and bail-out to the left. The down­side, height­ened by the easterly breeze we were push­ing into, is that even a 200-me­tre hy­brid from the tee to the apex leaves a long ap­proach into a raised putting sur­face. But that’s the beauty of this hole – it switches o„ the auto-pi­lot driver se­lec­tion and in­stead makes you con­sider the fac­tors of the day, from weather con­di­tions to ball-strik­ing.

And this is what has to be ad­mired by this lay­out. It is a thinker’s course where long isn’t nec­es­sar­ily best and trou­ble from the tee can mean re-load­ing. The op­tion to take driver or to

play it safe with a trusty hy­brid is the player’s op­tion from ev­ery tee – and just as the re­wards are on o er for ag­gres­sive play, the pun­ish­ment for an er­rant hit is as much a com­pan­ion as the joy in mas­ter­ing any of the Crafters’ 18 won­der­ful holes.

The course has blos­somed since 2016 when new own­er­ship took over and recom­mis­sioned Neil Crafter to over­see a ren­o­va­tion of the lay­out. It is now be­ing dis­cussed as a gen­uine con­tender to re­turn to the list of Aus­tralia’s Top-100 Pub­lic Ac­cess Cour­ses.

One course that al­ready oc­cu­pies a spot in that rank­ing is Links Lady Bay Re­sort, which can be found at the end of a 35-minute drive south west to Nor­manville.

Links Lady Bay was No.58 in the 2017 rank­ing and will be se­ri­ously chal­lenged by Mount Com­pass when the 2019 rank­ing is re­leased next month, which will raise the pro­file of the Fleurieu Penin­sula as a golf­ing des­ti­na­tion even more.

Links Lady Bay cov­ers a coastal plain wedged be­tween rolling hills and the wa­ters of the Gulf of St Vin­cent and is routed in two loops of nine holes that head out from the lux­ury re­sort, which over­looks the front nine. Each hole runs in a di er­ent di­rec­tion to the pre­vi­ous, which chal­lenges the golfer to be­come a keen judge of the ever-present breeze.

The 339-me­tre par-4 4th is one of my favourites at Lady Bay. Flanked by sur­round­ing hills to the left and be­yond the green, this hole runs across the high­est sec­tion of the out­ward half and o ers views of the course, an ad­join­ing vine­yard and the gulf. Af­ter play­ing a blind drive over a gen­tle rise, you are faced with an in­ter­est­ing ap­proach shot to an L-shaped green. For mine, the green is a lit­tle too dra­mat­i­cally shaped but it does place a premium on club se­lec­tion and ac­cu­racy. The pin place­ment on the green will cer­tainly a 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 with a small creek and a bunker com­ing into play at the front of the putting sur­face. Leav­ing your ap­proach in the wrong sec­tion of the green is a ma­jor blun­der here. Ar­guably the best par-3 at Lady Bay, and one of the best on the penin­sula, is the 197-me­tre 17th. It is a beau­ti­ful hole. With the coast­line o in the dis­tance and tufted grasses sway­ing in the breeze


and shim­mer­ing be­tween tee and green, you feel im­me­di­ately trans­ported to the great links of Ire­land. Played into a west­erly, a full-blooded drive might be re­quired to reach the green. Down­wind, though, bounc­ing a mid-iron in short and let­ting it run to the flag is rec­om­mended. There are no haz­ards in front of the green but dis­as­ter can be found right of the putting sur­face where sev­eral deep bunkers lay hid­den.

Af­ter your round, you can sit in the re­sort bar and look over the course, go­ing through the post mortems of the round while en­joy­ing the sun­set over the gulf.

There are more panoramic ocean views to be found at Vic­tor Harbor – the Fleurieu’s most pop­u­lar beach­side town. There are two ‘musts’ when vis­it­ing Vic­tor Harbor – catch the horse-drawn tram across the bridge to Gran­ite Is­land, which is home to pen­guins and seals. Se­condly, a round of golf at Vic­tor Harbor Golf Club beck­ons.

Vic­tor Harbor’s par-72 course is the most un­der­rated lay­out on the penin­sula. The

Mt Com­pass’ open­ing hole sets the scene for what is to come dur­ing the round.

The 4th hole at Mt Com­pass is a clas­sic risk-and-re­ward par-4.

Bunkers dom­i­nate the land­scape sur­round­ing the par-3 6th at Links Lady Bay.

The short par-4 4th hole at Links Lady Bay is vis­ually spec­tac­u­lar.

The pret­ti­est and best par-3 at Mt Com­pass – the 173-me­tre 12th hole.

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