Date: February 04, 2016
Author: Mark Harding

The Grange: A course to launch careers

The only time the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open has been played in South Australia, the winner was a promising young Swede destined for greatness. Annika Sorenstam’s five-shot win over Rachel Hetherington at Royal Adelaide in 1994 was the first of 93 victories in a career hailed by many as the greatest ever in women’s golf.

Australia’s national Open certainly has a penchant for discovering new stars … just two years later,

Scotland’s Catriona Matthew snared her first win in the Aussie Open on a journey which has included a major, the 2009 British Open, and ten

other tournaments around the world. And in 2012, Jessica Korda signalled her rise on the LPGA Tour with a thrilling playoff win over five other players, the first of four wins to date with a surety of more to come.

So how fitting it is that in 2016 the event that can launch careers moves to The Grange Golf Club where some legends of the game have announced themselves to the world

Although the Grange, a 36-hole complex with West and East courses, has not hosted an international professional women’s event before, it was for many years the regular home of the men’s West Lakes Classic, the tournament best remembered as the first victory for Greg Norman on the East course in 1976.

Wayne Grady also won his first tournament at  the Grange, the 1978 West Lakes Classic and in 1982 Stuart Appleby won the Australian Junior Championship to make it three Aussie greats whose formative years were sparked by a Grange triumph.

The Grange can also claim a small part of the rise of Australia’s top-ranked female golfer, Minjee Lee, who won her second Australian Amateur Championship there in 2014. Although the final was played on the East Course, the West was used in qualifying rounds earlier in the week so Lee will certainly have happy memories when she returns to battle this week.

Most of the previous professional tournaments at the Grange were played either on the East course or a composite of both courses, but Golf Australia tournament director Trevor Herden was in no doubt the West was the preferred venue for the 2016 Open.

The original of the two courses, it was carved out in 1927 on land that was considered too sandy for farming but ideal for golf. And so it has proved. It’s had several extensive facelifts down the years, the latest a decade ago when Mike Clayton and Geoff Ogilvy extensively redesigned all the greens and bunkers, and several of the fairways, in time for the 2008 World Amateur Teams Championships

– the Espirito Santo Trophy for women and the Eisenhower Trophy for men.

A parkland course with some tough angles into slick greens, it plays as a par 74 for the women members but has been mapped out as a par 72 for the pros, using a mix of men’s and women’s tees.

“It is a premium venue,” said Herden. “There is lots of shade for spectators and room around the course for TV facilities.

“And it is a very strong test of golf. Generous off the tee but a course that requires good strategy to plan the best way to attack the pin positions. There is a great range of holes.”

Herden said one of the main features of the course is the prevailing southerly wind which impacts on four holes on the back nine – 10, 12, 13 and 16.

If the wind gets up on Sunday afternoon, as it so often does, the leaderboard operators will have their work cut out.

Prone to the elements, testing greens, crafty design. The Grange deserves its return to the international spotlight.