It is hard to imagine this beautiful complex that is The Grange Golf Club with its twin championship courses was once land found unsuitable for agricultural purposes. The entire suburb of West Lakes, with The Grange being on the southern boundary, is reclaimed land that was once a massive sandy swamp the home of snakes and mosquitoes. The Grange had been established some 40 years before the full two courses were completed but it is living proof of what has been achieved in this area. Today The Grange may well be called the ‘Jewel’ and West Lakes the ‘Crown’.
Golf was first played on this land in 1910 by the McCoy family who owned an estate named ‘The Pinery’, the homestead of which formed part of the original Clubhouse / Pro-Shop. The McCoys had 3 wooden Clubs and 2 leather balls and by putting jam tins in the area which today is the 1st, 2nd, 10th and 18th of the West Course were able to arouse the interest of other youngsters in the game of Golf. The family would also go yachting and boating on a lake that covered an area which today is the car park.
After World War I land in this area was made available to soldier settlers for farming and such, but the soil was too sandy and would not yield crops. In 1926 some 120 acres became available for lease and, knowing that this land was similar to the land that links courses are built on, local golfers held a meeting in the Institute Hall of the nearby suburb of Kirkcaldy to discuss and draw up plans for the formation of a Golf Club. A Committee was elected and empowered to do whatever was necessary to lease the land and develop a golf course. Like most early Golf Clubs the work was carried out by the members holding working bees. Play commenced in 1927 on 13 completed though still rough holes. The greens were not mature enough at this stage to sink holes into so 12″iron rings were pushed into the surface. When you are lining up your putt on today’s beautiful greens you may well wish that this was 1927.
The original membership had been placed at 200 but this was exceeded by 1930 with a full membership of 111 and a further 97 being made up of Associates and Juniors. The annual subscription was 5 Guineas ($10.50) and revenue for the year was 900 ($1,800.00). 1929 had seen the appointment of Alf Toogood as resident Professional who was paid 3 ($6.00) a week plus sales of golfing equipment and teaching. His son Peter, was to become one of Australia’s greatest amateur golfers, was born here in 1930.
By 1932 the depressed state of the economy had left the Club with just 82 members but it had a Committee of very ambitious people who handled the Club’s finances so well that in 1934 they were able to negotiate with the Government to purchase the land on lease for 3,500, to be repaid over 35 years at an annual rate of 200. One member took up the role of Honorary Secretary in 1932 and was to hold that position until 1947 for which he received a small honorarium plus a drink at the expense of the members.
After the war an additional 45 acres was purchased and a further 103 acres obtained from the Government on perpetual lease. In the mid 50s Vern Morcom, the Victorian Golf Architect, was commissioned to redesign the course which he did with fervor. As well as alterations to most fairways, 18 greens and 18 tees were completely renewed. While the work on the new course was progressing, and despite some opposition, a general meeting of members approved the Committee’s plan to construct a second course on the eastern side of the existing course and also make constructional alterations to the clubhouse. It was decided that raise the finance required the club would increase the membership and, in addition to normal fees, the new members would be required to take out a $400 debenture. When this was put to the potential members the response was tremendous. A further meeting of members was called and it was decided that with the extra revenue now available, plans to alter the existing clubhouse be abandoned and a new clubhouse be constructed. The beautiful clubhouse now enjoyed by the members is the result of that meeting and today the complete membership of The Grange Golf Club is in excess of 2,500.
Vern Morcom was called in yet again to design the new course and the ‘East’ course, as it was to be known, opened in May 1967. It was to take some time to develop the course aesthetically but remember that this was land that had been deemed unsuitable for agricultural purposes just 40 years earlier. Bill Dunk, who has broken more course records in Australia than any other golfer, was to name the East Course in his ten most favourite Australian courses. However its greatest claim to fame occurred over four days in October 1976.
The West Lakes Classic was the first major tournament on the Spring circuit and the $35,000 purse had attracted all of Australia’s top golfers. From their homes in America came David Graham, Bruce Crampton and Bruce Devlin along with Graham Marsh, Jack Newton, Billy Dunk and the previous years winner Bob Shearer. Among the huge field of outsiders was a 21 year old from Queensland in his final year as a trainee professional golfer, Greg Norman, who had been playing golf just six years. He was drawn to play, late in the field, with Bruce Crampton and just before they went to the tee it was announced that John Clifford from Perth had set a new course record of 67. By later afternoon Clifford’s record had been shattered when Norman came in with a 64. It is now a part of golfing history that Greg Norman’s first major tournament win was on the East Course at The Grange when he became an overnight celebrity.
Two years later in 1978 another Queenslander, Wayne Grady scored his first tournament win by taking out the West Lakes Classic. It is now part of golfing history that these two players have gone on to win “Majors”in world golf. The 1992 Australian Junior Championship was played on the East Course and was the first 72 hole victory for Stuart Appleby, who has since won the Australian Open and scored victories on the demanding US Tour.
For a course to be constantly named among the top courses in Australia it must be kept in immaculate condition and the man initially responsible for this was Frank Neighbour who was the Head Greenkeeper for more than 20 years. Today the Head Greenkeeper is Richard James who heads up a team of over 20 staff. The Resident Professional from 1969 to 2001 was John Burton who’s shop was part of the original Pinery homestead. Today’s Professional is Warren Mercer. The Professional Shop has been completely rebuilt and the new shop is well worth a visit.
The interior of the clubhouse was upgraded in 1995 to the condition it is in today, while the exterior of the clubhouse has recently been renovated with a new design that blends in with the recently build Professional Shop.
The members of The Grange Golf Club set out to build a golf course that would equal the best there was to offer in South Australia. That has been well and truly achieved. Many champion golfers have enjoyed the challenge of The Grange. We hope as you play this magnificent but challenging layout that some of the magic that Greg Norman found rubs off on you.