Adelaide’s western suburbs are known for housing the metro area’s most high calibre courses.
Glenelg, Grange, Kooyonga and Royal Adelaide rate highly in the country’s top 100 courses year in, year out.
For any club nestled in the nearby surroundings, it can be hard to get a foothold when competing with the aura of ‘the big four’.
West Lakes Golf Club is one of these courses facing the challenging task of standing out amongst golfing royalty.
It is a course locally labelled as one of Adelaide’s second tier – a club advantage member along with Mount Osmond, Flagstaff Hill, Blackwood, The Vines, and Tea Tree Gully.
Despite this, after playing several rounds there over the last few years, there’s very little to say West Lakes shouldn’t be considered one of Adelaide’s premium tracks.
With a style very similar to the two layouts at The Grange Golf Club, the top-notch spring conditioning makes West Lakes Golf Club shine as a genuine player in the west.
Memberships are competitively priced and the facilities are of a high standard.
The patrons are friendly and welcoming; get paired with some members and they will happily show you the best route to each green and how to find a low score.
The sweeping verandah to the front of the clubhouse begs you to stay for a beer or meal to cap off your round.
The combination of excellent conditioning, forgiveness, welcomeness and facilities makes for a golfing experience that might just top that of an expensive big four round.
The Par 70, 5636-metre West Lakes Golf Club is moderate in length, with some genuine Par 4 and 5 offerings and a full suite of Par 3s ranging from the very short to the intimidatingly long.
It is the sort of course that does demand being played off of the blue tees, though, as the 119 slope off the whites will see you lose strokes from your handicap.
Fairways can be both generously wide and nerve-rackingly narrow, with water hazards and bunkering cleverly pinching the landing zones for the mid-to-long hitter.
The saving grace for those troubled off the tee is the adjacent fairways, with most holes having left and right bail outs.
As one of the pros once told me, ‘if you’re going to miss here, miss big’.
Find fairways and your approaches to the greens will often be mid-irons through to wedges.
The greens can be hard to hit, with adequate bunkering and steep run-offs a common feature.
In the warmer months, the greens almost play links-style, despite the parklands layout, with tightly-mown fringes promoting the Texas wedge as an optimum play.
West Lakes can, at times, feel a little too forgiving, especially if you’re striking the ball well.
The ability to blaze and pitch over small trees may make you feel like you’re getting away with too much, but every few holes a real challenge rears its head and threatens to swiftly bring you crashing back to earth.
Water is rare but perfectly placed, and numerous holes provide a suite of options, meaning club selection may be your enemy, and a lay-up could run through firm fairways to find a treacherous trap.
Although West Lakes provides patches of forgiving golf, it is a course that still requires a cool head from holes 1 to 18.
The back nine finishes with a tricky Par 5, offering risk and reward from tee to green.
A big choice awaits on the tee, with a water hazard to the left sitting frustratingly between hybrid and driver range, even for the longer hitter.
There is a prospect of flying the water off of the white tees, but it had better be a solid strike.
A long iron lay up is a popular play, with an approach to the corner the smartest choice for a second.
A three wood can be blazed over the corner, but greenside bunkers must be contended with.
Approach the corner too far to the left and trees will encroach upon your third shot.
Play the hole smartly and conservatively and you may find it a comfortable enough par.
The 15th is the easiest on the course, but by no means does this render it forgettable.
Barely measuring 100 metres, an easy wedge on a good line should provide a genuine birdie opportunity.
However, holes like this can provide awkward numbers, and the pot just short of the green attracts the eye like light for a mosquito.
Clear this, and you better have both line and distance correct, as steep drop offs feature around most of the green’s circumference.
Find the green and birdies and pars await.
Miss and you’ll wonder how a 5 can even be possible on this hole.
A hole highly reminiscent of the front nine stretch on The Grange’s east course, swampy marshes run along about half the length of the fairway to the right-hand side.
By no means should these be in play, but just the mere site of water could bring about a poor strike or force many players to dump their tee shot out left through sheer apprehension.
A deep bunker calls the middle of the fairway home around 200-220 metres off the tee.
Prevailing winds into the tee shot make it a hard hazard to clear, even with a well struck driver.
Lay up short and you won’t have much left into the green, but left and long provide, once again, steep run offs that can be tricky to navigate.
Find the sloping green in two and you’ll be happy with a two-putt par and the short walk to 18th tee.
Pace of play/tee time availability
West Lakes can get busy, which is a symptom of being a high-quality second tier course.
For visitors, tee offs are available after 12pm, but the pro shop may find some wiggle room if the course is quiet, so give them a call and try your luck if in need of something earlier.
As for pace of play, members move quickly and the open nature of the course results in few extensive searches for lost balls.
Of the numerous courses we’ve reviewed, Project Golf would nearly put this track as the quickest in regard to pace of play.
How welcome are visitors?
As mentioned earlier, West Lakes is highly embracing of visitors, with members happy to brag about their course (humbly, of course) and give advice on how to best avoid the hazards.
Interactions, both by phone and in person, with the pros in the golf shop are friendly and warm, unlikely to put off those nervy about their first time at a new course.
Is there a dress code?
The dress code is fairly standard fair, asking for spike-free golf shoes, collared shirt, appropriate shorts/pants with a belt, and so on.
Jeans and the expected fare are outlawed; as long as you look somewhat the part, nobody will be batting an eyelid at your attire.
Are there practice facilities?
West Lakes has a few hitting nets and a putting/chipping area, but no dedicated range, so if you’re inclined to having a range session before playing, you’ll need to do this elsewhere – possibly at the nearby Drummond Golf range.
The long, wide Par 5 first is converted to a range later in the day, with a strip of astro turf catering to member traffic honing in on that perfect swing.
Can I buy food/drinks after the round?
The pro shop provides a range of cold drinks and snacks to fill up your bag before a full 18 and the 10th tee is also very close to the clubhouse, allowing for a halftime stock up.
The clubrooms are large and well maintained, offering a range of food and tap beer, as well as operating as a function venue.
The verandah out the front offers great views of several tees and greens; the perfect place to contemplate your round and watch the stragglers finish off late into the day.
Price for 18 holes
- Not as a member’s guest: $60
- As a member’s guest: $40
Price for 9 holes
- Not as a member’s guest: $60
- As a member’s guest: $25
West Lakes Golf Club will always sit in the shadow of Adelaide’s big four on the western side of town, but this doesn’t damage it’s claims as one of the city’s premium tracks.
The course is beautifully maintained and forgiving enough that a good streak of golf will be rewarded, while at the same time, offering just enough holes to punish errant play.
It is welcoming, reasonable value and boasts some of the better paced play in Adelaide, somewhat assisted by its open layout.
For the golfer who can’t afford the huge dollars needed to seal a big four round or membership, but wishes not to compromise on facilities and quality, West Lakes fits that perfect niche and demands a round in your not-so-distant future.
For more details about West Lakes Golf Club, visit their website.
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