There are few great golfing road trips in South Australia. Any golf tragic will have made their way down the Fleurieu Peninsula to play Mount Compass and Links Lady Bay – two high quality courses within an hour or so of Adelaide.
Extend the trip out by another day or two and you can experience the fairways at Victor Harbor Golf Club.
Make this pilgrimage once or twice and your weekend golfing getaway options are more or less exhausted.
All throughout the state lie numerous country tracks, ranging from cow paddocks with scrapes to hidden gems with dedicated members who wouldn’t wish to play anywhere else.
Few of these are worthy of a dedicated trip, but if you’re anything like us, the golf clubs never leave the boot of the car and a family getaway or interstate work trip can easily assume the secondary status of a golf retreat.
So, for many of these country clubs, the pertinent question is this: will people bother dropping in for a round to break up their trip?
In the case of Bordertown Golf Club, located 275km east of Adelaide on the main highway to Melbourne, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
For anyone willing and able to sample the plentiful country courses on offer throughout the state, any opportunity to drop by and play Bordertown is one that should be grabbed with both hands.
Now, we aren’t suggesting a dedicated drive down the highway – there’s enough quality tracks around Adelaide to explore first – but if you’re in the area and can spare two hours, it’s a course worthy of your green fee.
Several powered sites are even available for caravans and a stopover, but if you’re anything like us, this phase of your life is still a while away.
What you’re likely more interested in is whether your round will be quick, whether people will glare at you and whether a cold beer waits at the end of your round.
Read on to find out answers to these questions, and more.
Table of contents
Sprawling 5724m from first tee to eighteenth green, the Par 71 Bordertown golf course is not overly long.
However, despite some short (and relatively weak) Par 4s, the course’s Par 5s are genuine, with two cracking the 500m mark.
Fairways range from wide to moderately narrow, and the winding, doglegging journey offers a sound defence against long hitters.
Corners can be cut and risks taken, but golfers of many standards will see little choice but to pull an iron on some of these tees.
The course isn’t heavily bunkered, with some holes featuring none, but the sprinkling throughout the layout is enough of an annoyance that you’ll need to think about the route you cut into several of these greens.
Find putting surfaces in two and you’ll fancy dropping a few birdies, as the greens run for the most part flat and without a great deal of speed.
Miss and you’ll often be left with awkward, hilly lies as natural drop-offs can penalise even moderately wayward shots on several holes.
Despite this, there is one defence Bordertown boasts more than any other: the scrub.
In parts, the Mallee gets thick and you’ll definitely want to tread carefully in knee-high summer grass as snake sightings, while rare, do occur from time to time.
However, it is by no means unfair, as fairways are generous enough that a ball deep in the scrub is a ball that deserves to be there.
Even the rough is fairly forgiving; whispy in some areas, sandy and bare in others.
Near misses may tangle with overhanging branches, but any golfer good enough to bend a shot from a hard, sandy lie will feel in play so long as they are in the general vicinity of the short grass.
The holes are varied enough, ranging from the reachable in two Par 5 second to the 501m sixteenth – a genuine three-shotter in just about anyone’s books.
The Par 3s also vary in length; a gentle 135m for the shortest, and an intimidating 186m for the longest.
Par 4s max out at the 403m index one fifteenth, down to the super fun, 267m ninth.
Uphill and downhill tee shots both feature on the course – meaning you’ll likely wish you’d bumped into a local that could have shown you the way before kicking off your round.
Admittedly, the majority of Bordertown’s holes don’t stand out from the crowd. Similar in distance, similar in dog-legging, there’s a half-dozen that by no means leap off the scorecard.
Having said that, a selection of Par 3s, 4s and 5s do carve a place in the memory, with a couple laying claims to being some of the more fun experiences to be had on a golf course.
The first Par 3 of the course takes you to an elevated tee block located to the left of the second hole green.
The terrain quickly drops off into a slight gully before climbing again to an elevated green.
The third is the first real indication of the rolling dune countryside the course resides on, unless you’ve spent the first two holes in the sandy rough.
Bunkers guard the green on both sides, while steep drop-offs left and right make it one you simply need to hit.
Find the putting surface and the green possesses minimal venom, apart from a slight step up to a higher tier.
The ninth is the shortest of the Par 4s and the only one to dip below 300m, at a length of 267m.
Another elevated tee block provides the perfect place for contemplation, with mid-iron or driver equally popular plays on this hole.
Cutting the corner will require a drive that carries 240m if you wish to hit the green; fall short and you’ll find the bunker or be left with an awkward chip over it.
Flick the tall pines that sit in your ambitious path and you’ll best get your searching boots on in a region locally termed ‘desperado valley’.
Six-iron straight down the fairway leaves nothing more than a wedge in, and those driving their ball wayward will be left questioning why they didn’t simply layup.
Bump anything into the hill right of the green and it will feed down, providing a simple, yet riveting finish to the front nine.
The sixteenth is a genuine Par 5, spanning 501m from start to finish.
It comes off the back of a 403m Par 4, so shorter hitters will be all too keen to get through this tough stretch (the 186m seventeenth follows).
A wide fairway sits before you, but avoid going right at all costs.
A slice will block out your second shot and you’ll be lucky to find the green in four from this ordinary tee off.
Find the fairway off the tee and you’re allowed options with your second: play whatever will get you closest to the green, or set up that perfect wedge distance.
The shot into the green is fairly innocuous. A bunker short right is easy enough to miss and a bank behind the green will stop anything long.
Pace of play/tee time availability
Pace of play can’t be faulted here, mainly because of the scarce population of small country courses.
Saturdays and Wednesdays will see the most traffic, being the traditional blokes and ladies’ competition days.
Having said that, country folk enjoy a sleep in, so wander out early enough and you’ll beat the Saturday rush, which crank ups around 9am.
Even if you did want to play a Saturday competition round, just contact the club the night before and they’ll give you a rough indication of when the first tee will be quiet.
How welcome are visitors?
The vast majority of experiences at Bordertown will be positive and any members you bump into will likely be keen to hear how you’re enjoying your round at a course they’re very proud of.
The course is volunteer-run and maintained, with everything from the bar to mower operated by someone doing it out of goodwill.
This, in itself, is a remarkable feat and there’s no denying that they get everything they possibly can out of the course as far as conditioning goes, given the modest budget supported by cheap memberships and fairly-priced green fees.
The only sticking point can be the honesty system, as Bordertown is rarely – practically never – staffed with someone to take your green fees.
The honesty box can cause the committee to be a little jumpy, and admittedly, some players have abused the system in the past.
Just be prepared to display your green fee receipt upon request, and don’t take this as a questioning of your character when it happens – it’s just an indication you’re at a club that can’t afford to have visitors scheming free rounds at its expense.
Is there a dress code?
Not really, although it would pay to look the part if playing on a competition day, as plenty of players at Bordertown take it seriously and won’t appreciate attire that suggests otherwise.
If you’re playing nine holes on a Tuesday summer night, it’s doubtful anyone would bat an eyelid at a singlet.
But as mentioned, if you’re playing on a Saturday – please, wear a collared shirt.
Are there practice facilities?
There are, but they are modest.
The putting green is hard to spot, sitting directly behind the clubhouse.
Between the clubhouse and the sand buckets is a path that leads you to a driving range stretching out to about 180m, and longer hits will disappear into the trees behind.
Bring your own balls, though, as the club does not offer range buckets.
Can I buy food/drinks after the round?
The clubhouse will only be open on competition days, and to the best of our knowledge, it’s beverages only, apart from the odd BBQ.
The road back into town leads straight into the main street, where you can spend a few bucks at a local small business such as the Bordertown Hotel or Woolshed Inn.
Bordertown Golf Club must be commended for what it produces, considering the manpower and resources it has at its disposal.
The club runs a tight budget and, remarkably, since transitioning to a predominantly volunteer model, the course has never looked better.
The fairways are consistent and the greens roll true; even the bunkers provide a fluffy lie more often than not.
City-dwellers may be a bit disappointed at the inability to hit 30 range balls and leave them out there prior to their round, and a glass of red will need to wait until arriving back in town unless you’re playing on competition days.
Better golfers will enjoy their round – and if you possess a 275m drive, you could well cut this course up – while the average golfer might find themselves in for a long day, and regularly pounding through the scrub, if they’re struggling off the tee.
Ultimately, you likely wouldn’t drive more than an hour to play here socially.
But if you’re driving through and have the time, any golfing tragic would be mad not to give it a go – and once you do, there’s a good chance you’ll get the itch to return to give it a second crack.
For more details about Bordertown Golf Club, visit their Facebook page.
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