Coober Pedy Golf Club: All Class but No Grass

The Coober Pedy Golf Club may appear to be a grassless, outback golf course haphazardly fashioned from quarry dust, sump oil and sandstone grit, but it can boast of a distinction claimed by no other golf club on Planet Earth – reciprocal playing rights at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Coober Pedy Golf Club
Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club
Old Course, St Andrews | Standrewslinks [CC BY-SA]

Coober Pedy can be found along the Stuart Highway, eight hundred and fifty kilometres north of Adelaide. Driving into town, you are confronted by a dystopian  scene. Where are the people? Where do they live and work? Notionally, four thousand live there, but there are relatively few to be seen.

Most of the action – mining, banking, retail, hotels and hospitality, religious observance and residential life – takes place underground where things are much cooler.

The dugouts of Coober Pedy are astonishing. Many are extensive and luxurious [1], but above ground, it’s like a post apocalyptic scene from ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’, an appropriate description because the move was filmed there, as were several other movies of a similar genre.

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Established in 1976, on scorched wasteland adjoining the Coober Pedy Racing Club, the Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club was originally designed as a nine hole course with an abandoned shed for a club house. The course was extended to eighteen holes in 1996.

Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club is a singular golf course with bespoke features, sufficient to have left an enduring impression on the trustees at St Andrews.

Putting surfaces, called scrapes, are formed from quarry dust mixed with waste engine oil, and grass is not allowed to grow on the fairways which are dressed with finely crushed local sandstone.

Kim Kelly, past president of the Coober Pedy Golf Club got to know Alan McGregor, General Manager of St Andrews, during a satellite interview organised a by a documentary filmmaker in 2003.

Throughout the interview, Kelly persistently requested reciprocal playing rights. In the end, McGregor suggested that this might be possible if he were given an opal mine. Kelly staked a claim immediately and forwarded photos, a DYI guide and some opals to St Andrews.

Reciprocal playing rights were granted but limited to the Old Course at St Andrews,  in winter. Still, in the long history of St Andrews, no such privilege has ever been granted to another golf club.

McGregor emphasised the importance of the new arrangement when he wrote: “I cannot describe how delighted we are. . . . The trustees were completely speechless, probably in admiration[2].”

We urge you not to miss out on the opportunity to rub shoulders with the social elite at Coober Pedy and play a round at St Andrews. Join the Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club. Full membership costs $75.00.

– Download the membership application here –


1. The Australian Opal. (2020). Some Fun Facts About Opals. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jan. 2020].

2. The Australian Opal. (2020). The Coober Pedy Golf Club and St Andrews. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jan. 2020].

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