Kingston SE Golf Club
Away from the leased BMW's and over equipped bank-owned fishing boats of Robe, lies the more restrained southern port town of Kingston SE. The suffix is to separate it from Kingston on Murray, elsewhere in the state. The town of Kingston SE is located 740 kms (9.5 hours) from Melbourne and 290 kms (3.5 hours) Southeast of Adelaide.
A once sleepy and run down town, Kingston is awaking from slumber and looks about to triple its current size over the next five to ten years. The once lazy farming paddocks behind the town are being subdivided into estates and even mini suburbs and the Marine Parade line of houses dangling along the foreshore have made it past Pinks Beach and most of the way down to Cape Jaffa.
Kingston Golf Club is similarly as humble and understated as the town itself, and in another parallel, looks to be trying to move ahead now. The huge parcel of land out beyond much of the front nine is being built into new holes, and eventually none of what is there now will still stand as is, with a complete re-routing and full redesign underway. Though the club will be playing their current course or most of it for some time yet, the project is well inside initially forecast time frames, due mainly to the generosity of a local who has leant at no charge several of his big wheels from his haulage and construction interests for use to do the work. Not bad considering he has no interest in the game, but simply loves the town. The ecstatic club reckons the eventual savings will be a high six figure sum as a result, and have knighted him with life membership. I won't name him here because he'll already curse me for going this far. He isn't one for the fuss.
For now, the course still winds over what is not a particularly undulating plot, but is never flat due to the perfect-for-golf limestone and ocean bed derived wrinkles, bumps, spines and ridges everywhere. There isn't a single flat acre on the entire grounds, and the course is all the better for it.
The Front Nine
After a plain opening, the second hole comes alive. A short par 5 with the boundary to the left, it doglegs left late enough to make a second shot attack a necessarily significant right to left shape, but not overly so. The green is in an attractive setting and capture a lot of interest and subtle nuances through both their physical crafting and their locations in well placed natural settings.
Holes 3, 4 and 5 play up and back along the back corner of the course, and don't make for any headline grabbing inspiration, though they don't let the course down either. Given this is as weak as the course gets (along with the similarly located #13 & #14), it is a high minimum standard and even when this makes way for the new holes, they will be noted with melancholy after they are gone. The 4th hole has a few issues with a short dogleg and the tallest flora interfering perhaps too much with the second shot. This results in a lack of opportunity for the better player to position their ball around the dogleg into position if they try. But the simple green and solo bunker sit nicely, and you get the sense that whoever conceived the original layout had an eye for where greens would sit best with their surrounding contours.
The 6th is the first short hole at the far end, and shares a border and a loo with the cemetery (make sure to dip your cap if you are standing alongside a mourner attending a burial). An essentially plain 170m hole, it has a large left and short side bunker leading to the edge of the green. Of note, all the par 3 holes have dull greens, a shame considering the green settings and occasional contours and interesting surrounds that others have.
Starting gradually back to the clubhouse along the fence to its left, the 7th hole is a 468m par 5 that plays to a punchbowl fairway that may be a result of containment from the road, but doesn't offend. It turns on a slight right hand indicator short of the green, asking the player looking to get on the deck in two, to shape their ball without strangling the shot. The aerial route is quite wide and open enough, as is the thinned tree boundary along the latter right, and works fine.
The 8th is a 174m hole and plays in the same direction up the slightest of rises, with the green ledged seamlessly into a slight ridge with the higher mounding to the front left repelling a weak effort. We head to the 9th hole, which is a strong test at 360 metres and, though wide, has a rolling fairway that requires the golfer to have a good look up before firing away so as to get a proper feel for the lie of the land and where the ball will move upon landing. The second into a larger than average green with a gentle tier and hollows carved subtly all around its right side is adequate but nothing special.
The Back Nine
The back nine starts with a shorter uphill par 3 with a very small green considering it is pushed up and perched atop the rise from the clubhouse. Challenging sure, but it achieves its difficulty through a small green area rather than through any clever design. Hole 11 runs from here along the back boundary until it meets the second tee, and is a similarly interesting and enjoyable hole. Straight, and at just 426m, it isn't a challenge for the long hitters. The fairway twists and turns on itself with natural small fault lines and ledges throughout, preventing a number of opportunities for a flat lie and a deceptive look of reduced width similar to the 9th hole, made even more telling by the boundary fence down the left.
The second (or third) shot plays to a green, which drains to the right and feeds a bunker just short of the green or behind the trap down the slope, whilst the risky left edge near OOB will feed towards the putting surface if you dare take on the penalty of hitting it onto a housing block.
After the 12th heads out towards the end of the property again and finishes with a figure eight green banked throughout the back half, we have the more mundane 13th and 14th holes.
The 13th heads out through the narrowest chute through a thick forest of mature trees, making it a little one dimensional, the shortish and narrow 14th attempts to look interesting along contour cut fairways but achieves much less. The 150 metre, 15th is a visually appealing and more interesting hole, with twin bunkers and a wider than usual green adding a different dimension and mixing things up a little.
The 16th is the only par 4 over 365m and sits at around 390 metres, and though it has a plain green and a generous landing area closer to the green, it is still a pleasant change being the longest second shot outside of the par 5s on the course. The 17th is shorter and, aside from the oddity of the rough bunker in the left centre of the fairway, is a solid penultimate test which will give up a birdie to good play but can also snatch a par opportunity away from you if you are not careful. The grand 470m 18th majestically marches its way back to the clubhouse and came with a great sense of occasion, like it knew its place and importance in the round.
I'll definitely be back. Being saddled up on a veranda over a Pinks Beach sunset with a pair of 5kg crays is enough to ensure that. But I am also really looking forward to seeing the future metamorphosis of the course and club, a progressive thinking committee in what is currently a very progressive and fast growing town. Currently, South Australia has its green triangle of Millicent, Naracoorte with Mount Gambier ably backing up the first two. When Kingston's new course work is completed, it could be the automatic next choice and would make for an excellent stop on any golfing itinerary.