The Barossa Valley Golf Club near Nuriootpa could be described as the lesser known youngest sibling of the Barossa golfing family.
While it’s older brothers Sandy Creek Golf Club and Tanunda Pines Golf Club receive all the recognition, public praise and notoriety, Barossa Valley is the quiet achiever – toiling away in the background, honing its craft while going unnoticed by many.
But as is often the case with the quiet achievers, one day – usually out of nowhere – they surprise everyone in the family by what they’ve been able to create while everyone’s attention has been occupied elsewhere.
Honestly, how have we not heard, read or seen more about the beautiful Barossa Valley Golf Club?
Located only an hour from Adelaide’s CBD, the course – with its lush, wide fairways, abundance of natural wildlife and well-manicured greens – is hidden off the Sturt Highway and nestled amongst some of the famous South Australian wine region’s spanning vineyards.
The phrase ‘hidden gem’ is overused, but that is exactly how I would describe Barossa Valley Golf Club.
Because without Google Maps to guide you to it’s gates, you’d probably never know it was there.
Walking into Barossa Valley Golf Club and standing in front of the pro shop, it’s hard not to be immediately impressed.
You’re met by a nice garden bed of flowers and neat pavers, plus views of the ninth and eighteenth greens which – like they should at every golf course – lead you back to the clubhouse.
All of this gives the impression that this is a club that cares about the condition of its course and how it is presented to visitors.
The 18-hole layout sprawls 6026m and traverses through the hilly, lush woodland terrain leaving you more and more immersed in the beautiful scenery the longer you progress through your round.
There are five Par 3s scattered across the front and back nines – some of which are truly breathtaking – along with five Par 5s and eight Par 4s.
The fairways, while a bit dry and patchy in parts, are generous in width – sometimes you’ll stand on the tee block thinking ‘not even I can find a way to miss that’.
Yet when you stray from the safety of the short-grass, you will be punished by the dense scrub that eats golf balls for breakfast.
Even slightly wayward tee shots have a habit of finding sandy lies that lay waiting next to the first cut of rough, meaning you can be susceptible to the dreaded ‘fat’ shots from time to time.
Probably the only thing I didn’t like about the course set-up is the first tee shot, which is a blind hit towards the tree line to a fairway that disappears over the hill and to the right – personally, I like opening holes to be a little more visually alluring.
Barossa Valley boasts that “many visitors consider the greens some of the best and most consistent they have played” and I would certainly agree.
All of the greens on the course were in excellent condition and ran hard, fast and true with enough undulations to ensure you treat every putt with respect – failure to do so can quickly lead to three putts, or worse.
One of the big downfalls of a lot of country courses is the condition of their bunkers – often they can be too firm and lack adequate sand, but this was not the case at Barossa Valley where they were light, fluffy and played just like a good bunker should.
Throw in a few kangaroo sightings along the way, and Barossa Valley is a course that both challenges you, awes you and frustrates you – the latter if you’re having trouble keeping the ball on the fairway.
I loved Barossa Valley so much that I could quite easily list five or six holes that are extremely enjoyable to play.
Some of the Par 4s are forgettable, and a couple of the Par 5s are pretty straight up and down, but there are enough subtle variations throughout the remaining 18 holes that will have you wanting to make a return trip to Nuriootpa for a second crack.
As the shortest Par 4 on the course, the fourth extends just 298m but some well-placed fairway bunkers – and a landing area that narrows the closer you get to the green – leave you with a big choice to make off the tee.
You’ll ask yourself: Do I lay up with an iron short of the pots, or do I try and fly them with a well-placed drive but risk ending up in the trees?
Having to think so much over your club selection is a credit to the design of this hole.
A well-placed tee shot, with either iron or driver, will leave you with little more than a wedge into the green which is guarded by only one bunker to the left.
Find yourself in the fairway, and birdie becomes a real possibility.
This was probably my favourite hole on the entire golf course.
Rated the easiest index at Barossa Valley, the fourth is just 152m long but the green is nestled amongst arguably the most picturesque setting across the front and back nines.
If you’re playing later in the day, the overhanging pines will cast stunning shadows across the small green – but don’t be fooled by their beauty, those branches can knock your ball well and truly off line if you’re wayward with your tee shot, or don’t get your distances just right.
Find the dancefloor and you’ll be greeted with a flat putting surface and good chance of leaving with a birdie – miss the green and the rough on either side will make getting up and down a challenge.
Yes, it’s another Par 3 – I probably should be sharing the love with some of the Par 4s and 5s at Barossa Valley, but I’m not ashamed to say I’m a sucker for a well-presented, short hole.
And that’s exactly what the fifteenth is.
Whether it’s the paved steps to the tee block, the water-filled dam hugging the left side or the overhanging pines, this 144m Par three is a real beauty.
With a bunker to the right-front of the green, your miss is without doubt short and to the left – this will normally, depending on the pin location, leave you with the best chance of getting up and down.
Play safe, hit the green and enjoy the short, scenic walk, putter in hand, to try and make your birdie.
Pace of play/tee time availability
I did not find pace of play, nor tee time availability, any issue at Barossa Valley.
Having decided that morning to venture out the Sturt Highway to play the course, I rang the pro shop only a couple of hours before my round and they were more than happy to squeeze me onto the course – even while the Saturday competition was still running.
Not many golf courses would do this, I can guarantee you that.
I played my 18 holes as a single behind a group of four older gents, and still found pace of play to be perfectly fine.
I clocked my round at about 3.5 hours, which is well under the accepted four-hour standard.
Being able to send groups off the first and tenth holes simultaneously – as all the best designed golf courses can do – helps keep groups moving really well.
In terms of playing availability, Barossa Valley runs typical midweek and Saturday competitions which are played in the morning.
While you should be okay to sneak onto the course each day in the early afternoon, I’d definitely still advise ringing the pro shop just to make sure – they’ll be more than happy to try and fit you in.
How welcome are visitors?
Of all the courses I’ve played, Barossa Valley gets an A+ in terms of making a non-member feel welcome.
From the phone call with the pro shop, to chatting with the bloke cooking up a sausage sizzle for golfers to enjoy midway through their round (like, c’mon, how good is that?) there was instantly a welcoming atmosphere at Barossa Valley.
Just as I was making my way to the first tee, the club captain even offered if I wanted to join his playing group for the afternoon.
While I was happy perusing the course on my own, the friendly gesture spoke volumes.
As far as making a visiting golfer feel at home at a foreign course, Barossa Valley gets full marks.
Is there a dress code?
While I wasn’t explicitly advised to dress in golf attire, I wore a collared shirt and nice shorts for my round at Barossa Valley.
I believe this is the appropriate standard for a golf course of this quality.
I’m sure they wouldn’t turn you away for wearing an uncollared T-shirt during a mid-week or Sunday arvo bash, but it’s definitely a place where you want to uphold a level of decorum.
So maybe leave the jeans or board shorts at home, grab yourself a polo shirt and at least try and play the part – if you can’t play like a golfer, and least look like one.
Are there practice facilities?
Barossa Valley has everything you could need if you’re looking to warm up before your round.
There is a good-sized driving range long enough to blaze some big dogs down there, and you can purchase practice balls from the pro shop.
Similarly, the putting green is good quality and mimics the conditions you can expect to find on-course, while there is also a chipping area and hitting nets for those who can’t be bothered churning through a bucket of balls before venturing to the first tee.
Can I buy food/drinks after the round?
As mentioned earlier, the club runs a sausage sizzle on the first and third Saturday of each month which will definitely keep you fuelled if you’re playing in the competition.
Outside of that the clubhouse offers the basics in terms of hot food (pies, pasties etc), and is also a place where you can grab a cold water, soft drink or alcohol of your choice before, during or after a round.
You won’t find a bistro menu, but with Nuriootpa only five minutes away, pubs like the Vine Inn on Murray Street are a great place to go for a more substantial feed and has far more extensive lunch or dinner options.
Price for 18 holes:
- Adults: $40
Price for 9 holes:
- Adults: $30
- Juniors are $11 for as many holes as they like
- Member’s guests are $28 for 18 holes
- Green fees for adults are $22 after 3pm
It may not have the profile or accolades of some of its neighbours, but Barossa Valley Golf Club is well worth the drive north if you’re looking to play a true-blue country track.
The course is kept in good nick, the layout rewards good shots and punishes the bad ones and the greens roll true.
And even more importantly, playing 18 holes won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
While it may not be to the standard of inner-city courses such as Mount Osmond or Tea Tree Gully in terms of course condition – particularly the fairways – Barossa Valley well and truly makes up for it with its friendly country hospitality and subtle layout variations.
And sometimes, especially set against the background of the ‘exclusive, pretentious’ golf club stereotypes, that alone is more than worth the price of entry.
For more details about Barossa Valley Golf Club, visit their website.
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