The origins of North Haven Golf Club are rooted to the very ground upon which the links-style course was built.
During the redevelopment of the area for residential use in the late 1970s, the soil dredged from the beachfront where the marina was to be established was dumped nearby on the space previously used for recreational purposes.
And so it was in 1979 that the rich soil was used to create a public nine-hole golf course that still exists today.
Upon first glance, North Haven is underwhelming.
The entrance to the golf course is uninspiring, while the first tee shot glances out over the Outer Harbor train line – if you’re lucky, you’ll get a whiff of diesel or a toot from the driver to remind you that you’re in the heart of one of Adelaide’s heavily industrialised suburbs.
But once the train line disappears and the construction cranes fade away behind the trees, you really do get the feeling you’re playing a secluded, coastal course – something that no other nine-hole tracks in the city can offer.
For what you pay – 18 holes will cost you just $20, which is cheaper that almost any other course in Adelaide – this Par 68 venue is perfect if you’re looking for somewhere that’s forgiving, free-flowing and doesn’t take too long to play.
The standout trait for me is that the first four holes and last five holes feel like a completely different golf course.
As mentioned earlier, the first tee shot does not do this golf course justice. The Par 4 hole isn’t overly difficult – it’s only 314m long – it’s just bland.
The train line hugging the left-hand side of the course abuts the fairway, which doglegs to the right so you can’t even see the green.
The hole’s only saving grace are the nice trees along the coast line, which are clearly visible as they stretch into the sky as you get closer to the green.
The next three holes aren’t much better – without any real memorable features – but once you reach Hole 5, as the course begins to wind back into itself, your mood will certainly change.
This is where that links feel really comes to the fore, and the rumble of the diesel trains will become a distant, forgotten memory.
I was fortunate enough to play the course late in the afternoon, and looking out across the fairways – most of which run parallel to each other – as the setting sun peered through the trees really did give a tranquil feel to the entire golf course.
The course itself has a number of defences built into the design to make it challenging enough for players, given it is only 5260m in total length.
The greens were small and firm, with a lot of my approaches – with a wedge or short irons – failing to hold the putting surface. Likewise, in true links fashion, it was difficult to get any spin on the ball when chipping meaning you had to bump and run quite a lot.
That said, the greens themselves rolled incredibly true and had little break – if you putt a good roll on your putt, there’s a fair chance it’s going in.
Similarly, the fairways were quite narrow meaning a slightly wayward tee shot would more than likely come to rest in the first cut of rough. However, I didn’t ever find the rough long enough not to get good purchase on the ball.
There are trees scattered around the course, and long rough in places, but I rarely found that an errant shot left me without a shot. If anything, it’s best to really spray the ball to make sure it finds the short grass on an adjacent fairway.
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While there weren’t any real visually dazzling holes at North Haven Golf Club, that doesn’t mean some weren’t more enjoyable to play than others.
As mentioned, you can basically put a line through the first four holes – as they hug the wiry boundary of the property – but the home stretch leading into the clubhouse will be enough to convince you to make a return trip.
The first hole that really caught my attention was this 431m Par 5, which doglegs to the right.
When I last played there, I made the error of trying to cut the corner which left me in the trees on the right-hand side and with a very difficult shot into the green.
The best tactic would be to try and hit your drive to the corner, leaving you a long iron into the tiny green. I say tiny because it is one of the smallest landing areas I’ve seen on any golf course I’ve played – and I’ve played plenty.
The fairway is also narrow, so shorter hitters can opt for safety and try to hit the green in three shots, leaving them a two-putt for par.
Walking away with a five is certainly a good score on this hole, which is rated the seventh-hardest on the course.
Who doesn’t love a driveable Par 4? Honestly, every nine-hole course should have one – they’re so much fun.
At 261m off the white tees, this hole is certainly gettable but holding the green is virtually impossible due to its small size and firmness. But long hitters can blaze away knowing there’s plenty of room at the front and left of the pin to miss your tee shot.
For those who can’t hit that far, or would prefer the safer approach – or if you’re playing the 280m blue tees – hitting iron is a good choice. The fairway is narrow, but the rough pretty tame so you can afford to be a little wayward and still make par.
While there are easier Par 3s on the course – the third is just 131m off the blue tees, and the fifth an even shorter 115m – this 205m beauty is visually the best of the lot.
It’s also the most challenging.
You’ll almost certainly need to take a long or mid-iron, and – in keeping with the theme of the golf course – the green is, surprise, also diminutive.
With a bunker to the right-front guarding the green, the best place to miss is short right, which should leave you a workable up and down for par.
Located almost in the centre of the golf course, stop for a minute after making your putt and take in your surroundings.
Not bad for spending only $20, hey?
Pace of play/tee time availability
You should have no problems securing a tee time at North Haven Golf Club during the week, but it is still advisable to ring ahead just to make sure there are no competitions being play.
Saturday mornings – like almost every other course in Adelaide – are peak time and reserved for members, but you should be able to sneak on after 1pm.
As is the case with many nine-hole courses, pace of play can be an issue.
If you’re able to make time for a round during the middle of a weekday, you’ll probably have the course mostly to yourself.
But traffic significantly increases on business days after about 4pm when the locals knock off work and head out for a quick nine holes before sundown, and delays can be expected on Saturdays and Sundays (as they are premium days for golf).
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How welcome are visitors?
Being a public course, North Haven makes its living off visitor traffic – so golfers of every ability are welcomed with open arms, providing they’ve got the funds to play.
The pro shop staff are friendly, and you’re unlikely to run into any trouble with the members.
The Outer Harbor area is one of the rougher parts of Adelaide, and as such you’ll possibly cross paths with some interesting characters on the fairways.
But in my experience, they’re out there for the same reason as you are – to enjoy a casual round of golf – so stress not and have fun.
Is there a dress code?
You could just about wear anything you like at North Haven Golf Club and not be turned away – probably the only attire not permitted are Birthday Suits.
When I last played there, I wore what I normally would when playing golf – casual shorts, collared T-shirt and golf shoes – and felt very, very overdressed.
By comparison, the lads who arrived for a round as I was leaving the course were rocking everything from singles and board shorts, to high-vis work wear and trade boots.
So, if you’re just going out for a midweek or casual weekend bash, don’t stress if your favourite golf shirt is still in the wash – grab a T-shirt and head to the course. You won’t look out of place.
Are there practice facilities?
North Haven Golf Club has just the right amount of practice areas to get you tuned up for your round.
There’s a well-kept putting green and hitting net for you to loosen up before hitting the first tee.
The only negative in this department is the absence of a driving range – but really, if you’re only spending a maximum $20 for your round, there’s not much point doubling the cost by purchasing a bucket of practice balls anyway.
Can I buy food/drinks after the round?
If you’re after a sit-down meal after completing your nine or 18 holes, North Haven Golf Club unfortunately can’t deliver this for you.
The best you can expect is maybe a hot pie or pasty, a few chocolate bars or some cold alcoholic beverages or soft drinks.
But fear not – the Sailmaster Tavern is only a quick trip up the road, along Lady Gowrie Drive, where you can enjoy that pint and parmy you’ve been desperately craving.
Price for 18 holes:
- Monday-Friday: $20
- Weekend/Public Holidays: $25
- Juniors (under 18): $15
Price for 9 holes:
- Monday-Friday: $14
- Weekend/Public Holidays: $17
- Juniors (under 18): $10
- Nine-hole round passes: (4×9 holes) $50 Monday-Friday; (10×9 holes) $120 Monday-Friday
- Twilight after 4pm: $10 for 18 holes Monday-Friday
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I admittedly ventured out to North Haven Golf Club with low expectations.
But after completing nine holes, I was quite surprised and impressed with what the course was able to deliver in terms of playing fees, the condition and presentation of the fairways and greens, and also the overall enjoyment factor of the Par 68 layout.
Sure, there are better public golf courses in Adelaide – but for $20 for 18 holes, you really can’t go wrong.
What this course does well is blend its seaside surroundings into its design to give a coastal, links-style vibe that costs only a fraction of the price that other venues may charge.
If you want somewhere that isn’t too challenging, doesn’t blow a hole in your wallet and let’s you carve your way from fairway to fairway without any judgment from leering members, you can’t go wrong with North Haven.
For more details about North Haven Golf Club, visit their website.
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