H.L. 'Cargie' Rymill was a keen golfer and student of the game. He had a huge impact on the game he loved and left a lasting legacy seen to this day in the iconic courses he touched in Adelaide..
Rymill had a significant role in developing Royal Adelaide, Glenelg, The Grange, and Kooyonga as well as other courses in Sth Australia. Although he was a long term member at Royal Adelaide it is Kooyonga that will be remembered as his crowning achievement because he found the land, conceived the project, gather the backers, designed the course, and continued overseeing the development of the course and club for many years
Kooyonga GC was founded by Rymill when he spotted the land from a tram in 1922, and recognised the potential immediately. By 1924 he had 18 holes in play over land that included some delightful dunesland and some flatter marsh type terrain.
Five Australian Open Championships have been held at Kooyonga, and it probably says something that each was won by a great of the game- Norman Von Nida in 1950, Ossie Pickworth in 1954, Gary Player in 1958 & 1965, and Peter Thomson in 1972.
The club has also hosted three Australian Amateur Championship and numerous state championships.
Kooyonga is surrounded by residences on all boundaries, and cannot easily extend it's course to meet the length expectations for courses hosting national events. But such is the quality of the course that conversion of some of the shorter par 5's to par 4's to create a par 70 course would make this a fine test worthy of an another Australian Open.
Essentially the layout today is not significantly changed from that set out by Rymill. English architect Martin Hawtree was employed for 6-7 years recently to revitalise the course, but the tyranny of distance eventually terminated that relationship. These days former club champion and respected Australian architect Neil Crafter is at the helm, overseeing a 5 year plan to bring consistency to the bunkering around the course in the manner Hawtree had introduced, and to integrate the rough and course vegetation into that plan. It's looking good!
Kooyonga is an intriguing course. Most of the course is set in a rolling dunescape, now framed by gum trees and other natives planted by Rymill and his team. The routing is unusual in that the course opens with consecutive par 5's, and has two par 3's one after the other at holes 14 & 15. To me that speaks of a designer who works with the land, does not impose his will upon it.
There is tremendous variety in the types of hole, particularly in the front nine- with 3 very different par 5's, and a mix of short and longer par 4's.
The par five 1st hole is a great starter with a classic strategy- take on the bunkers down the right or take the long way home. And the par 5 second hole is one of the best holes in Australia in my opinion. It's a short par 5 which requires decisions on every shot. Longer players can easily reach the green in two- but they also need to very accurate as the tree lined fairway is also heavily bunkered at crucial stages. The second shot for the average player is also pinched by trees either side again requiring a decision on whether to lay up or get up closer to the green.
Hole 3 is a nice tightly bunkered mid length par 3, but the shorter par 4 fourth hole is outstanding. You need an accurate tee shot over the hill to set up a short iron to a really beautifully framed green. But be careful!
That green has some nasty contours that really add to the difficulty.
The fifth hole is an even shorter, driveable par 4. It certainly gets your attention off the tee!
I have played it differently each time without great success....
Holes 6 & 8 are longer par 4's which play a little uphill and accentuate the rolling nature of the site. And the par 3 seventh is a beauty with the green sitting up on a ledge and with a steep drop off at the front. There are not too many holes like this around...
The nine finishes with a par 5 moving out around the dunesland. It is a really nice hole to play- again requiring decisions on how much to take on with bunkers obstructing the more direct lines...Two bold shots might be rewarded with an eagle putt!
The back nine starts out into flatter terrain, and if there is an achilles heel to this course, it is that holes 10-13 run parallel back and forth over this less interesting parcel of land. But each is a good hole, and as they can play a little longer players find that longer irons and fairway woods are tested.
The run home from hole fourteen changes things up again. Fourteen requires an accurate short iron to a devilish green, and fifteen test out the longer irons. Both are good holes.
Sixteen is a reachable par 5 with a green tucked in hard against the fence and protected by some large gum trees, and a number of those distinctive red sand bunkers. A long accurate tee shot down the left side opens up a glimpse of the green, but anything right of middle is likely to be blocked.
Seventeen is a unique hole with a blind tee shot over a ridge protected by a large bunker on the left side. The gorgeous green is set into the front of a dune but has a water hazard lurking on the front right with a green leaning that way!
It's classic strategy- safe tee shot right, harder shot in...
The closing hole is fun to play also with a sea of sand to negotiate on what is esentially a short dog leg par 4. You need two accurate shots to avoid all the bunkers here.
For me the favourite holes were
- the par 5 second hole
- the par 4 fourth hole
- the par seventh hole
- the par 4 seventeenth hole
Overall I rate Kooyonga as one of the classier courses in Australia. It would be a wonderful members course. It is not overly long, but has plenty of variety, constantly asks the golfer to make decisions, is beautifully maintained, and great fun to play
Kooyonga is a Travelling Golfer "must play"
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