Located in Adelaide’s working-class heartland of Edinburgh – around the corner from the now defunct Holden Elizabeth manufacturing plant – it makes sense that Penfield Golf Club has a blue-collar feel to it.
But while the city’s northern suburbs aren’t as renowned for their golf courses as they are for producing Aussie rock legend Jimmy Barnes or the V8 Commodore, this track is more than adequate for players looking for a quick nine holes or who are new to the game.
Probably the most difficult challenge you’ll face during your round at Penfield is actually locating the course.
Google Maps will send you down Woomera Avenue, where you then have to turn left into what is signposted as the Penfield Bowling Club entrance, continue on through the car park before veering left to arrive at the golf clubhouse.
If anything could make this course infinitely better for very little money, it would be to erect more visible signage to direct visitors where to go – after all, what’s the point of having a golf course if it’s impossible to find?
But once you pay your fees and get underway, you’ll be content with what this nine-hole course has to offer.
Established in 1959, Penfield Golf Club spans 5793m from the blue tees which alternate distances on the front and back nines to give this course enough subtle variations to keep it interesting for players.
The fairways comprise kikuyu grass but can be a little patchy, bare and extremely firm – particularly after they dry out after rain, and especially during summer – meaning you’ll likely get plenty of run out (those thinned shots will seem like they roll forever).
Penfield is quite an open track, which will be welcome news if you’re susceptible to a few wayward tee shots.
You may on the odd occasion snooker yourself behind one of the gum or pine trees scattered across the layout, but you’re highly unlikely to lose your ball in the rough (unlike the nearby Barossa Valley or Sandy Creek golf clubs, for example).
Similarly, there are very few out of bounds fences lining the fairways so the stress of staying in play is lessened – this really is a very forgiving course, which will be music to the ears of every weekend hacker.
The bunkering at Penfield is predominantly clustered at the greens, although there are some that protect landing areas in various fairways – they comprise red dirt and are quite firm, meaning they can be a little tricky to get out of.
The bunkers don’t have the white, fluffy, cloud-like composition you would expect from top-end courses, but this is to be expected when you’re paying no more than $33 for 18 holes.
The greens are kept in decent condition and have enough undulation in them to require your full attention while putting – the hotter the weather, the faster they run.
Penfield isn’t really a ‘signature hole’ kind of golf course. By that I mean while each hole has its unique features, there probably isn’t one you’ll rush home and tell your mates about.
So, don’t expect to roll up and be treated to elevated, scenic tee shots or beautiful water-laden designs. You will not find it here.
What you will find, however, are some enjoyable holes that will challenge you in their own way.
There is no warming into your round at Penfield. Instead, you’re confronted with a 513m Par 5 – rated the hardest on the course – to kick off your round.
Talk about a baptism of fire.
Thankfully, the fairway on the first is nice and wide so your opening swing of the day – which is rarely your best one – won’t be punished too severely if it doesn’t quite start on its intended line.
It’s probably not a Par 5 you can reach in two – even the biggest hitters will have a hard time getting their ball past the peak of the dogleg, and anything shorter than that will likely leave your second shot into the green blocked by the large gum tree on the corner.
This really is a genuine ‘three-shotter’, and the extensive bunkering around the green means approaching it with a wedge is a safe play.
Hit the putting surface in regulation and try to put a good roll on the rock. But don’t be disheartened if you don’t make birdie – a five is still a very good score.
Stretching just 254m long, this short Par 4 is probably one of the most enjoyable challenges Penfield has to offer.
It is also the only hole on the course that has two separate greens – a shorter one to be played on the front nine, and another located farther away from the tee block for the back nine.
The tee shot really does make you think hard about club selection. The narrow fairway is lined with dense pine trees, and if you spray your ball into them you can expect to find a difficult, sandy, pine needle-covered lie.
If you’re playing the front nine, iron is almost certainly the best method of attack and will leave you little more than a wedge into the sloped green, which is surrounded by bunkers.
If you’re playing the back nine, you can try and blaze driver over the corner, at the risk of rattling the trees.
The smallest of errors can quickly have you walking off the green with bogey or worse, which is what makes this seemingly easy hole not so straightforward as it may appear.
It may only be 155m tee to green, but this Par 3 is one of the hardest to hit in regulation – the backdrop of pine trees and the elevated putting surface also makes it one of the nicest from a visual aspect.
There are bunkers short left and right, and also pin-high on both sides, meaning accuracy and distance control is more important than ever – finding one of the deep pots will make getting up and down quite difficult.
I’ve definitely seen a few old boys digging their way to China trying to get out of them.
The green doesn’t have heaps of depth to it either, so holding the putting surface with your tee shot can also be tricky – par is without doubt a great score.
Pace of play/tee time availability
Penfield Golf Club does run a number of midweek morning competitions, in addition to Saturday and Sunday morning competitions that are reserved for members.
Visiting players can grab a round during the following timeslots:
- Monday: All day
- Tuesday: After 12.30pm
- Wednesday: After 2pm
- Thursday: After 1pm
- Friday: All day
- Saturday: After 3pm
- Sunday: After 11am
As one of only two lower-priced, nine-hole golf courses in Adelaide’s northern suburbs – the other being Playford Lakes Golf Club in Munno Para – Penfield does experience quite a bit of visitor traffic.
For that reason, pace of play can be a bit hit and miss. If you’re teeing off around midday from Monday to Friday, you shouldn’t expect too many delays in your round.
However, if you’re heading out for a weekend bash – after the members have finished playing – it’s highly probably you’ll be sharing the course with lots of other like-minded golfers who are there for the same reason.
Everyone from stereotypical hackers to low handicap players visit Penfield on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, so you can expect to be held up at some point.
While the club doesn’t take bookings, I’d advise ringing ahead to get a feel for how busy the course is on any given day.
Usually though, you can complete your round in decent time.
How welcome are visitors?
According to its website, Penfield is a “private member-based club, but we actively encourage casual players as visitors to promote the game of golf as a satisfying, affordable recreational activity”.
In other words, if you own a set of golf clubs and have money in the bank, Penfield is more than happy to welcome you for a round – so long as it’s outside the members-only times mentioned earlier.
In terms of the type of crowd you’ll see at the course, most of the players are seniors.
You’ll get the occasional young group of guys blasting their way from rough to rough, but in general I’ve always felt comfortable playing Penfield as a visitor.
Is there a dress code?
As it does have a private members base, golf attire is recommended when playing at Penfield – that means collared shirt, casual shorts/pants and closed shoes.
It’s unlikely you’ll be turned away for wearing a t-shirt during a casual midweek or Sunday afternoon round, but a collared shirt is the safe bet.
Are there practice facilities?
Surprisingly, Penfield is one of the only nine-hole courses in Adelaide to have a driving range where you can purchase buckets of practice balls from the clubhouse – unlike Mawson Lakes, Playford Lakes, Regency Park or Marion Park golf clubs, which do not offer this service.
This is a huge bonus for players who like to see their ball fly before their round, as opposed to simply bashing it into a practice net and not knowing if they’re hooking or slicing it.
The club also has a well-kept, sizeable putting green so you can get your pace and alignment on-point before teeing off, and a practice chipping area – equipped with a bunker – to hone your short game.
Simply put, Penfield has everything you could need to warm-up properly before a round.
Can I buy food/drinks after the round?
The clubhouse at Penfield is nothing flashy, but is a good place where you can kick back for a beer or soft drink after finishing your nine or 18 holes.
Be mindful of operating times, however: the bar is open from 10am on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
On Tuesdays during the summer months, it opens at 2.30pm.
If you’re looking for anything more than some basic hot food to eat (pies, pasties, sausage rolls, etc), there are plenty of pubs in the area – or the nearby Elizabeth Shopping Centre – where you can buy something more substantial.
Players can pay their fees at the clubhouse, but during times when it is not being operated by staff, there is an honesty system in place.
This requires you to pay with cash into an envelope at the side of the clubhouse, and send it down a chute.
Price for 18 holes:
- Adults: $33
- Juniors Under 18: $22
Price for 9 holes:
- Adults: $22
- Juniors Under 18: $17
If you’re up north and are looking to try out a new course, Penfield Golf Club will be worth your time.
It’s not going to blow your mind in terms of aesthetics or course design, but it is a place where you can bash your way around nine or 18 holes with minimal fuss.
For what you pay – $33 is on the higher end of the price scale for nine-hole tracks in Adelaide – you may find a little more value by driving farther out north to tee it up at Playford Lakes Golf Club, or even further to Sandy Creek Golf Club or Barossa Valley Golf Club.
But if a quick, stress-free midweek or weekend bash is all you’re after – and you want somewhere that isn’t going to gobble up wayward tee shots, leaving you endlessly searching for your ball – then Penfield is right up your alley.
Just make sure you follow our directions at the beginning of this review to ensure you can find it.
For more details about Penfield Golf Club, visit their website.
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