- Vintage Drive, Pokolbin, NSW 2320 Australia
- www.thevintage.com.au ; www.chateauelan.com.au
- 61 2 4998 2500
The Vintage golf course and Chateau Elan are located near the small town of Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s most famous wine regions. Approximately two and a quarter hours’ drive north from the city of Sydney, will see you amongst beautiful vineyards surrounded by the mountains of the Great Dividing Range. This is the setting of The Vintage, a course designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison in 2003.
The layout features undulating fairways, world-class bunkering, strategic par 4s, and slick bentgrass greens. It is a tale of two nines, according to Matt Farley, Director of Golf. “The front nine being a challenging selection of par 4s and the back nine providing an interesting ‘risk & reward’ style of golf.”
There are a healthy variety of holes in play. The 356-meter (389-yard) hole 2 is a dogleg to the left that can be played using two irons. Thick woods surround the green. At 194 meters (212 yards), the par 3 eighth will test you for distance and accuracy. There is water on the right and bunkers of the left of the green so you can easily be punished here. On the par-5 seventh, you’ll be playing through the vineyards as you climb a steep hill before hitting down to a fast green. If you miss left, your ball may end up in the neighboring winery. It’s a beautiful hole, Farley said.
“The seventh hole is the most picturesque, as it runs amongst a vineyard and the ninth boasts the Norman signature of having the native Australian gum trees to welcome you as you approach the tee.”
On the back nine, long hitters will be tempted to go for the green off the tee on some of the shorter par 4s such as holes 13 and 16 but may want to think twice about taking on the par 5s – holes 10 and 14. You’ll be hitting over water on the 171-meter (187-yard) par 3 twelfth, too.
It’s cheaper to play The Vintage mid-week. I had a lovely round of golf here, perhaps thinking about the wine and cheese I was about to consume.
The challenges: Avoid the deep bunkers surrounding the greens as well as the gum trees. You’ll have to navigate around or over lakes on holes 3, 8, 12, 15, 16 and 17. Pro’s tip: “Play consistent in the first six holes and then just enjoy the risk factor!”
When to play: Year-round.
Yardage: 6826 yards, 6242 meters
Best hole: A toss-up between the long par-3 eighth (194 meters, 212 yards), which has water on the right and two bunkers on the left of the green, and the par-5 seventh, which sees you hitting next to a vineyard.
The pro says:
“Each hole design is stamped with the classic Greg Norman signature of commence with a challenging tee, and the vital positioning and design of bunkers to ensure the golfer is thinking from the word go.”
Matt Farley, Director of Golf
The resort experience:
Chateau Elan is a luxury getaway that features villas spread out along the fairway of The Vintage golf course’s 10th hole. Set on 100 acres (40 hectares) and surrounded by wineries, it is the perfect escape for golfers and wine lovers. And being just over two hours’ drive from Sydney, it is not too hard to get to either. The creamy main building may not look like an ancient French chateau but it has chic interiors and, as well as featuring the lobby, houses a spa and salon with 17 treatment rooms plus spa suites for those who want to stay as close to the relaxing therapy as possible. The smartly dressed staff have been well recognized for their five-star service. The resort was Tripadvisor’s Excellence Winner in 2015 as well as taking the NSW Tourism Awards of NSW Housekeeper of the Year 2016, Gold & Hall of Fame Luxury Accommodation in 2015 and Gold – Best Luxury Accommodation in 2013.
Dine and wine: The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s most famous wine regions. The cheese is grand as well. You must take a wine tour and sample drops from such famous brands as Brokenwood, Tempus Two, Tyrrell’s and McGuigan Brothers at cellar door tastings. But you can also expect to enjoy great wines at the resort. Chateau Elan has four restaurants and two bars for visitors to choose from. The Legends Grill has select cuts from pasture- and grain-fed cattle. It also received the NSW Wine List’s Restaurant & Catering Award for Best Wine List 2016. The next time I visit, I’ll be starting with some Nelson Bay Rock Oysters, then moving to a Riverine Angus T-bone from the grill and finishing with white chocolate and raspberry rippled cheesecake.
You can also head to Café at Legends for light lunch overlooking the eighteen green, The Vintage Yum Cha for some dim sims, Spike Bar & Café for a beer on tap or Bar 1820 in the lobby of the Chateau Elan, which boasts a huge collection of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskies.
There are four luxury lodging options to choose from. The Spa Suite gives guests easy access to the spa and salon in the main building. The 60-square-meter (646-square-foot) lodgings feature a plinth-mounted spa bath, 42in HDTV, duck down pillows, towels and robe, and an Ergomotion king-size bed with in-built massage. I’m intrigued by what the “zero-gravity” function on this bed does. You’ll also get a balcony overlooking the course or a courtyard.
A one-bedroom villa (96 square meters, 1033 square feet) looks out on the 10th hole’s fairway. It features a kitchen, dining area, lounge room, gas fireplace and balcony or terrace. The bathroom has a spa bath and separate shower. You can get a king-size bed or two king-size singles.
The mini-bars are stocked with Hunter Valley wines, the Wi-Fi is free as well as the luxury bathroom amenities.
As well as enjoying a massage in the spa there are some great activities to do in the Hunter. Take a bus tour to the boutique wineries or cheese makers; ride through the Molly Morgan Range on horseback on a guided trail ride with Hunter Valley Horse Riding; or take a horse-drawn carriage tour around the vineyards. I’ll be going ballooning – you can watch sunrise high up over the Hunter and enjoy a buffet or champagne breakfast, too. Balloon Aloft and Beyond Ballooning offer these services. The Vintage has its own helicopter if you want to take a scenic flight or get transferred from Sydney’s Mascot Airport, too. My experience of flying from Sydney – a route that takes you above the Harbor Bridge and the famous Opera House – to the Hunter was unforgettable.