Rosemary Bennetts is one of a kind… the only person in South Australia, and possibly Australia who privately owns and runs an 18-hole championship golf course by herself.
Incredibly, she does it part-time. The days she is not performing the role as a secretary/manager of the Fleurieu Golf Course at Mount Compass she is a podiatrist at McLaren Vale and Seaford.
Adding to the uniqueness is that it has become a golf club that doesn’t have a club as such – it changed from membership controlled to a management committee structure, and it works well. As Rosemary says, it’s one less meeting to attend.
And perhaps most remarkable of all is that, in the 21 years she has worked here, including the past five as owner/operator, Rosemary has played just one round of golf on this course – in 1999. Yet, unlike most golfers, she hasn’t embellished the scorecard details because there wasn’t one. It was an average round, she says, but if you haven’t guessed by now, she is not your average golf person.
Given her workload, indeed the pressures that come with running your own business including being time poor, Rosemary admits to having days when she questions why on earth she does all of this work at the course.
She smiles, and says: “I also have those days when I am a podiatrist, and I also do that because I love it. If I’m here at the course and I think I’ve had enough I only need to look out the window and look at the golf course. I see the challenge and I dream again. It’s always about the dream; the potential of being able to make this the best golf course in South Australia.
“It’s not about the money; it never has been. It’s the achievement of it all, and who knows, one day I am going to go out there and play this course again. I guess above everything, it is carrying on dad’s legacy; I am so proud of him.”
And Rosemary’s dear dad, Alan, who at 88 still comes into the clubhouse and has an enthralling game of bridge with his mates, is obviously incredibly proud of her too.
Alan created the venture after South Australian professional golfing great Brian Crafter visited his sand quarry business in the early 1990s to purchase sand for bunkers at Regency Park golf course, which Brian then managed. He turned to Alan and said: “What a great site for a golf course.”
Brian died in 1994 and never saw his vision, but largely in his honour Alan teamed with Brian’s son, Neil, a golf course architect, to finish the project. By 1997 the front nine was completed and the closing nine unveiled a year later – with the course and clubhouse officially opened by Brian’s daughter Jane, also a professional golfer. The Crafter name continued with Murray’s son Peter as the club professional, but last year he too sadly he too passed away.
Rosemary recalled how the theory was to build this course and by the mid-90s sell it off to the Japanese. “Everything took longer and longer to get approved, and meanwhile the Japanese market fell over,” she said.
It has really been a Japanese consortium’s loss because this brilliant par-72 course spread over 400 acres was listed among Golf Australia’s Top 100 Public Access courses in the nation, securing an impressive 87th spot.
Significantly, it is far more than just a beautiful golf course, one that can unleash its fury in the threatening soul-destroying strings of bunkers; the entire complex is a strategic asset to the entire town.
If Rosemary’s role as a sole owner/operator of a golf course wasn’t unique enough, Alan installed the first-ever privately-owned sewerage treatment plant in South Australia to service a stunning subdivision that he created. The plant took three years to get approved because no one else had ran anything like this – at that stage it was always done by the EW&S Department. The council has since taken it over and has connected the whole town to the system.
As well as this, all of the storm water goes into the lakes system on the course, and the Fleurieu Golf Course – or Rosemary – supplies the fresh water to the sub-division, charging the same rate for the water as the normal provider, SA Water.
It really is a unique golf course, and in somewhat of an unintentional understatement, Rosemary described her dad as “a man of vision”. Now it is her baby, as she describes the course, and there is no letting up in making this Mount Compass gem an even bigger player on the golf circuit.
“The original concept was always to have a motel and convention centre built at the southern end of the course,” Rosemary said. “It was approved. We still have the power, water and sewerage on the site ready to go.
“We are looking at building accommodation cabins. We have adjusted the plans and we hope to start work next year.”
The project includes two blocks of two bedroom units – 12 units in total – in a little hollow on the course.
Further adding to this overall project is the stunning club facility, which incorporates the Eagles Nest Restaurant and the Belo Brazil Charcoal BBQ created by Rosemary, stemming from her amazing experience living in Brazil as a Rotary Exchange student throughout 1969, and returning there five years later.
The succulent meats on rotating skewers over a pit of hot coals in the kitchen are a ‘must have’ on the culinary bucket list. They offer sensational tenderness and flavour; something special and different to the norm. But then, this is what the Fleurieu Golf Course has always been about; being unique. You must experience it one day; just don’t expect to see Rosemary reaching for her driver on the tenth tee.