If you’re looking for a round of golf in Adelaide’s north-east suburbs but don’t want to break the bank, Highercombe Golf Club will be right up your alley.
Located just a 30-minute drive from the CBD, straight out along Lower North East Road and nestled in the Adelaide Hills, the conditioning of this pretty but challenging 18-hole track – which was first built in 1967 as a public course – will largely depend on the time of year you grace its fairways.
If you roll through the gates during winter, having turned off Paracombe Road, then you’d better have packed your gumboots because the course is going to be muddy and gluggy.
This is by no way intended to offend the greenkeepers, staff, members or volunteers who call Highercombe home, but playing this venue during the wet and wild months is hardly what I’d call enjoyable.
The fairways, which are so undulating that you’ll be lucky if you don’t slip over trying to climb them, will more closely resemble thick mud than lush grass, while the overgrown rough and sowersobs – which thrive due to the regular rainfall – will gobble any errant tee shot.
Thankfully, the greens at Highercombe are well-kept and good quality – a stark comparison to the poorly presented putting surfaces at Mount Pleasant Golf Club only 30 minutes away towards Birdswood.
Yes, the course is picturesque, and there are some gorgeous, rolling views of the Adelaide Hills and natural woodland, but it’s hard to truly enjoy them when you’re constantly digging mud off the sole of your shoe.
It’s the reason why the pro shop often offers discounted green fees during winter months, because you don’t quite get the value you’re looking for when the course is in sub-standard condition.
If you truly want to experience Highercombe Golf Club in all its beauty, play it in either spring or summer.
The flowers that grace some of the tee blocks will be in full bloom, the fairways will have a far better covering of grass, and you won’t have to worry about slipping over as you trudge your way up the various slopes toward each green.
Instead, you can spend your time appreciating the interesting layout and testing front and back nines this course has to offer.
Anyone who has played Highercombe Golf Club would agree on one thing – this course is really, really hilly.
And when I say hilly, I mean you will be pretty spent after completing your 18 holes if you elect to walk the course with a push or pull buggy.
There is no better example of this than the opening hole – the 377m Par 4, which tees off in front of the clubhouse and pro shop, drops down a huge hill that you then have to climb on the way to the elevated green.
You’ll get an awesome view back down the fairway, but you’ll be sucking in some deep breaths before making your putt.
Not all holes are like this – and as a Par 70 course totalling just 5591m, Highercombe Golf Club is relatively shorter than many other rival venues across Adelaide – but there are enough undulations and slopes throughout the layout to ensure your calves and hamstrings get a good workout.
But just because it’s short, doesn’t mean this course isn’t challenging: because it absolutely is.
Highercombe comprises four Par 3s, 12 Par 4s – which are a good mix or shorter and longer offerings, ranging between 234m to 430m – and just two Par 5s, one each on the front and back nines.
And while the thick trees and rough lining the fairways may seem like the course’s biggest defence, I would argue that it is actually the camber of the terrain that will prove the biggest challenge for the average golfer.
Even if you manage to find the short grass, very rarely will you find yourself with a flat, even lie – instead, you’ll often be hitting off a downhill or uphill slope.
For that reason, club selection and the positioning of your tee shot – and being able to execute your plan – are incredibly important to taming this golf course.
As I mentioned earlier, Highercombe – especially when it’s not waterlogged – is a really picturesque golf course.
And there are some cool, quirky holes that really stand out from the rest and will certainly make you go ‘wow’ as you step up to the tee block.
As the first Par 3 on the course, this 207m challenge – thankfully, it’s a little shorter when playing off the front tees – is someone ranked the third-easiest at Highercombe.
I’m not sure how that is the case, because this is not an easy golf hole.
The green is tiny and carved into the side of a huge hill, meaning anything that goes left of the pin and hits the downslope will disappear into the valley below – leaving you with a very difficult up and down to escape with par.
You certainly want to land your tee shot right of the pin, and let the natural layout feed your ball back towards the hole.
What I love about this Par 3 is the open layout – giving you clear views of the surrounding environment – and the beautiful water-filled dam and trees that provide a gorgeous backdrop to the hole.
It’s a ripper.
And that’s exactly why I love this 245m downhill, doglegging beauty.
This hole isn’t just great because you can reach the green with a well-struck tee shot, which has to move left to right in the air to land softly enough to hold the putting surface.
No, what makes the fifteenth really clever is the seemingly innocuous hazards that are quietly waiting and ready to penalise you if you get too greedy, or don’t execute your ball-striking with precision.
Sure, you can go for the green in one – but anything hooking or slicing left or right will likely fly over the tight boundary fences, as too will a drive that travels too far and onto the road at the end of the fairway.
This is the definition of a high-risk, high reward hole – it all depends how brave you’re feeling at the time.
Having come off six consecutive short Par 4s – stretching from 245m to 338m at the longest – players turn the corner to the clubhouse only to be confronted by this monstrous 510m Par 5.
There is no other way to put it: this hole is an absolutely intimidating beast.
Even the longest of hitters will struggle to reach the green in two, particularly as the steep, sloping fairway – should you find it from your tee shot – makes it almost impossible to get good purchase on your three-wood.
Seemingly good drives may possibly come to rest in the left rough, especially during the drier, warmer months, which can send heads spinning with frustration.
But players need to keep their cool and be smart about how they tackle this Par 5.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew; reach the green in three, and once you get there, you’ll find the putting surface is flat and tame – with birdie or par an excellent result.
Pace of play/tee time availability
Highercombe Golf Club is extremely accessible for anyone looking to book a round there – nor will you typically be faced with any pace of play issues.
There are members competitions held on Tuesday morning for ladies, and Saturday morning for all players, but outside of those timeslots you’ll likely find the course to be pretty empty.
The last time I played Highercombe was on a Monday morning – I rang ahead to the pro shop to check the availability and before I could barely finish my question, the response I got was ‘no worries, mate, come down and play whenever’.
Those are exactly the words every golfer wants to hear.
The only other players I came across during my round was on the seventh hole, and they happily let me play through – and wished me well on my way.
It’s very rare you’ll be held up for long, if at all, while playing at Highercombe.
How welcome are visitors?
Visiting players are extremely welcome at Highercombe Golf Club.
If you’re a member of another club, you will likely have no problems being slotted into on competition days – provided there are tee times available.
Similarly, if you don’t hold a Golf Australia handicap, don’t stress – the club will be happy to have you come and play a round, provided it is outside of members’ competition times.
Just make sure you ring ahead to check availability.
Is there a dress code?
Yes. Highercombe enforces a dress standard similar to most other semi-private clubs across Adelaide that have paying members.
A collared shirt is a necessity, while neat-casual shorts/pants/jeans and skirts for ladies are acceptable.
T-shirts without a collar, or with excessive logos, won’t make the grade, nor will track pants.
Thongs are definitely unacceptable footwear.
Are there practice facilities?
Highercombe has a decent putting green located on the way to the first tee, perfect to find some touch with the flat stick before commencing your round.
The club used to have a quality driving range, but sadly it’s no longer in operation – instead, there are a couple of hitting nets for players to warm up on, which means you won’t have to suffer through a cold start.
I’m not sure why the driving range was left to fall by the wayside, but reviving it would be a big improvement to the course and provide some healthy competition for the Valley View Driving Range, which is the only facility in the north-east suburbs where casual players can work on their swings.
Can I buy food/drinks after the round?
The Highercombe clubhouse is a decent place to enjoy a drink – whether it’s a beer, wine or soft drink – after a round.
As far as we know, there isn’t a kitchen that serves hot meals on Saturdays – unlike the Tea Tree Gully or Mount Osmond golf clubs, which have burgers or schnitzels on offer – meaning the best you can likely hope for is the odd pie or sausage roll, or maybe barbeque.
If you’re playing the course midweek, or on Sunday, there’s a good chance you’ll need to satisfy your hunger elsewhere.
The only advertised time when hot meals are available is on Thursday evenings in spring and summer, when the club runs its twilight competition.
Price for 18 holes:
- Adults: $30
- Students (18-21): $23
- Pensioners: $23
- Juniors (Under 18): $14
Price for 12 holes:
- Adults: $21
- Students (18-21): $17.50
- Pensioners: $17.50
- Juniors (Under 18): $14
If you’re intending to play Highercombe Golf Club during winter, be warned: it will be a slog.
The muddy, boggy soil can make the course a slush-heap after even moderate rain, and you may find it saps the enjoyment out of your round quite quickly.
But if the spring sun is shining, Highercombe is a perfectly good 18-hole track where you can kill four hours – for only $30 – while enjoying a challenging layout graced with some beautiful views.
While it’s not to the standard of nearby Adelaide Hills clubs in Tea Tree Gully or Mount Osmond, you’ll have a far easier time booking a round at this hugely welcoming course compared to other semi-private courses in the area – which, if you’re a casual or beginner golfer, is perfect for you.
If you’re weighing up whether to give Highercombe a try, my advice would be: go for it, but maybe wait until it’s had enough time to dry out first.
For more details about Highercombe Golf Club, visit their website.
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