ASK anyone about Western Australia and the first response you’ll likely hear is that it’s a nice place to retire. But this wasn’t the case a few years ago when the skyrocketing demands for commodities in China, and the world over, led to an economic spike that brought sky-high prices and inflationary pressures throughout the state.
But things change. And with the drop in demand globally, things in Western Australia seems to have come back down to earth.
This doesn’t mean that the state, and specifically its commercial hub and capital Perth, hasn’t moved forward. In many ways, WA is now even more attractive as a place to hang one’s proverbial hat, and an amazing one if you like your golf.
You’re spoilt for choice here if you like teeing it up in Mediterranean-like weather. Dry and sunny year round, you’re as likely to be rained out playing in and around Perth, as you would get tired of places to play here. In another words, slim chance of either happening.
If there’s one course that you’ll need to try to play on a visit to Perth, it has to be Lake Karrinyup Country Club (see above). Ranked by Australian Golf Digest as the best in WA, the course has been the home venue for professional tournaments like the Perth International and ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth.
This is as traditional a club as you’ll find in Australia. Its lovely single-storey clubhouse sits on top of a hill overlooking the holes that start out at its doorstep. Alex Russell, Dr Alister MacKenzie’s Australian partner, is credited to have designed the original layout, which was renovated in 2008 by Michael Clayton and partners.
Now 90 years old since it opened in 1928, Lake Karrinyup’s commune with nature is its strongest suit and each hole is nestled between mature trees that offer refuge for a wide variety of wildlife. There are more than 75 species of birds identified in the wetlands surrounding the course, and kangaroos are abundant foraging amid the large eucalyptus trees. And even though you’re just minutes from the main commercial district of the city, you’ll not see a hint of this anywhere on the golf course.
Variety in length is one of the nice elements of the course. From the 337-metre par-4 10th to the strong, 428-metre par-4 16th, you’ll get a chance to find par whether you’re a long hitter or not. One aspect of the game that you can’t do without is the ability to negotiate the tricky greens. It’s not that they are all incredibly undulating with multi-tiered surfaces, but the breaks can be deceiving if you haven’t played here before.
The link to MacKenzie is most obvious with the wonderful bunkering that Russell installed at Lake Karrinyup, and that Clayton preserved. Neat flashings with sharp, defined edging give the holes a crisp disposition, and in some ways, trick you when judging distances to the greens. The overall framing of the holes with the indigenous surroundings makes this course special not only in WA, but around the world as well.
If you’re planning a golf trip of a week or so in Perth, Joondalup Golf Resort is another great place to start. Located in Connolly, about a half hour drive from downtown Perth, this comprehensive development includes 27 holes designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, and an adjacent resort that is also set up to hold large weddings and corporate functions.
Each of the three nines – Lake, Dune, and Quarry – have their own nuances, but all three are strong, scenic layouts that test every part of your game. There are ample elevation changes throughout and the holes swerve right and left so that you’re not required to hit one type of drive off the tee. Fairways of Santa Ana couch, fescue and rye are brilliantly maintained, with the Penncross bent greens running about 10 on most days.
The Quarry/Dune combination is usually considered to be the strongest one at Joondalup and the wonderful par 3s are its signature holes. The 136-metre third on the Quarry nine is a stunner that requires a shot to sail across a chasm to find a small green that’s partially hidden. The fourth on the Dune, at a thumping 224 metres in length, is a monster that will eat up your balls if you happen to slice it off the tee.
If you find yourself south of Perth, near the seaside town of Mandurah, there are a couple of courses there that you shouldn’t miss. Meadow Springs Golf & Country Club, sharing the same owners as Joondalup Resort, offers another Trent Jones Jnr design that will make for an enjoyable round.
You get a sense that the holes at Meadow Springs share the same DNA with those at Joondalup. The exquisite bunkering with its gentle edges give a softness to the course that makes it fun to play and easy on the eye at the same time. Tall eucalyptus trees frame the fairways, providing needed shade on this bushland course especially when playing in the summer months. You won’t find many holes playing alongside each other here, affording a sense of seclusion that adds to the enjoyment.
Down the road from Meadow Springs, you’ll find The Cut Golf Club with its course that reflects the links masterpieces half the world away in the United Kingdom. Designer James Wilcher was duly impressed with the property and said: “Very rarely do you find a piece of property that stunning that you just can’t imagine it being used for anything other than golf, and more rarely again do you get the chance to actually design and build a golf course on such a property. At The Cut we got both. The end result is one of the most spectacular golf courses that will test the skill and emotions of those lucky enough to play it.”
The two nines at The Cut are rather different in nature. The course starts out gently on the outward holes and you won’t be alone if you feel that the residential buildings surrounding holes five through eight were not so obvious. But once you make the turn, the course pulls up its socks and starts to impress.
All of a sudden, there the homes disappear and you’re taken on a ride through fairways cut through thick bush to high points where the ocean forms a backdrop to the greens. From here, you need to call on your best especially if the wind starts billowing in from the sea. But whether you’re successful or not, the holes provide beautiful ammunition for your social media pages.
You won’t refute that the back nine at The Cut is one of the best sets of holes you’ll see in WA. The views of the ocean combine with the natural dunes landscape and golf holes that test all your weaknesses make for a thoroughly rewarding experience, even if your scores don’t reflect it.
Wineries In WA
Western Australia might account for less than 10 per cent of the country’s entire wine output, but when it comes to high quality premium vintages, it commands nearly a third of what Australia is known for. The most popular region of the state is arguably Margaret River. In a rich, verdant corner of this expansive state, vineyards line country roads, showcasing award-winning labels known the world over. You’ll be spoilt for choice when you’re down there for a wine tasting. But if you need to choose, here is a foursome that you won’t want to miss.
61 Thornton Rd, Yallingup; aravinaestate.com
As far as vintage wineries go, Aravina is a relative newcomer. Its 73 hectares include 26 hectares under vine plantings, populated with plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. But the excellent wines are just part of the story here. The vision is also to create a wonderful dining experience for young and old, and enhancing it with premium wines from this label.
17 Brash Rd, Yallingup; willsdomain.com.au
Down the road from Aravina you can find the home of the Haunold family. The first vines were planted here in 1985 with the brand of Wills Domain establishing itself at the beginning of the millennium. Since then, the brand has earned a reputation of producing some of the best wine, not to mention fine dining, in this part of the country. Executive chef Seth James has helped make Wills Domain a dining destination as much as a place to enjoy award-winning wines. The 2013 Shiraz Cuvee d’Elevage was voted Best Shiraz WA by The West Australian Wine Guide 2016, and Bruce Dukes was the 2011 WA Winemaker of the Year as chosen by Wines of Western Australia.
West Cape Howe
14923 Muir Hwy, Mt Barker; westcapehowewines.com.au
West Cape Howe was founded in 1997 and soon became one of the most popular wine brands in Western Australia. Over time it has acquired some of the oldest vineyard resources in the state, giving it unequalled access to the best and most consistent quality fruit that the cool Great Southern wine region has to offer. Try the single vineyard series that consistently over-delivers the fresh flavours of the local region at affordable prices.
Stevens Rd, Margaret River; leeuwinestate.com.au
No visit to Margaret River should go without a meal at Leeuwin Estate. One of the five founding wineries in this famous wine-growing region, this sprawling, picture-perfect estate has boosted its reputation as a go-to destination whenever people visit the area. Its award-winning restaurant and cellar door offering wine tastings make for a fine combination, while the art gallery enhances its brand as a place of taste and sophistication. The estate is also known for staging spectacular music events so you may want to time your visit with one of them.
Fresh produce, great wines, and the influence of Asian touches have lent themselves to an exciting, creative cuisine. On this note, Perth is also turning into a gastronomic hub for dining. What was known as a sleepy city is quickly awakening to a place where you’ll find a wide selection of places to indulge. Here are a few worth breaking your diet for.
Must Wine Bar
519 Beaufort Street, Highgate; (08) 9328 8255; www.must.com.au
The Northbridge neighbourhood has earned a reputation of being the eating and drinking centre of Perth. This bistro-cum-wine bar is a laid-back, classy place to enjoy a meal with friends. Interesting entrees like the Heirloom Beetroot Salad, Goats Curd with Candied Walnuts and Duck Ham, or the Slow Cooked Pork Belly with Esperance Scallops, Pumpkin Puree and Apple Salad are creative ways to start.
28 Roe St, Northbridge; (08) 9228 1331; www.thestandardperth.com.au
If you prefer to be smack in the middle of the Northbridge action, this hip and trendy, modern Australian restaurant will fit your desires. There is a lively buzz about The Standard, and its indoor and outdoor spaces make for a great place to hold events. The highly creative menu is made for sharing. Caramelised Kangaroo with Sesame Soy Custard, Creamy Mozzarella with Turmeric and Blood Orange Gremolata, and Korean BBQ Chicken with Rice Noodle and Herb Salad reflects a global accent to the menu.
1 Cathedral Avenue (corner of Georges Terrace and Barrack St), Perth; (08) 6168 7775;
This Asian-flavoured restaurant is located in the basement of COMO The Treasury, a super luxurious hotel situated in the refurbished Treasury Building in Perth. Owned by a Singaporean company, the menu here is expectedly South-East Asian, with dishes that hint at Thai, Malaysian and Singaporean roots.
125 St Georges Terrace, Perth; (08) 9322 7771; www.sushia.com.au
This stylish, if rather dimly lit, Japanese restaurant is owned by Elleo Group, an Australian food and beverage concern that is committed to providing nutritious offerings with premium produce. The sushi and izakaya (Japanese small dishes) choices here reflect their motto. One good way to construct a meal is to put together your own selection of nigiri sushi or maki rolls, then add other several dishes to be shared.