Location: Hunter Valley, NSW
Architect: Greg Norman & Bob Harrison (2003)
Date Played: 16th July 2010
The Vintage Golf Club is located in the Hunter Valley (wine region) of NSW. It was the first Greg Norman designed course in the state built in 2003 and is now rated among one of the best courses in the region. A recent addition to the estate is Chateau Elan, a resort which has been built overlooking the 10th hole and has quite luxurious accommodation.
This course is open to the public, but can become quite busy during weekends. I played the course in 2006 to attend a concert in an adjoining vineyard. At the time I had no intention of playing the Top 100 golf courses in Australia, so I was glad to come back and play again to add to my reviews. Luckily the company I work for gave such an opportunity whilst celebrating its 100th anniversary, holding our annual employee golf tournament.
A dinner function was held the night before, so after only 4 hours sleep and waking up to temperatures of 7 degree Celsius, with quite a big hangover, the golf would be an experience. The pro shop is a very short walk from the resort so that was enough to wake up those not fully awake yet.
Scorecard for The Vintage Golf Club
Hole 1 is a relatively short par 4 hole at 303m, but has quite an intimidating view for the first tee shot. There is a small carry over water and two large trees blocking the left side with out of bounds beyond them. The right has a large landing area but this looks smaller due to trees close to the tee blocking some of the view. Too far right also reduces the green due to a large tree front right, reducing the size of the target.
Looking back at the 3rd fairway from beside the green
The par 4 third hole at The Vintage Golf Course (index 1 on the course and plays it) requires precision from the tee. Faced with a tee shot where the green cannot be seen, the hole snakes around to the right. The hole has a split fairway, so hitting long from the tee will find trouble. Playing towards the left of the bunker on the right hand fairway bunker will allow a shot to the green.
From the tee – 4th Hole
Hole 4, a par 4 dogleg left, is not overly long, but requires accuracy of the tee. You first shot must carry at least 100m over a dam before finding the fairway. Keep the ball in the middle to ensure a clear shot at the green. Left of the fairway will find trees, hindering any approach. Right of the fairway will be clear, but bring the water hazard along the front of the raised green, into play. If you are not confident of carrying the hazard on the approach shot, layup and allow a chip to the green. The green runs from back to front with two tiers. Bunkers are located behind the green, making any shot from the back having to be very accurate, or find the danger of running off the front of the green.
View of the 7th green – Bimbagden Estate to the left
At 479m the 7th hole (par 5) is rated as the easiest hole on the course. The tee shot is uphill (you can only see part of the fairway and two large bunkers, but from there it is all downhill to the green. Bimbagden Estate Winery is located down the left of the hole, with vineyards running almost the length, but there is no play if you get in the vines (this is all out of bounds). The green slopes from left to right and back to front, but large bunkers are on the right to trap any stray shots, or chips from above the hole. This is definitely a very scenic hole as it captures the hills as a background to the green.
The signature hole of The Vintage Golf Course – Par 3 – 8th
Hole 8 (par 3) 165m is the course signature hole. The green runs 45 degrees to the tee and has bunkers running the left and water down the right. The shape of the hole forces you to hit across part of the dam. In all the green appears very small with all the trouble around, but is a memorable hole.
View from the 12th tee
The 12th hole, another par 3, should be an easy hole (ranked 14) at 160m. Unfortunately water has to be carried at least 130m, otherwise pack your scuba gear. If you can hit across successfully there is little trouble on the hole, bar out of bounds for those played extreme left. The green is quite large with no bunkers on the hole. Beautiful from the tee, but after getting across a fairly simple hole
16th hole tee shot
Hole 16, par 4 390m has some of the largest bunkers I have ever seen. There is plenty of room for your drive to hit the fairway, but it will be 2 solid hits to reach the green. If you find the fairway bunkers on this hole, forget par and start praying for a bogie. Water runs along the left of the hole, but only a stray shot will go close. Out of bounds runs along the right of the fairway, which is residential area. The green slopes right to left, with a bunker to the left which must have been at least 9 feet deep, one I would be glad to steer clear of.
The 18th green and clubhouse
The last hole is a great finish. A par 4 dog leg right, runs uphill back to the club house. Trees run the length along the right, so keep clear, with quite a few on the left as well. The approach shot is intimidating, the green being totally surrounded by bunkers, as well as some being short to catch any shots hit short.
Overall the fairways on the course were firm with the ball having some run. The rough had been cut back a bit since my last visit, apparently there were too many balls being lost (and I guess slowing play), also winter grass ensured that most of the fairway was not too long. The greens were firm but ran true, some of my group had the ball run right through the green if above the hole.
I certainly enjoyed my second visit to the Vintage Golf Course. The front nine was the victor again, they were certainly a lot more challenging holes requiring accurate shots. Certainly the back nine appears to be more open with less trees appearing on a majority of the holes. I hope one day to return and master what I would call a definite top 100 course.