Whether it’s the world-class golf, food, wine or pampering, every stay at this Hunter Valley hotspot dishes up an experience to savour.
I swear, it’s some kind of mystical spell or something.
Every time I enter the gates of The Vintage Resort in the picture-perfect New South Wales Hunter Valley, I instantly slip into ‘holiday mode’. Any worries in life magically disappear as an overriding sense of peace and anticipation sets in. Maybe it’s the surrounding vineyards and distilleries I just know I’m going to sample that triggers this ataraxia. Or the freshly mown fairways of the Greg Norman-designed golf course and aromatic oils wafting from The Spa at Chateau Elan. Perhaps it’s a combination of everything, who knows? What I do know is this: the surefire sign of any successful goods or service is repeat business, and that might explain why, of the 1,600 golf courses across Australia, it is this patch of paradise in the heart of wine country that I have frequented most.
First impressions stick. Many years ago, while winding my way down Vintage Drive towards the clubhouse on a glorious autumn day, a sea of confetti and the most glorious little sandstone chapel caught my attention. Front and centre, a photographer was crouched, capturing the beaming smiles of a beautiful young couple who had just tied the knot.
Not escaping the serenity of it all was the 18th green flagstick flapping away through some trees in the foreground. I remember thinking, Wow. People choose this place – a golf resort – to celebrate the happiest day of their lives. What’s not to like?
Nearly two decades on and I still haven’t found the answer. But that exquisite handcrafted, convict-cut sandstone building remains the dream location for nuptials, and one of the more unique arrivals to a golf course.
A course for everyone… No, really Weddings aren’t the only star attraction at this sprawling property. Saying “yes” to some golf is absolutely mandatory, even if you aren’t a golfer.
Designed by Greg Norman and his then partner Bob Harrison, The Vintage has been the Hunter’s undisputed No.1 course since its 2003 opening.
Blending Norman’s trademark bold bunkering with mild undulations and penal hazards, here’s a course that demands a full characterisation of your game.
As Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses editor Steve Keipert notes:
“One minute, The Vintage asks you to thread a drive down a tight fairway, like at the skinny second hole, then later it calls for a heroic carry over water, such as at the eighth, 10th or 17th. Sprinkled in between are more pulse-quickening shots, often played to voluptuous greens that tease and tantalise. It’s a shot-maker’s golf course, yet one where cavalier and cautious golfers can ride side-by-side.”
That last bit is a key observation. One of the more overused terms in golf-club marketing is the declaration a course is
“a great test for golfers of all levels”. So many clubs play on the belief that their course is equally satisfying for peak Tiger Woods as it is for 36-handicapper Harry when it’s simply not the case. The Vintage is one of the few clubs that continually proves it can be.
Its Cork & Fork corporate golf day, held in June each year, attracts golfers of all abilities – some who have never picked up a club before. Yet they fearlessly navigate their way around the par-71 layout, albeit with the aid of some local wine, like they’ve been playing for years.
Importantly, upon leaving, many book their return visit for the next year.
The course is also home to one of the best coaches – and maybe nicest people – in the business with renowned golf professional Richard Mercer on hand to fix any swing fault that may be haunting you.
Having played in tournaments all over the world, including several Open Championships, ‘Dicky’ has the skills and pedigree to ensure you leave the resort a better golfer.
An office like no other
Another tell-tale sign of a successful business is staff retention. Executive golf operations manager at The Vintage, Matt Kelly, has called the resort his office for the past 16 years. The secret to his longevity and loyalty? An unwavering love for the golf course.
“One of my favourite things about The Vintage Golf Club – and there are many– would have to be the design of the course,” Kelly says. “The layout suits golfers of all abilities. From the trademark bunkering that offers a different challenge from all tee boxes to the tricky par 3s and sometimes-reachable par 5s, there isn’t a hole everyone can’t enjoy, regardless of how good they are or how much they play.
“The most common feedback we receive from our guests is what a great test of golf is on offer.”
While you may never be lucky enough to work alongside Kelly at The Vintage, there’s nothing stopping you taking your staff there for a work getaway. The resort is a popular option for companies looking to get their team together to workshop future planning and strategies in the on-site conference facilities and indulge in some spa relaxation or, naturally, enjoy the camaraderie of a team golf day.
“Beautifully presented with dynamic, flexible configurations, attentive staff and a comprehensive range of inclusions as standard, our selection of venue spaces offer the ideal setting for your next conference, meeting or event,” says Jodie Staples, The Vintage’s director of sales and marketing.
Get the Chateau Elan treatment
After a thrilling day on the links or exploring nearby sights and sounds, retire to the lap of luxury at Chateau Elan, the resort’s elegant and charming accommodation facility.
Chateau Elan offers a variety of opulent room options, including spacious suites and stylish villas, each designed to provide guests with a serene and sophisticated retreat.
“With the beautiful verdant surrounds of the golf course, exacting standards and the European charm of our interiors, Chateau Elan at The Vintage will deliver a calming and hospitable sense of place for guests enjoy,” adds Staples.
To really complete the luxurious experience, Chateau Elan features an award-winning spa facility where you can rejuvenate and revitalise your body and mind. The Spa is a haven of tranquillity, offering a wide range of treatments and therapies, all delivered by skilled therapists. Whether you seek a soothing massage, a revitalising facial, or a relaxing body treatment, the spa’s comprehensive menu ensures you’ll find the perfect way to unwind after a day on the golf course.
If you’re struggling to decide, maybe opt for the Chateau Elan Signature Package – a heavenly two hours that includes a relaxation massage a customised facial.
When it’s time to line the stomach, prepare to savour the culinary delights that await you at the resort’s Legends Restaurant. The restaurant prides itself on a menu that combines the best of Australian cuisine with international flavours. Using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, the chefs create exquisite dishes that are sure to please even the most discerning palate. Highlights during our recent stay: the Heritage Lamb Slow Cooked Shoulder (which paired nicely with a bottle of Elbourne Tempranillo), Hunter Reserve Beef Striploin 300g and the Hunter Gold Angus Beef Fillet Mignon (Thomas ‘Synergy’ Shiraz).
And speaking from plenty of experience, a bacon and egg roll and coffee ordered from the spike bar is the perfect pick-me-up before any morning tee-time.
Suffice to say, whether you’re a golfer in search of the perfect round, a couple looking for a romantic escape, or a group of friends seeking a luxurious retreat, The Vintage ticks every box.
“There is something very special about this golf resort,” Kelly says. “It truly offers a resort experience like no other.”
The Vintage Golf Club
Where: Vintage Drive, Rothbury NSW 2320
Phone: (02) 4998 2500