There’s never been a better time to challenge the greens and taste the reds in the land Down Under.
IF THE iconic white beaches, stunning natural landmarks and, well, unusual wildlife hasn’t persuaded you to jump on a plane to Australia – like 8.7 million people around the globe did in 2017 – what you are about to learn may prove too tempting to resist.
When you think of spectacular golf, America’s Monterey Peninsula or the windswept links of Northern Ireland spring to mind. But it may surprise that Australia now boasts 13 courses inside Golf Digest’s World 100 Greatest Golf Courses, many of which hug some of the most dramatic coastline on the planet.
If you’re a lover of fine wine, just the thought of Bordeaux or Tuscany puts tingles on your palate. Well, Australia recently had 21 of its labels make the cut in the Association of Wine Writers and Journalists’ Top 200 global listing.
And, like the advertisements, if you picture Australia’s foodie scene being limited to a shrimp on the BBQ, take a seat and brace yourself for a lesson in gastronomy. British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal insists the food culture is unrivalled and something the rest of the world should replicate.
“Australia is a paradox,” he told ABC News Breakfast. “I have never seen the food scene, on the planet, explode like in Australia because you have not been strangulated with the measurable ‘better and best, right or wrong, you can’t eat this with this’. There is something in Australia that is a lesson for the rest of the world.”
Back to the wine, and its extraordinary synergy with the gentleman’s game has made it one of the great bucket-list items for Oz-bound travellers. “It’s hard to think of two more compatible bedfellows,” says tour pro/wine connoisseur Grant Dodd. “It is little surprise to see how the two interests have embraced each other geographically during the past two decades.”
So what makes the golf-and-wine experience Down Under so special? Furthermore, why should you experience it at your earliest convenience?
“Most of Australia’s key wine regions have outstanding golf courses in close proximity, offering the opportunity to cross pollinate the pastimes,” says Dodd, now a managing partner of an international wine company. “There is an embarrassment of riches for holidaying golfers looking to taste the finest Aussie drops when they’re not on the links.”
The bottom line, says Dodd, is wine-loving golfers looking for opportunities to combine their passions are spoilt for choice in Australia. “Few countries offer as many wine and golf regions so highly regarded by their respective worlds.”
Pack your bags and follow our guide on where to play and stay in the land Peter Thomson, Greg Norman, Karrie Webb, Adam Scott and Jason Day call home.
Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula
It used to be little more than a cluster of sleepy seaside towns and farms. Now, for finding a balance between golf and wine pursuits, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula takes first prize. It is the home of an extraordinary number of Australia’s Top 100 Courses, including three layouts at The National, St Andrews Beach, The Dunes, Moonah Links, Portsea and Sorrento. Outside of this core elite are numerous layouts like Flinders Golf Club that provide a high-quality golf experience.
Five-times British Open champion Peter Thomson says the Open course at Moonah Links is his magnum opus. It is high praise indeed given that Thomson has had direct involvement in the design of close to 500 layouts around the world. He also has a soft spot for the Open, or Championship, course because it was the first 18 holes built and prepared for a national championship.
“It is not every man’s casual stroll in the outdoors,” Thomson says in typical understated fashion. He ranks the 185-metre 17th hole on the Open course as “one of the greatest par-3 holes in the world” and says the layout gives club golfers “a whiff of what championship play is really like”. In truth, it’s one of about 30 courses you should experience when you visit the region.
Food & Wine
When golf is done, you’ll find yourself in the midst of one of Australia’s most exciting and vibrant wine regions. Pinot noir and chardonnay are the signature grape varieties, and both prosper in the cool-climate environment of the Mornington Peninsula. For some of the best versions of both, look to Yabby Lake, Eldridge Estate, Kooyong, Main Ridge and Montalto. Food is a particular asset of the Mornington. Ten Minutes by Tractor is generally recognised as the pinnacle of fine dining on the peninsula, with Veraison, Montalto and Paringa Estate just a few of those that make up an impressive following pack.
Take a swing on one of three exceptional courses at The National Golf Club or either of the superb 18-hole layouts at Moonah Links. Also, try the short coastal course at Flinders and, if timing permits, sample the carnival atmosphere of the Portsea Pro-Am in January. Stay at Jackalope, Gourmet Traveller’s Hotel of the Year for 2017. Set on a pristine property, an intoxicating vineyard acreage frames this luxury hotel. The 45 designer dens deliver absolute in-room reverie. Interiors are lavished with custom-made comforts, while floor-to-ceiling windows and private terraces connect each room’s contemporary design with the country entwine. It’s also the perfect partner for nearby Montalto restaurant, which is only 10 minutes away.
Adelaide & The Barossa Valley
With a reputation for its top-shelf reds out of the nearby Barossa Valley, Adelaide could be one of the most under-rated golf destinations anywhere in the world. The Barossa is home to the iconic Penfolds Grange and littered with international bestsellers such as Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz. Working through the region’s award-winning vineyards will invariably lead to some equally-as-impressive golf. The locals call them the ‘Big Four’ – world No.85 Royal Adelaide Golf Club, Kooyonga Golf Club, Glenelg Golf Club and The Grange Golf Club (East and West courses). They’re old-school architecture mixed with some modern finishing, right in the heart of the City of Churches. While the golf down the road in the Barossa region isn’t trumpeted, there are two layouts worth experiencing. Both Tanunda Pines and Barossa Valley Golf Club offer tranquil settings and convenient access to accommodation and amenities, with tee times generally available during weekdays.
Food & Wine
No wine enthusiast can leave the Barossa Valley off their ‘To Do’ list. The spiritual home of Australian wine contains a Who’s Who of vinous royalty. Penfolds, Henschke, Peter Lehmann, Yalumba, Rockford and Jacob’s Creek are just a few well-known brands. However, the Barossa is a hotbed for innovative small producers. With more than 150 vineyards in the region, there is a wine to satisfy the purist and the adventurer. Be sure to seek out the likes of d’Arenberg, Seppeltsfield, St Hugo, The Lane and Wirra Wirra.
The Barossa is home to a number of outstanding restaurants. FermentAsian delivers classy Asian-inspired food and a creative wine list, while Vintners Bar & Grill and Appellation continue to over-deliver after many years at the forefront of regional dining.
Adelaide is serving up a new concept in golf, combining four of Australia’s finest courses with four of the world’s best wines. As part of the ‘Four Reds’ experience, golfers take on four of the most prestigious private courses in Australia: Glenelg, Grange, Kooyonga and Royal Adelaide. At the end of each 18 holes, you’ll enjoy a bottle of specially paired premium wine along with a tasting plate sourced from the gourmet producers of South Australia. Four Reds offers holiday packages for three to six nights in Adelaide, including all course fees, transfers, accommodation and paired wine experiences.
New South Wales Hunter Valley
It is hard to beat the New South Wales Hunter Valley for sheer convenience when it comes to shifting between wine and golf pursuits. No wine region in Australia has as many quality courses as central and accessible. With less than 10 kilometres separating The Vintage, Cypress Lakes and Hunter Valley Golf, visitors are able to waste little time getting into the swing of cellar door tastings ‘après golf’.
With a golf course as brash and powerful as the man who co-designed it, The Vintage is ripe in all seasons. Greg Norman doesn’t mess around. He wanted golfers to know this was his work before you even push a tee into the ground on the short par-4 first hole. A glance towards the green reveals an intimidating tree in the middle of the fairway. It’s a Norman-design trademark, put there to toy with the mind, urging you to club up and go over, instead of around. It’s also one of a collection of holes on the opening nine that give a true Vintage experience – short, strategic par 4s, intimidating par 3s and a reachable par 5, all of which are dressed with superb bunkering, tight couch fairways and the best greens in the region.
Food & Wine
In the Hunter, there is no shortage of great cellar-door experiences. Of the more recognised names, Brokenwood, Tyrrell’s and Meerea Park offer impressive ranges and service. Slightly off the beaten track, De Iuliis, Thomas and Briar Ridge are well worth a visit for their high-quality semillon and shiraz. Gartelmann Wines has been given a James Halliday 5-star rating and its fantastic cellar door extends to the adjoining Deck Café, overlooking a picturesque bush setting. Enjoy its Hunter Valley Semillon or Mudgee Shiraz, or even the trophy-winning Orange-region merlot and the luscious liqueur muscat. A little farther away, a trip to Margan Wines in the village of Broke is recommended. Aside from excellent wines, the estate contains an expansive organic vegetable garden from which its acclaimed restaurant sources fresh produce. For dining options in the central Pokolbin area, try Muse, The Cellar and Bistro Molines.
There’s no better time to take in the delights of NSW’s premium wine-growing region than during the 2018 Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival. Spanning May and June, the festival showcases the epicurean pleasures of this iconic food and wine destination, offering a journey of discovery through the stunning region. From gourmet dinners at award-winning restaurants to vineyard tours, winemaking masterclasses, hands-on cooking courses and cosy evenings beside an open fire with friends, this event has something for everyone. Make sure you visit Audrey Wilkinson. Rated by Gourmet Traveller Wine as one of the Top 10 Cellar Doors in Australia, this place is perched atop a foothill of the Brokenback Mountain Ranges.
Tasmania & The Tamar Valley
Tucked away in the Bass Strait off the bottom of Australia, Tasmania rose to fame on the back of world-class cheeses, wines and chocolate. Tassie is also home to the breweries for two of Australia’s most iconic beer labels, Cascade and James Boag’s, and populated by several boutique whisky distilleries – perfect for those who love a post-round relaxant.
But make no mistake: golf rules the roost here. No other state in Australia has witnessed an evolution in its golf landscape since the turn of the millennium quite like Tasmania. The momentum began with the emergence of the original Barnbougle Dunes course 13 years ago. What was previously farmland or fallow ground now draws golfers from around the globe because tee markers and flagsticks were placed in strategic locations. Today, there are four absolute showstoppers. Tom Doak’s world No.11 masterpiece Barnbougle Dunes heads the list, but you’ll do well to split it with the jaw-dropping Cape Wickham Links (No.24), Lost Farm (No.26) and the newly opened Ocean Dunes. Bring your camera – and plenty of balls – because this is going to be fun.
Food & Wine
It’s fair to say the Tasmanian experience is weighted a little more in favour of the golf enthusiast without wanting to diminish the Tamar Valley and its charming, cool-climate wines. Take the wine route back from Barnbougle Dunes to Launceston, stopping along the way to try the likes of Delamere, Clover Hill and Holm Oak. Remember to book a table at Stillwater cafe for dinner – one of the very best dining experiences in the Apple Isle. Just down the road in Relbia, Joseph Chromy Wines is making some real noise with its offering. Since opening in 2007, the winery has amassed 14 trophies and 170 medals, making it one of the most successful launches in the history of the Tasmanian Wine Industry.
The waterfront precinct of Hobart is a terrific place to while away a few hours, exploring the markets, distilleries and more. Don’t miss out on a meal at Mures, a ‘hook to plate’ seafood restaurant that dominates the docklands dining sector. Mures incorporates a 76-foot long lining vessel, Diana, a processing factory and a range of gourmet seafood products. Whether on the Upper or Lower deck, it’s a can’t-miss experience.
Check out MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art. It’s one of the most talked about tourism attractions in Australia and is every bit as weird as it is wacky. Located on the river north of the Hobart CBD and accessible by road or ferry, MONA is a conglomeration of art, music, food, shopping and fun. It’s worth allocating at least half a day to wander round and soak in all the exhibitions and attractions. MONA is open every day of the week except Tuesdays – and the rumours are true. It does have a wall of vaginas and a human dummy that digests and then defecates food. Be sure to check out MONA’s very own winery, Moorilla. From estate-grown fruit, its ultra-premium drops are made using small-batch techniques in a gravity-assisted winery.
Western Australia’s Golf Coast & Margaret River
Western Australia has an overabundance of excellent golf courses. From the resorts of northern Perth through the sequence of coastal gems near Mandurah, and further south to the Busselton and Dunsborough region lie dozens of top-class layouts and a handful of unheralded tracks. Each is as diverse and potent as the Fremantle Doctor breezes that cool a summer’s day in the golden west.
Such is the game’s presence around Mandurah, one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia, that locals call it the ‘Golf Coast’. Links Kennedy Bay is a slice of links terrain in an antipodean location where pot bunkers have an uncanny knack of pushing balls towards these circles of doom. Secret Harbour Golf Links is an underrated Graham Marsh design offering contrasting nines. Meadow Springs Golf & Country Club is a more restrained expression of Robert Trent Jones Jr’s architectural nous that created Joondalup Resort in Perth. A relative newcomer is The Cut Golf Course at Dawesville, which is highlighted by an outstanding stretch of holes flanking the Indian Ocean. Farther south you can still find some interesting layouts at Margaret River Golf Club and Dunsborough Lakes.
Food & Wine
It’s hard not to have a serious soft spot for Margaret River three hours south of Perth. Peaceful, beautiful and scenic with pristine beaches, it has an X-factor that sets it apart. And that’s before exploring the wine offering, which these days includes some of Australia’s very best cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. For chardonnay, look to Pierro, Cullen, Voyager and Fraser Gallop. However, this is a stunning category in Margaret River and there are another 15-20 producers worthy of mention. For the pinnacle of cabernet sauvignon, look to Woodlands and Cullen for fine ageworthy examples.
Add a detour to Australia’s largest outback city of Kalgoorlie in the West Australian goldfields. A combination of jaw-dropping vistas and deep sense of Australian heritage never fails to excite golfers stepping onto the first tee at Kalgoorlie Golf Course. The rich red ochre dirt surrounding each hole is visually stimulating. And the juxtaposition with manicured green couch fairways, golden wattle and towering gum trees is on the right side of overwhelming. Depending on tee time and cloud coverage, the sky can add a dramatic backdrop to the round and makes for an incredible photograph.
How To Plan The Perfect Trip
Need more help to plan that perfect golf-and-wine holiday to Australia? Look no further than Great Golf Courses of Australia and Ultimate Winery Experiences of Australia (UWEA).
With these two online resources you can’t go wrong in preparing the ultimate Aussie itinerary.
Great Golf Courses of Australia is a comprehensive and centralised resource for visitors seeking access information on Australia’s leading golf courses and iconic golf tourism experiences. To tailor an experience to your interests and specific location, go to greatgolfaustralia.com.au.
UWEA is a hand-selected collection of Australia’s premium wineries offering quality vineyard experiences based around world-class wines, warm and knowledgeable hospitality and culinary excellence. The wineries are not simply venues to taste and purchase wine. They offer a memorable experience featuring quality restaurants, accommodation, tours, as well as exciting behind the scenes winery experiences. They allow visitors to interact with the product, the winemaker and enjoy first-hand, the rich diversity that Australia’s many wine regions have to offer. Visit ultimatewineryexperiences.com.au for more information.
Australian Border Security enforces strict biosecurity measures to prevent pests and disease from entering the country. You must ensure all your clubs and golf shoes (spikes/cleats) have been thoroughly cleaned of all grasses and soils before arrival as these are strictly prohibited.
The Australian Customs Service also recommends the following:
1. Complete your Incoming Passenger Card while you are on the aircraft – this will save time when you land.
2. Have your passport and completed Incoming Passenger Card ready to give to a Customs officer at all times.
3. Declare on your Incoming Passenger Card all drugs and medicines, food, plants and animal products or other items as listed in the restricted items section of the guide (this includes golf clubs and shoes)
4. Make sure you know Customs duty-free allowances before you go shopping (and don’t overstock on wine). For more information, visit Australian Customs Service online at www.customs.gov.au
Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula
NEW SOUTH WALES HUNTER VALLEY
Cypress Lakes Golf & Country Club
Cnr McDonalds and Thompsons Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320
International guest rates: From $AU85
Phone: +61 2 4993 1555
Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm
429 Waterhouse Rd, Bridport TAS 7262
International guest rates: Both courses $AU114 (18 holes); $AU145 (all day)
Phone: +61 3 6356 0094
WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S GOLF COAST
Joondalup Resort & Country Club
Country Club Boulevard, Connolly, WA 6027
International guest rates: From $99 (18 holes)
Phone: +61 8 9400 8888
Secret Harbour Golf Links
271 Secret Harbour Blvd, Secret Harbour, WA 6173
International guest rates: From $AU54 (18 holes)
Phone: +61 8 9524 7133