South Lakes Golf Club

South Lakes Golf Club turns 45

Goolwa’s South Lakes Golf Club (SLGC) will celebrate its 45th birthday this month as the largest golf club in regional South Australia.

Only the major metropolitan courses in Adelaide can claim more members, with South Lakes’ membership now standing at around 650.

It was established in 1967 as the focal point of the South Lakes residential project, which transformed Goolwa.

With assured supplies of water for course irrigation following the club’s decision to access harvested storm water from around Goolwa, it is in magnificent condition once again after recovering from the historic drought that ravaged the course for four years from 2007.

However, quite apart from the course itself, the SLGC warrants inclusion in any list of seaside courses – in SA or nationally – for a host of reasons.

Universally acknowledged as a friendly club where visitors are always welcome, South Lakes has blazed a trail for others to follow over the past decade, playing a leading role in Fleurieu Peninsula tourism which saw the club inducted into the SA Great Hall of Fame in 2008 after it had won multiple awards.

Older golfers will be aware that South Lakes was conceived and developed as a residential holiday resort with its own golf course and clubhouse, but few understand that this was the first time in Australia that a golf course had been built to encourage the sale of adjoining residential allotments.

The South Lakes project involved the redevelopment of 112 hectares of farm land, sand hills, swamps, boxthorns and mosquito breeding grounds into a unique residential holiday resort.

In the process, just over a third of the project area was dedicated to the golf course and licensed clubhouse without the need for financial assistance from either the local council or state government.

The land purchase included an old stone house alongside what was to become the 14th fairway and which – at one time – served as the greenkeeper’s residence, even though it had far more noble beginnings, having originally been built in the 1800s as Governor Hindmarsh’s hunting lodge.

So what is now common practice throughout Australia had its origins at South Lakes 45 years ago when the Governor of the day, Sir Edric Bastyan, opened the course by ceremonially hitting the first drive off the first tee.

On Sunday, January 15, South Australia’s present Governor Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce will honour the club by repeating the feat and then playing in the club’s Bank SA Foundation Day Tournament.

“It will be yet another historic moment for South Lakes”, club president, Stephen Middleton, said.

“Our club made history from day one when it pioneered golf course/residential development in Australia and our role in local recreation and tourism over recent years is well-recognised, as reflected in the number of awards the club has won.

“To have emerged from an historic drought as the largest golf club outside of Adelaide says a lot about South Lakes, its members and those who have managed its progress over the years.”

In the mid-1960s, when the club was formed, it was granted a licence to extract water from the River Murray and until last year – when it gained access to Alexandrina Council’s storm water harvesting program – there still remained no alternate source other than mains water.

While the water needs of most golf clubs in Australia are met by bore or recycled water, there was no recycled water the club could access, while previous attempts to sink fresh water bores in the area had all found only saline groundwater – even at considerable depth.

By July 2007 SLGC was no longer drawing water from the river because it was so salty it was killing the greens and the declining level of the river had left the club’s pumping infrastructure exposed.

“Thanks to the cooperation of Alexandrina Council and part-funding from the federal government, those days are now behind us,” Mr Middleton said.

“The dual supply of river and storm water means we have been able to resume appropriate irrigation of our fairways, tees and greens and now the club is receiving rave reviews from visitors once again.”

While the course is in great shape, few of those visitors – even the leading pros – can master the testing par 70 course, with its tight, bunkered fairways and small greens.

Indeed, the course record is a mere three strokes under par and is held – not by a pro – but by a South Lakes member who plays off four.

“South Lakes may not be the oldest golf club in SA, and our members cheerfully acknowledge that we don’t have championship course status,” Mr Middleton said.

“But as we prepare for our 45th anniversary, we all understand that our club plays a leading role in the community and in the tourism and hospitality industries as well as having played a pioneering role in Australian golf course development and management from its very beginnings.”

“With the club’s philosophy of ‘thinking differently, acting innovatively and changing constantly’, one can be assured that the South Lakes Golf Club will continue to evolve and be a great asset to the local area.”

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