Public courses often traverse a fine line between being relaxed and lawless.
The West Beach Parks Patawalonga Golf Course – formerly known as Adelaide Shores Golf Course – walks a treacherous tight rope at times, with a clear ambition to be an unashamedly public deck whilst allowing a few too many of golf’s great frustrations to creep into its culture.
None could fault the conditioning of this place with a small army of ground staff keeping fairways short, greens true and bunkers fluffed, creating one of the most forgiving and genuinely fun layouts in the west of Adelaide.
Fairways are wide and the blaze factor is high, with adjacent tarmac your friend on all but a few of the holes.
The greens roll slow but true and are flat enough even Stevie Wonder could pick the right line.
Prices are competitive and tee times are plentiful, with pro shop and practice facilities well-established.
The online system is reliable and bookings are always honoured, avoiding all-too-regular confusion often encountered at other courses.
The course does host competitions – through the Westward Ho Golf Club – but beware, a sneakily low slope rating could see as many as four strokes slashed off of your handicap when playing the white tees.
Still, this will seem surprisingly reasonable after you and your mates lay down personal bests and drive home contemplating whether a late PGA dash is yet to pass you by…
Table of contents
West Beach Parks boasts two golf courses – the full-length, 18-hole Patawalonga Course that stretches 5913m and comprises beautiful kikuyu fairways, plus the shorter 15-hole Executive Course that is just 2500m long and will test your wedge game.
The Executive has ten Par 3s, some as short as 98m and others as long as 172m, and five Par 4s – it is perfect for those looking for a quick round with mates or partners, beginner golfers or if you’re not too serious about the game.
But most people who venture to West Beach Parks are there to play the Patawalonga Course, which is the focus of this review.
A traditional par 72 layout with four Par 3s and four Par 5s, ‘The Pat’ as it is commonly called is connected by Par 4s ranging from super short to moderately long.
There’ll be a selection of Par 4s tempting a wind up and lash at the green, while nothing will exceed 400m at the other end of the scale.
Similarly, the Par 5s range from genuine three-shotters to a couple you will fancy in two if you possess the distance.
If there is one clear disappointment, it’s the Par 3s. Don’t get me wrong, they are stress free and fun to play.
However, most require between a gap wedge and a nine-iron, leave them wanting a little on the challenge side of things.
Water features on a few holes, but only the more wayward tee shots will find this a threat, while bunkering is frequent enough, but not likely to feature too heavily in a well-managed round.
The majority of holes are straight-away, with dog legs only slight in nature, and a few will make you contemplate leaving driver in the bag.
Despite some shortfalls, the conditioning and variation in holes does enough to keep both weekend warrior and Rory McIlroy wannabe interested.
A large portion of holes on the Patawalonga Course are unmemorable and many of the 300-odd metre straightaway Par 4s are instantly forgettable.
Having said this, there are some genuinely good holes, providing a combination of challenge and aesthetic appeal that will leave an imprint on your brain.
Golf course architect Donald Ross once said the first hole of any golf course should be a ‘firm handshake’ – well the Patawalonga Course says ‘to hell with that’ and shoves index one straight in your face.
On the longer side of Par 4s for the course, the first is guarded by deep bunkers on the right and some thick scrub to the left that will happily claim ownership of a $3 lake ball purchased at the pro shop desk.
Navigate the trouble and find the fairway to be left with an approach into a hard to hit green, again guarded by bunkers.
Par is a great score for anyone here.
Who doesn’t love a drivable Par 4? Nobody, that’s who – and be sure to remind your mate of that when he pulls out the six iron to lay up.
When a 260m drive over the trees is enough to have you dancing, it’s time to feed the big dog and flex your muscle, or prepare to call the search party into full swing to start the back nine.
If you aren’t feeling brave – or are a Barry Buzzkill – you can quite easily lay-up on the nice, wide fairway and have a short wedge into the green, where par is a likely result.
But you’ll never have yourself an eagle putt with that approach.
Risk it and live a little, you know you want to.
The best of the Par 3s, a short iron will be required to fly the front bunker and land safely on a green sloping towards the front.
Your shot flies a small gully between tee block and green with a wall of pines creating a colosseum akin to the stadium hole at Scottsdale (well, not really).
A bailout to the left still leaves a chance at an up and down, but hit the green and the birds will be chirping in your ears as you line up a slippery downhiller.
Pace of play/tee time availability
Availability of tee times is pretty good, just avoid traditional comp times like Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
Westward Ho Members usually have dibs on AM slots, but the main value lies in the twilight anyway.
Make the most of discount rates after three during daylight savings where you can play 18 into the sunset.
Now. The sticking point – pace of play.
I’ll preface this by saying I have been through nine holes (in a golf cart) in 50 minutes before, albeit on a sleepy Wednesday afternoon.
However, the Patawalonga course is all too renowned for a log jam with motorcades of old ducks committing the cardinal golf sin of slow play.
From blokes with all the gear but no idea, to nanas who drive it 40m while giving lessons to friends who drive it ever shorter, there’s no end to the ways the brakes will be put on your round.
I stress, this does not happen every time and I’ve had many an enjoyable round here – just don’t tee off at 3pm expecting to make your 7.30pm show.
Unfortunately, course marshalling is nowhere near as prevalent as it should be (I’ve never seen it) which leads to some long waits, frustration and, inevitably, some poor shots as your body seizes up and your concentration is broken.
Some free advice: If you want to go for a leisurely stroll, do it at West Beach only a stone’s throw away – not when you’re on the golf course. Please keep it moving.
How welcome are visitors?
West Beach Parks is a completely welcoming public course happy to throw anyone with adequate funds on the first tee.
It can get busy and you’ll often be teeing off to a small crowd, but the likelihood they too won’t get passed the ladies tee is high enough that you shouldn’t feel self-conscious.
I’ve had strangers book in with my group on several occasions and they are always friendly with good etiquette, so if you are a solo golfer looking for a round, don’t fear jumping in with a group and dusting off the small talk.
For all of the potential slow play woes, grumbling and aggression is extremely rare out here.
Just prepare to be assertive when it’s clearly time for a group to let you play through.
Is there a dress code?
Yes, but beyond needing sneakers and a collared shirt, there isn’t much to it.
High vis, board shorts or workboots will likely see you turned around, but it beats me why anyone would want to endure four-plus hours of golf in that attire anyway.
Are there practice facilities?
The practice facilities are plentiful with range balls purchasable at the pro shop.
A fantastic driving range is lined with sky-high netting and a short game practice area sits behind the first tee.
A huge, two-tiered putting green has plenty of room for you to practice those three footers.
Lessons are also available in a private academy that’ll put the nerves at ease.
Can I buy food/drinks after the round?
The Westward Ho Golf Club has a bistro open for lunch every day but Sundays.
It is situated just off the car park and open for guests and members alike.
The pro shop is good for your basics like coffee and cold drinks.
Price for 18 holes:
- Monday-Friday: $30
- Weekends/Public Holidays: $40
- Junior/student (weekdays): $23
Price for 9 holes:
- Sunrise (back nine): $20
- Weekdays: $23
- Weekday twilight (after 3pm): $23
- Weekend twilight (after 3pm): $26
The West Beach Parks Patawalonga Course is an open, short and forgiving track.
It provides great value for money and a friendly atmosphere that will make golfers of all ability welcome and comfortable.
The course is definitely on the lower end as far as challenge goes, but if you’re looking for a casual round or confidence booster, this could well be considered a positive.
Beware the weekends, though, as Hollywood Boulevard would see less traffic jams annually.
Do you have time off work and are available for a 3pm midweek tee off? If yes, the Patawalonga course screams value and a fun, carefree round.
To find out more about West Beach Parks Golf Course, visit their website.
Leave your own review in the comments section below!
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