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.
Naturally when you think of spectacular golf, America’s Monterey Peninsula or the windswept links of Northern Ireland spring to mind. But what if we told you the land Down Under now boasts 13 courses inside Golf Digest’s World 100 Greatest Golf Courses ranking, many of which hug some of the most dramatic coastline on the planet?
OK, so you’re a lover of fine wine and just the thought of Bordeaux or Tuscany puts tingles on your palate, right? Well, did you know Australia just had 21 of its labels make the cut in the Association of Wine Writers and Journalists’ Top 200 global listing? TWENTY-ONE!
And, like the advertisements, if you picture Australia’s foodie scene being limited to a shrimp on the barbie, take a seat and brace yourself for a lesson in gastronomy. British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal insists the food culture here is unrivalled and something the rest of the world should replicate.
“Australia is a paradox,” he told ABC News Breakfast recently. “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.”
But back on the wine, and its extraordinary synergy with the gentleman’s game that has made it one of the great bucket-list items for Aussie-bound travellers. “It’s hard to think of two more compatible bedfellows,” says former Australian tour pro-turned 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 Greg Norman, Karrie Webb, Peter Thomson, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman call home.
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
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. Even outside of this core elite, there are numerous other layouts, including Flinders Golf Club, that provide a high-quality golf experience.
Five-time 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. ‘Thommo’ 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. The Aussie legend ranks the 185-metre 17th hole on the Open course “one of the greatest par-3 holes in the world” and says the Open layout gives club handicappers “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 this peninsula offers. 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.
Our suggestion: Take a swing on the three exceptional courses of the National Golf Club, or the additional two courses at the nearby Moonah Links Golf Club. Also try the coastal course in Flinders or enjoy the carnival atmosphere of the Portsea Cascade Pro-Am in January. When the golfing is done, stay at Jackalope, Gourmet Traveller Hotel Awards’ Hotel of the Year for 2017. Set on a pristine property amid the world-renowned Mornington Peninsula wine region, 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 the room’s contemporary design with its country entwine. It’s also the perfect partner for nearby Montalto restaurant, which is only 10 minutes away.
Adelaide & the Barossa Valley
One of the wine capitals of the world and famous for its top-shelf reds out of the nearby Barossa Valley, Adelaide could be one of the most underrated golf destinations anywhere. Home to one of the most iconic drops on the planet, Penfolds Grange, and littered with other international best-sellers including Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz, working your way through the region’s award-winning vineyards will invariably lead you to some equally-as-impressive golf. The locals call them the ‘Big Four’ and you’ll soon see why when you take on World No.85 Royal Adelaide Golf Club, Kooyonga, Glenelg and The Grange (East and West courses) – old-school architecture mixed with some modern finishing, right in the heart of the City of Churches. While the golf offering down the road in the Barossa region isn’t trumpeted, there are still two enjoyable layouts to experience. Both Tanunda Pines and the Barossa Valley Golf Club offer tranquil settings and convenient access to accommodation and amenities, with tee times generally available during weekdays. In the Barossa, you really can have your cake and eat it, too.
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 Jacobs Creek are just a few well-known brands, but the Barossa is also a hotbed for innovative small producers. With more than 150 in the region, there is a wine here to satisfy both the purist and the adventurer. Be sure to seek out the likes of d’Arenberg, Seppeltsfield, St Hugo, The Lane and Wirra Wirra on your travels.
The Barossa is home to a number of outstanding restaurants. FermentAsian delivers both 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.
Our suggestion: Adelaide is serving up a new concept in golf, combining four of Australia’s finest courses with four of the world’s best wines. “Four Reds” continues the time-honoured tradition of matching exquisite courses with fine wines. You’ll take on four of the most prestigious private golf 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. It really is a must!
New South Wales Hunter Valley
It is hard to beat the New South Wales Hunter Valley with regard to 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 Country Club, visitors are able to waste little time getting into the swing of cellar door tastings ‘apres 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 you to know this was his work before you even push your tee into the ground on the short par-4 first hole. A quick glance towards the green reveals an intimidating tree in the middle of the fairway. It’s a classic Norman-design trademark, put there to toy with your mind, urge you to club up and go over, instead of around. It’s one of a collection of holes on the opening nine that give you the 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 on their day.
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, while 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. There, you can enjoy Hunter Valley Semillon or Mudgee Shiraz, or even the trophy-winning Orange region merlot and luscious Liqueur Muscat. If you are happy to drive a little farther, 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.
Our suggestion: There’s no better time to take in the delights of Australia’s premium wine-growing region than 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, and offers the perfect journey of discovery through the stunning region. From incredible gourmet dinners at award-winning restaurants to vineyard tours, winemaking masterclasses, hands-on cooking classes 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 foot hill of the Brokenback Mountain Ranges, and is a true must-see site of the Hunter Valley.
Tasmania & the Tamar Valley
Tucked away in the Bass Strait off the bottom of Australia, Tasmania rose to fame on the back of its world-class cheeses, wines and chocolate. “Tassie” is also home to the breweries of some of Australia’s most iconic beer labels, including Cascade and Boags, and is populated by several boutique whisky distilleries – perfect for those who love a post-round relaxant.
But make no mistake: golf rules 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 that began with the emergence of the original Barnbougle Dunes course 13 years ago has gathered and spread. 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 you’ll be talking about for a while. 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 (26) and the newly opened Ocean Dunes, which is a certainty to make the next world’s top 100 ranking. Bring your camera – and plenty of balls – because this is going to be fun.
Golf & Wine: It’s fair to say the experience is weighted a little more in favour of the golf enthusiast, but once you find your way to Tasmania, numerous options open up, beginning with access to the Tamar Valley and its charming, cool climate wines. Take the wine route back to Launceston, stopping along the way to try the likes of Delamere, Clover Hill and Holm Oak, and remember before you leave 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 their offering. Since opening its doors 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 portion of Hobart is also a terrific place to while away a few hours, exploring the markets, distilleries and more. Whatever you do, 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 you dine on the Upper or Lower deck, it’s a can’t-miss experience.
Our suggestion: Check out MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art. It’s one of the most talked about tourism attraction in Australia and is every bit 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, yes, the rumours are true. It does have a wall of vaginas and a human dummy digesting then defecating food! While you’re there, be sure to check out MONA’s very own winery, Moorilla. From estate-grown fruit, its ultra-premium wines are made using small-batch winemaking techniques in gravity-assisted winery.
Western Australia’s Golf Coast & Margaret River
Western Australia has an over-abundance of excellent golf courses. From the resorts of northern Perth through the sequence of coastal gems near Mandurah to the Busselton and Dunsborough region further south 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.
They call it the Golf Coast, such is the game’s abundance across the strip of land around Mandurah, one of the fastest growing areas in the nation. Several of the best architects in golf have utilised their great skills in delivering four courses ranked within Australian Golf Digest’s Top-100 Courses.
Links Kennedy Bay is a slice of links terrain in an antipodean location. Pot bunkers dot the layout and the landform has an uncanny and infuriating knack of pushing bounding balls towards these circles of doom.
A short drive south is Secret Harbour Golf Links, an underrated Graham Marsh design offering contrasting nines. For golfers who’ve been to ‘Secrets’ before but not for a while, the club switched the two nines a few years ago in a bid to improve the pace of play – and the move dropped playing times by eight minutes. The flip also placed one of the best holes at the business end of the round, with the 173m par-3 17th now a white-knuckle moment late in the game.
Linked to Joondalup Resort is the state’s other Robert Trent Jones Jnr-designed layout, Meadow Springs Golf & Country Club. There are Joondalup-like traits at RTJ Jnr’s southern design, although Meadow Springs is a more restrained expression of his architectural nous. Still, this is hardly a sedate layout. The architect loves to frame his holes in a variety of ways and the bunkering, use of water hazards and array of huge tuart trees perform the task expertly across the 18 holes.
Among the newer additions to WA golf is The Cut Golf Course at Dawesville, south of Mandurah. Another past PGA Tour of Australasia venue, the 12-year-old layout is highlighted by an outstanding stretch of holes flanking the Indian Ocean. A section of the front nine meanders through a housing estate, but outside these holes is a series of mighty challenges amid spectacular landforms.
Food & Wine: It is hard not to have a serious soft spot for Margaret River. Peaceful, beautiful, scenic, with pristine beaches, it has an x-factor that sets it apart. And that’s before you begin to explore the wine offering, which these days includes many of Australia’s very best cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. For chardonnay, look to Pierro, Cullen, Voyager and Fraser Gallop, but this is a stunning category in Margaret River and there are another 15 to 20 producers worthy of mention. For the pinnacle of cabernet sauvignon, look to Woodlands and Cullen for fine, ageworthy examples. Golf isn’t front of mind here, but you can still mix and match and find some quality layouts in Margaret River Golf Club and Dunsborough Lakes. Head farther north however and golfing heaven awaits, with courses like Secret Harbour, The Cut and Links Kennedy Bay that can be worked into a schedule that incorporates the three-hour drive between Perth and Margaret River.
Our suggestion: Golfers never forget the first time they set eyes upon Kalgoorlie Golf Course. The combination of jaw-dropping vistas and a deep sense of Australian heritage never fails to excite the golfers before they even step foot onto the first tee. To get the most out of your visit to Australia’s largest outback city, a little research on the West Australian goldfields will make your trip that much more special. This place was literally a goldmine back in the day, and still is now, particularly for golfers. At first, the golfer’s visual sense tingles looking at each hole surrounded by red ochre sand and dirt. The juxtaposition of beautiful green couch fairways and vast red sand (left as natural as designer Graham Marsh could afford), in addition to towering wattle and gum trees, is on the right side of overwhelming. Depending on your tee time and cloud coverage, the sky can add a dramatic backdrop to your round and makes for an incredible photograph. You may never play a course like this ever again!
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 and to book your holiday head to playgolfaustralia.com
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.
To book the ultimate golf and wine experience you can contact Play Golf Australia who can plan a trip around your personal needs playgolfaustralia.com
Peter Thomson Drive, Fingal VIC 3939
International guest rates: From $AU90 (18 holes)
Phone: +61 3 5988 2047
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
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:
- Complete your Incoming Passenger Card while you are on the aircraft – this will save you time when you land.
- Have your passport and completed Incoming Passenger Card ready to give to a Customs officer at all times.
- 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 this guide (this includes golf clubs and shoes!)
- Make sure you know Customs duty-free allowances before you go shopping (don’t overstock on wine!) For more information, visit Australian Customs Service online at www.customs.gov.au
To book your ultimate wine and golf holiday in Australia head to www.playgolfaustralia.com