SOME people meditate to relax. Others prefer yoga.
An alternative method we discovered is swinging by The Vintage in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, for it is here that your heart rate drops, the wine cork pops and the good times (and putts) roll.
There’s something to be said about a course that welcomes you with open arms. In a world where attracting clientele to your course is an ongoing battle, the friendly folk at The Vintage are onto a winner.
Despite being a prestigious Greg Norman-designed layout ranked No.45 in the country, knee-high socks and rule Nazis hold no place at this 18-hole championship course. Instead, they are replaced with young kids having the time of their lives outside on the club’s endless lawns, clinking wine glasses echoing off the clubhouse verandah and passing confetti showers blowing in from the onsite chapel where hundreds celebrate the most important day of their lives.
This is indeed a club that caters for everyone, yet does so without losing its true and original identity, that being one of the country’s premier resort golf courses.
Vintage Norman From the First Tee
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.
The par-4 second, another short hole with a sharp dogleg to the right, demands two accurate iron shots to a funky green sandwiched in between thick forest. Two holes later it’s another short dogleg, this time to the left, highlighted by an approach to an elevated green guarded by deep bunkering. The par-5 seventh takes you on a viticulture tour, up a steep hill from the tee and then down it all the way to a slippery left-to-right sloping green. Miss the fairway or green left and your ball could end up in the neighbouring winery’s next ‘vintage’.
Architecturally, the highlight of the round arrives at No.8, the 194m par 3 that’s rated by legendary club pro Richard Mercer as one of the finest par 3s in the world. It’s a beauty, if not a beast. The secret here is to not be too greedy – aim for the middle of the green, take the water on the right and bunkers left out of play, settle for two good putts and sprint to the next tee minus any damage to your scorecard or ego. Job done and a well earned halfway refreshment lay waiting just around the corner.
The Back Nine
The two standout features of The Vintage’s closing nine are variety and course conditioning. Norman is economical in his spread of long, short, straight and doglegged holes, while there is a solid mixture of brutal and forgiving green complexes. Water hazards have also been used sparingly to good effect. Long hitters will thrive on the short and driveable par 4s, but will be forced to risk it all when going for the par 5s in two. The par 3s level the field as each of the two (12 and 17) have water in sight that demands solid iron strikes from every golfer.
The course conditioning should also be commended. Lush green couch fairways inspire confidence on approach shots, but are hard enough to provide sufficient run from the tee. The rugged bunkers are a signature of Norman’s ethos – tall and intimidating but with an ideal amount of sand to reward solid strikes.
And You Thought the Golf Was Good…
If you haven’t experienced The Legends Grill at The Vintage, you haven’t indulged in the best the Hunter has to offer. Spearheaded by executive chef Tony Maher, the club restaurant can lay claim to being one of the best in the country, offering a specialty menu matched with award winning Hunter Valley wines. Fresh oysters, scallops and pork belly are just a sample of the culinary delights on offer for your entrée, all inspired by local seasonal produce under the watchful eye of Maher. Then it’s into the grill. Eye fillet, scotch fillet, T-bone, skewered lamb … all matched with the best local drop. Sublime. Then it’s off to the brand new whiskey lounge for a nightcap, or two. Relaxed yet?
Put Your Feet Up
After a hard day’s golf on Australia’s No.45-ranked course, the Chateu Elan may be one of the most comfortable night’s sleep you’ll experience in any hotel. Each room at the Chateu Elan boasts a luxury bed designed by renowned Australian bedmaker A.H. Beard. Depending on your budget, there are several accommodation options. The Destination Spa complex has 20 spa suites, while next door there are three types of villas overlooking the 10th fairway. King rooms provide an open-plan bedroom, living space plus ensuite bathroom with spa bath. One-bedroom villas are larger, with separate bedroom, dining area and kitchen. King rooms and one-bedroom villas can also be co-joined to create two-bedroom villas for groups and families. All rooms have balconies or terraces overlooking the course and Hunter surrounds. Five spa suites have a screened sanctuary courtyard for guests who want absolute seclusion.
Love and Marriage
The Château Élan may have three ceremony venues and two reception rooms in a picturesque Hunter setting, but there’s a common theme among weddings here: elegance. The popular choice for wedding ceremonies is the Carriage House, and for good reason – there’s nothing quite like saying “I do” in a beautiful chapel constructed of sandstone blocks rescued from an 1834 Hunter Valley homestead. An outdoor garden wedding is just as charming, with the Fairway option allowing happy couples to walk down a path of rose petals onto manicured greens beside The Vintage’s 18th tee, while the Summerhouse gazebo provides a gentle amphitheatre beside the 10th tee – and truly spectacular backdrop. The Vintage’s wedding team will provide a special reception in either the Barrington or Founders rooms.
Business Mixed with Pleasure
Corporate or social golf groups are a specialty at The Vintage, whose friendly staff is on hand to professionally manage your day from start to finish. The dedicated golf group coordinator will take care of all your requirements and preparations for the day, as well as signage, food and beverage requirements. They’ll even organise awards. Function rooms, with menus tailored to suit your requirements, are on hand for conferences and meetings, all just seconds from the first tee.
The Vintage & Chateau Elan
Vintage Drive, Rothbury, NSW 2320
Pro shop open 7 days a week from 7am to 6pm.
For booking enquiries, call (02) 4998 2208 or email [email protected]