Tanunda Pines Golf Club: Ultimate Course Review

Nestled amongst South Australia’s renowned Barossa Valley wine region, Tanunda Pines Golf Club is like a fine Shiraz – big, rich and full of flavour.

As you wind your way north from Adelaide through the endless, sprawling vineyards, the hour-long trip from the CBD to the course’s welcoming gates will pass you by in no time, leaving you to marvel at the panoramic views on offer in one of the most beautiful parts of the state.

There is a certain elegance about the Barossa Valley, and Tanunda Pines fits the theme perfectly.

Considered by many to be the best course in the region – however, we’d argue Barossa Valley and Sandy Creek golf clubs aren’t too far behind – the club is the only one in Adelaide’s outer rim to share its grounds with holiday accommodation, in the form of the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort.

The 140-room apartment has housed some of the world’s most famous celebrities such as pop quartet One Direction, but also AFL players from the Adelaide and Hawthorn football clubs – the latter during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In terms of the course, Tanunda Pines was established in 1938 and its fairways are lined with 100-year-old gum trees that are filled with plentiful amounts of native birdlife – making for a playing experience you won’t forget.

Such is the quality and conditioning of the Par 72, 18-hole layout that the club hosted the South Australian PGA Championship in 2006.

If you are looking for a golfing getaway in the Barossa Valley, the Tanunda Pines/Novotel Barossa combination cannot be beaten.

The course

Stretching over 5944m, the greatest luxury Tanunda Pines has is space.

Unlike many of its city rivals – such as Mount Osmond, North Adelaide and The Stirling golf clubs, which are crammed into tight acreage – the course is not constrained by housing or main roads, and takes full advantage of the copious surrounding scrubland at its fingertips.

The result is a layout that feels natural, relaxing, breathable and forgiving – all the things you want when trekking into the regions to enjoy a true country golfing experience.

But don’t let Tanunda Pines’ laid-back atmosphere lull you into a false sense of security – it can be punishing for players who don’t give the course the respect it deserves.

Comprising four Par 3s, 10 Par 4s and four Par 5s, the course has enough length that you’ll need to pull driver more often than not on most holes, which brings the dense, sandy scrub into play.

While the fairways are wide enough to hold slightly skewed tee shots, the big misses will typically come to rest deep in the undergrowth – if you don’t take your medicine and pitch out to safety, you can quickly rack up some big numbers.

The most enjoyable aspect to Tanunda Pines is the variety of golf holes greeting you on the front and back nines.

Too often do Adelaide-based courses have forgettable Par 4s that blend into one another, but that’s not the case here – whether it’s the short, drivable opening hole, the long straightaway second or the difficult, uphill tenth, each has nuances and its own set of challenges.

They say every good book should have a beginning, middle and end, and that’s certainly the case at Tanunda Pines – every hole is an important piece to the overall story, and each has its own unique name on the scorecard to emphasise this point.

In terms of conditioning, the fairways are always kept in excellent nick, while the greens roll extremely true and have lots of breaks in them – meaning its very rare you’ll find yourself facing a straight putt.

Feature holes

Tanunda Pines really is a picturesque golf course. At its highest points, the views out over the surrounding vineyards and treescape is worth the price of green fees on its own.

As is the case with all great tracks, the front and back nines are equally entertaining and are sure to give you and your mates plenty to talk about over a beer or wine at the clubhouse after your round.

Hole 1

You’ll either love or hate the opening hole at Tanunda Pines – known as ‘Callitris’ – depending on how much you enjoy drivable Par 4s.

At just 276m off the back tees, the fairway doglegs right up the hill towards an elevated green that bigger hitters can reach in two – although the surrounding bunkers makes this a difficult and daunting task.

A miss long will leave you in the rough with no shot at the pin, while a spray to the right will likely find the long rough – and significantly reduce your chances of making birdie or par.

The smart play is hitting iron straight up the chute and having an easy wedge into the green for your second shot.

But if you’re feeling loose and limber after the road trip to the course, and feel like trying to start your round off with an eagle, then driver is absolutely the play.

That’s the beauty of this hole: it can make or break your day, depending on your strategy.

Looking back at the tee block from the first green. PHOTO: Project Golf Australia

Hole 5

Dubbed ‘The Snake’ due to its winding layout, this 439m Par 5 is a really cool hole.

Following on from the 492m Par 5 fourth, the fifth is nowhere near as long – but is equally, if not more, challenging for players.

The first part of the hole doglegs to the right, before the fairway takes a left turn down the hill towards the green, which is surrounded by bunkers.

Longer hitters can take the aggressive line up and over the trees off the tee, with a well-placed drive likely leaving them just a mid-iron into the two-tiered dancefloor.

But for those who can’t get the required elevation or length with their driver, this hole becomes a genuine three-shotter.

While a miss to the right will likely find the adjacent 18th fairway, anything left off the tee is big, big trouble.

This is definitely a hole that places a premium on accuracy.

Hole 11

Without doubt, this stunning 179m Par 3 is the best Tanunda Pines has to offer.

Having climbed to the highest point on the course on the previous hole – aptly named ‘The Climb’ – players are then faced with a jaw-dropping tee shot on the eleventh to a green located far, far below.

Before you select your club, take a second to enjoy the magnificent views of the surrounding Barossa Valley landscape – it’s a really special sight.

The hole, known as ‘Tall Gums’, is shorter than it appears – with the elevated tee shot creating the illusion that the pin is miles away, when in reality it’s a lot closer than it seems.

Bunkers surround the green – like a pack of sharks waiting to gobble any ball that doesn’t hold the putting surface – and getting up and down from them can prove challenging, especially if you struggle getting height with your sand wedge.

Missing the dancefloor with your tee shot will almost certainly result in a bogey, unless you have an elite short game, so choose your iron carefully.

The eleventh has the best tee shot at Tanunda Pines Golf Club. PHOTO: Project Golf Australia

Pace of play/tee time availability

According to its website, Tanunda Pines Golf Club “understands that people have busy lives with many work, family and social commitments and … in order to make the game of golf accessible to as many people as possible, there are a number of competition options for people to choose from”.

Now that’s a club that has its finger on the pulse, and caters for its members.

Competition times are as followed:

  • Tuesday: 8am-9am (Ladies’ 18-hole competition)
  • Wednesday: 7am-1pm (Midweek Men’s 18-hole competition)
  • Thursday twilight: 4.30pm-5.45pm, November-March (Men’s and Ladies’ twilight 9-hole Stableford competition)
  • Friday: 7am-12.30pm (Pro Shop Stableford competition)
  • Saturday: 7am-1pm (Men’s and Ladies’ 18-hole competition)
  • Sunday: 7am-12.30pm (Pro Shop competition open to members and public with an official handicap)

In an effort to appease its members with varied competition times, Tanunda Pines does, as a result, limit the periods where visitors without handicaps can play the course.

But, as you can see from the times above, after 1pm on almost all days you should have no problem securing a round – just call ahead to the pro shop, or book online through the club website.

In regards to pace of play, most members at Tanunda Pines are seasoned golfers and understand how to keep things moving, so you shouldn’t be delayed as you make your way around the course.

The only time you may run into trouble is on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, which is when the general public typically play.

How welcome are visitors?

Visitors are extremely welcome at Tanunda Pines, and the club actively encourages everyone from the scratch golfer to the beginner to come and play the course.

My experiences at the club have been nothing but positive – all the staff are friendly, from the greenkeeper to the pro shop attendant, and will welcome you with a smile.

Everyone who works or volunteers at Tanunda Pines are extremely proud of their course, and it shows.

Is there a dress code?

Yes, there is. Like the other two golf clubs in the region – Sandy Creek and Barossa Valley – there is a certain decorum to playing these courses, and a t-shirt and jeans, or track pants, simply won’t cut it.

You’ll need to sift through the drawer at home and find yourself a collared shirt, and some neat slacks/shorts, before heading out to play the course.

The staff are friendly enough that they may turn a blind eye if you’re playing a casual Sunday round, but you’ll definitely look like the odd one out if you’re not dressed appropriately.

Are there practice facilities?

Tanunda Pines has some of the best practice facilities in the region.

The driving range is wide and long enough that you can blaze drivers 50m left or right and not worry about damaging any nearby houses, and buckets of practice balls can be purchased from the pro shop.

There is also a large putting/chipping green in front of the clubhouse to hone your short game before heading to the first tee.

There are certainly no excuses for not being fully warmed up before starting your round at Tanunda Pines.

Can I buy food/drinks after the round?

The clubhouse, while nice and spacious, has limited food options from our previous experiences there.

You might be lucky enough to jag a hot pie or sausage roll, but other than that the best you can likely expect are some chocolate bars or chips from the pro shop.

There is beer on tap, though – which is a big plus – plus the usual selection of soft drinks or other cold beverages.

Thankfully, the Barossa Valley is renowned for its food, as well as its wine, and a short five-minute drive into the heart of Tanunda will leave you spoilt for choice in terms of lunch or dinner options.

The Tanunda Bakery and Café is an absolute winner, while FermentAsian is a delicious dine-in option at night.

Green fees

Price for 18 holes:

  • Weekdays: Adults $50
  • Weekends: Adults $55
  • Juniors Under 18: $20

Final message

As far as Barossa Valley golfing experiences are concerned, you can’t go wrong with Tanunda Pines.

The course is equal parts picturesque as it is challenging, and while more expensive than the nearby Sandy Creek and Barossa golf clubs, it is of a slightly higher quality – despite what members at those rival venues might try and tell you.

Top-level golfers may find the layout easier than the average player because of how wide and forgiving the fairways are, but like any good track it punishes the bad shots and its length off the back tees is one of its biggest defences.

So, if you’re sitting at home reading this review and contemplating whether to make the hour-long journey north to play this secluded Barossa Valley gem, our response would be – do it.

The staff at Tanunda Pines will make you feel right at home, and ensure your experience at their quality country golf course is one that you’ll remember fondly and be sure to tell your friends about.

For more details about Tanunda Pines Golf Club, visit their website.

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