Savouring The Vintage

Even Greg Norman admits it is one of his best efforts.

Yet few can say they’ve actually mastered The Vintage golf course at Pokolbin in the heart of wine country at the Hunter Valley and despite boasting some of the most beautiful holes you’ll see anywhere in this country, this course can be as tough as any when those prevailing westerlies come along.

Indeed resident professional Richard Mercer fell in love with the course and decided that’s where he wanted to stay – buying land beside the third fairway and building a home there.

The Vintage The opening hole at The Vintage

Yet many of the country’s leading professionals who contested the last New South Wales Open Championship found their share of problems.

Mercer describes the par-three eighth as the hardest par three in the world – when it is played off the back tees.

“Just to give you an indication of how tough it can be we had a field of 148 players take it on at last year’s Open,” Mercer said.

“And when the westerly was blowing only 38 of them were able to hit the green with their tee shots.

“I love the hole, but honestly, it can’t get much tougher than that.”

Anyone who hasn’t tasted this ‘Vintage’ is in for a treat because they have led the way in the way in this state for the first-class manner they treat golfers when they arrive at the resort.

Usually there is someone to help you unload the clubs, the driving range beckons on the way to the first tee so you can hit a few balls and warm up before taking the plunge.

And the first is a beautiful short par four that simply requires a good straight drive to get past the massive gum tree on the left side of the fairway, followed by an equally-accurate short-iron to avoid a small creek and more massive gums guarding the front and right-hand side of the first green.

Actually they have made this hole a little easier because when the course was first built, many found the opening tee-shot over a dam a little too daunting so early in the round. It was quite a lengthy water carry.

They have since shortened it and made the hazards more pertinent for the second shot rather than the first. And, besides, you can always cut the pin closer to the creek if you want to ensure there aren’t too many birdies there. It’s not unlike the second shot over the Burn on the first hole at the Home of Golf, St Andrews.

The Vintage golf course opened in 2003 and was a “vision” unashamedly aiming to become the Hunter Valley’s premier residential lifestyle community.

It was a jointly venture undertaken by John Stevens and Don and Nancy Panoz who wanted to reflect the Hunter Valley’s rather unique character and create an equally-attractive place to live.

The Stevens Group has been one of the leading development and construction firms in New South Wales since 1982 with managing director John Stevens keen to add The Vintage to a resume that includes building prestige beachfront apartments, shopping centres, industrial premises and award-winning retirement villages.

American entrepreneurs Don and Nancy Panoz also had extensive experience in hotel development, wine and golf as developers of the prestigious Chateau Élan Resorts across America.

The Vintage is in a marvellous location, nestled adjacent to some of Australia’s finest vineyards.

All 482 residential sites at The Vintage offer sweeping views over the golf course, Beggars Bridge Vineyard, Bimbadgen Estate and the beautiful Ironbark Hill wetlands, with the Brokenback Range and Barrington Tops providing the gilded framing for this idyllic setting.

The Vintage goes the whole journey too, offering a five-star resort fitness centre which includes a swimming pool, children’s pool, spa, two day and night tennis courts, a barbecue area and children’s playground. The residents also enjoy exclusive use of a members’ lounge within The Vintage clubhouse.

The Vintage clubhouse has a restaurant that brings diners from near and far, the Legends Grill, which offers a sophisticated modern Australian menu featuring a vast range of wines from the Hunter Valley and other regions.

An outdoor terrace is also a nice touch, providing great alfresco dining seven days a week for breakfast and lunch with dinner Wednesday to Saturday.

Its hardly surprising The Vintage is ranked among the best golf courses in Australia.

The par-71 layout measures 6,310 metres and is one of few Greg Norman-designed golf courses in New South Wales that are accessible to the public.

“I still say the best hole on the course is the par-four 18th,” said Mercer, who runs a teaching school beside the practise range near the first tee.

“When you hit a good tee shot up that final hill and walk up the slope to finish your round, there is nothing nicer than when the clubhouse comes into view.

“It’s a testing hole and there are plenty of bunkers to catch any errant second shots.

“And that’s not the only battle. If you finish above the hole you have a fairly treacherous putt ahead of you as well.

“I love that hole and I really believe it is one of the feature holes on this course.”

But pin Mercer, renowned as one of this state’s best golf teachers, down for long enough and he’ll describe at least half a dozen more feature holes on The Vintage that will have you wanting a “re-run time and again.

To book a game of golf or find out more telephone The Vintage on (02) 4998 6789 or golf@thevintage.com.au

The Grand Mercure apartments can be booked by telephoning (02) 4998 2222 or reservations@grandmercurethevintage.com.au