Exploring the wine trails of Victoria with golf clubs in tow is one of life’s great pleasures.
One of my favourite golf-travel memories took place a dozen or so years ago during a golf trip to the Murray River in late summer. After playing 18 holes at Corowa Golf Club in the morning, our group toured a collection of the leading wineries in the Rutherglen region. Sitting outside in the warm summer air, dissecting our rounds while sampling a range of magnificent reds and the fortified wines the Rutherglen is famous for, there are few better morning/afternoon combinations
when on tour.
Victoria is blessed with Australia’s best range of golf courses but also with a wide variety of wineries and grape-growing regions, each with a difference. Depending on the time of year and your appetite for championship courses, rural gems or anything in between, there’s a golf-and-wine combination in the Garden State to suit all blends.
Here is a collection of the best locations for pairing the two, including some must-stop-at wineries as chosen by our resident Wining Pro, former touring professional and vino expert Grant Dodd. – Steve Keipert
The most golf-laden peninsula in Australia forms part of the Pinot Coast that extends across Victoria’s entire south-east coastline. But before you start quaffing there is an array of world-class golf to be enjoyed. If you are able to secure a tee-time at The National Golf Club then do so, regardless of which of the three peninsula courses you play. Outside that, the double acts at Moonah Links and Rosebud represent magnificent 36-hole-a-thons, while St Andrews Beach, The Dunes, Portsea, Sorrento and the RACV Cape Schanck course join in to form the most potent collection of top-shelf golf destinations in the country. A word of advice: don’t overlook the seaside Flinders course, which presents a charming point of difference to the brawnier, Top 100-ranked layouts in the region.
The beauty of the Mornington Peninsula is strikingly obvious to all, yet the convenience factor can’t be overstated. So close to Melbourne yet feeling so far removed from the city, it is not hard to see why it has become such a desirable location to tour and – for many – a place to live.
Pinot Noir is the prevailing variety on the wine front, while the peninsula is home to more than 200 wineries, distilleries and breweries that are perfect diversions either on a rest day or after golf. Perhaps the most convenient post-round stop is St Andrews Beach Brewery, which sits opposite the entrance of the course of the same name. Whether you eat and drink before taking on the course or the other way around, it’s a combination that’s difficult to beat.
Grant Dodd’s must-see wineries: Paringa Estate, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Pt Leo Estate, Yabby Lake, Montalto.
Like the Mornington Peninsula, the quantity of golf on offer in the Rutherglen is particularly high. Familiar to so many for their playability, affordability and knack for drawing golfers back, the Murray River golf courses align perfectly with the wine region to form a compelling and tasty union. Much like the wine region, the golf options are numerous, making it difficult to narrow selections. Yarrawonga Mulwala is the granddaddy of them all with 45 holes, while Cobram Barooga and Tocumwal each have 36 holes and Corowa 27. And that collection omits Howlong, Thurgoona, Commercial Albury and arguably the pick of all the Murray courses – Black Bull – as well the slightly-farther-afield options at Rich River (which has 36 holes) and cluBarham.
It’s not difficult to see why Murray River golf trips tend to be lengthy ones – there’s a lot to take in if you’re willing to try it all. As a wine region, Rutherglen owns a reputation for its Durifs and Muscats, those treacle-like sweet varieties that trickle down the throat, as well as Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Zinfandel. It’s a collection of powerful flavours to match a power-packed golf destination.
Grant Dodd’s must-see wineries: Chambers Rosewood, Stanton & Killeen, Morris, Scion.
The north-eastern corner of Greater Melbourne has seen the arrival of a sneaky-high number of new golf courses in the past decade or two. The Heritage started the movement, first with one course and then two, and soon after Yering Meadows, Gardiners Run and most recently the relocated Eastern Golf Club continued the trend. Meanwhile, the layout at nearby RACV Healesville received a robust redesign that vaulted it into our biennial Top 100 Courses ranking even though the 18 holes measure a Lilliputian 4,872 metres. Such a tally equals a week or a long weekend’s golf that showcases the best of the Yarra Valley.
The Heritage’s two courses did suffer through a period of difficulty that they are both now rebounding from, while Eastern features 27 holes plus “Shark Waters”, a nine-hole par-3 course. Both feature on-site accommodation: Yarra Valley Lodge at Heritage and Yering Gorge Cottages at Eastern. Together they form an enticing and nearby double, while more good golf (and more high-comfort accommodation) awaits 20 or so minutes away at RACV Healesville.
More than 80 vineyards contribute to the Yarra Valley wine scene, with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Shiraz the best-known drops, although search a little harder and you’ll come across the more unheralded varieties of Gamay and Nebbiolo. Whether for golf or wine, the Yarra Valley is an example of digging a little deeper to uncover something unexpected.
Grant Dodd’s must-see wineries: Oakridge, Yering Station, Yarra Yering, Tarrawarra, Hoddles Creek.
There’s a pocket of central western Victoria known as “Shiraz Central”, which leaves no uncertainty over which wine variety dominates. This naturally rugged and diverse region stretches from the north-west of Melbourne and is home to a distinct cool-spiced Australian Shiraz. A short drive from the city are the rolling hills of the Macedon Ranges or Heathcote. From there it’s easy to explore the Grampians or Pyrenees regions or the areas around the gold-rush cities of Ballarat and Bendigo.
If you’re seeking a diversion from Shiraz, this vast region is also home to a collection of breweries, while away from the world of beverages and restaurants is a swath of outdoor adventures.
The golf across this area is eclectic and electric. The Goldfields courses of Ballarat, Bendigo and the RACV facility at Creswick form the backbone, while Horsham Golf Club sits at the western edge of Shiraz Central. Ballarat has held numerous PGA National Futures Championships on what is a genuinely demanding layout, while RACV Goldfields held the 2012 and 2013 Victorian PGA Championships. Meanwhile, the increasingly impressive deeds of Bendigo-born Lucas Herbert are further enhancing that town’s golf reputation. Herbert learned the game at Neangar Park Golf Club, an appealing 18-hole course that oozes country charm.
Grant Dodd’s must-see wineries: Macedon – Bindi, Curly Flat, Cobaw Ridge, Hanging Rock. Heathcote – Wild Duck Creek, Sanguine, Vinea Marson, McIvor.
It’s far from the best-known area of Australia for golf, but the King Valley region in north-eastern Victoria’s High Country is home to some alluring country courses. Wangaratta Golf Club takes top billing, the course sharing the same land as the historic Waldara Homestead, while nearby Myrtleford Golf Club sits next to Barwidgee Creek and features a hole, the short par-4 fourth, that hooks left around the local speedway. If you really want to ‘rough it’, try Whitfield & District Golf Club, a nine-hole, sand-scrape course.
King Valley is known as Australia’s home of Prosecco, the sparkling wine originally from north-eastern Italy. The Italian feel is so real that King Valley is often referred to as ‘Little Italy’, as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Dolcetto, Arneis and Barbera also reign. Brown Brothers is the most famous name in the valley and visitors can experience the best of the region via either a tour of their Milawa vineyard or partaking in the Brown Brothers Prosecco Brunch. Or both. Later, you might try yoga in the vines or walking along (or perhaps fishing in) the King River.
Grant Dodd’s must-see wineries: Pizzini, Dal Zotto, Brown Brothers.
The Murray Darling is the second largest wine region in Australia and the combination of a warm climate and the area’s unique soil type yields soft wines with ripe fruit flavours. Most likely to tickle your taste buds is a Murray Darling Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz.
The north-western corner of Victoria is home to more courses than many people realise, with Mildura Golf Resort among the best of them. Known for the high calibre of its greens, the red-sand course features a variety of shapes and contours, along with testing water hazards. It doubles as a place to stay, with twin-share play-and-stay packages for $249 for two nights in one of the 35 motel units, plus a bistro within the club. Mildura Golf Resort has affiliations with Pete’s Pure, Trentham Estate and Zilzie Wines.