The Vintage Golf Club

The 11th hole at The Vintage, Brendan James

Hunter Valley semillon, with its zesty aromas and flavours, is sometimes described by wine experts as ‘Australia’s wine gift to the world’. Its appeal also lies in its capacity to age well. The same could be said of the best golf course in the Hunter Valley, appropriately named The Vintage Golf Club.

Located a couple of hours north of Sydney, The Vintage took nearly two decades to create. Since opening for play in 2003, it has been satisfying golfers’ palates with its mix of challenging holes and beautifully manicured playing surfaces. Ranked among the best 50 courses in Australia, it is the home of the New South Wales Open.

Designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison, the land where the par-72 layout now lies was first earmarked for a championship course in 1983. It was not until 2000 that heavyweight financial backing was secured and the $450 million golf resort and residential community became a reality. The significant budget meant the best possible holes could be extracted from a landscape that varies between relatively flat and dramatically undulating. Where possible, native trees on the property were kept, and several small creeks and waterholes were incorporated into the course routing, which follows the traditional two loops of nine holes.

A fine example of natural design comes early in the round at the 2nd: a 356-metre, par-four, L-shaped dogleg-right, bordered by stands of casuarina trees on both sides. Good strategy, rather than long hitting, is needed here to position your drive and leave yourself an unobstructed view of the green, which is surrounded by trees and bunkers.

The bunkers are a memorable feature of any round at The Vintage. Not only are they a hazard to the golfer but their aesthetic appeal is breathtaking. Norman and Harrison are devotees of Dr Alister MacKenzie, and it really does show, with the bunkers blending beautifully with the landscape.

The presence of several short par-fours goes against the worldwide trend of designing longer courses to combat advances in technology. There are four bigpar-fours of between 390 and 410 metres, plus a 562-metre par-five, yet four further par-fours come in at under 330 metres. Two of this writer’s favourite holes at The Vintage sit at either end of the spectrum. The 562-metre, par-five 10th is the longest hole but the first two-thirds of its fairway are downhill. The remainder is dominated by a lake to the left and a steep slope that rises to a green lying just beyond a cliff, and overlooking the lake, protected by a bunker to the right and a large rocky mound to the left. At 331 metres, there is nothing too gruelling about the journey from tee to green on the par-four 13th. But you must be accurate and avoid the scheme of seven bunkers sitting to the right of the ideal landing zone for your drive. They look more intimidating than they are. In its first few years The Vintage gained a reputation for being a brutish challenge, especially for high handicappers and casual players. Several areas of thick rough have since been cleared and some fairways widened, making the layout fairer for players of all standards.

Memorable holes

3rd, 7th, 8th, 10th, 15th and 18th

Where to go

Vintage Dr, Rothbury, NSW 2320

Book a round

(02) 4998 2208

Where to stay

The Vintage has three accommodation options on-site: the recently opened fi ve-star Chateau Elan spa, the deluxe Grand Mercure Apartments and luxury rental homes.

Before/after your round

No visit to The Vintage is complete without going on a wine tour of the surrounding Hunter Valley vineyards. There are dozens of cellar doors in the immediate area, including Bimbadgen Estate (next door to the course), Brokenwood, De Bortoli, Hungerford Hill, McGuigan’s and Tempus Two. During the warmer months the valley comes alive with concert performances at selected wineries. Recent acts have included Fleetwood Mac, Cliff Richard, Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis and Rob Thomas.

comments powered by Disqus