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By Ethel DeMarr
Golf and travel are the perfect combination for a great adventure. One can enjoy being out of doors on world class golf courses, meeting local people who share common interests, and savoring a particular region’s spirits and cuisine. While there are many golf destinations, Australia should be right at the top of the list.
Australia is home to many world-ranked courses, excellent wines, unusual flora and fauna, and the scenery is varied and often spectacular. For us residing in the northern hemisphere, there is an added bonus: we can escape the winter cold and enjoy summer Down Under. Imagine teeing off in shorts during January! And if there are non-golfers in your group, additional activities abound.
Planning such a trip is easier than you think! All you need to do is contact Golf Tourism Australia (GTA), Australia’s leading golf tour operator since 1999.
Under the direction of Simon Cummings, GTA specializes in custom golf tours, including accommodations, transportation and sightseeing tours. GTA will create a schedule that matches your desires and they will eliminate any worry and stress about the details.
We journeyed to Australia in December 2016 for a three-week golf tour arranged by GTA. After discussing our ideas and special requests, we agreed that we would focus on southern Australia to limit both in-country travel and the overall length of our holiday. We realized that Australia is just as large as the United States and we could not see it all in a three week trip.
Simon’s personal and in-depth knowledge of the golf courses helped us create an impressive list of courses to experience. He knew when courses were undergoing maintenance and which ones were walking-only. This local, hands-on knowledge proved invaluable in our selection of courses.
For much of our trip, we did not have a rental car. I had some reservations about this at first, but now I am so glad we did not have the worry and stress of a rental car. Simon arranged luxury, private transportation to and from the Sydney airport and the Tasmania airport. While in Sydney, we were chauffeured to and from the golf courses in new cars with personable drivers. If I had to do it over again, I would have not had a car in Melbourne or Adelaide. Even if you are used to right hand drive, you will arrive in a better frame of mind in a chauffeured car!
Our accommodations were top notch. We had requested luxury lodgings and Simon hit the mark in every town. In addition, he arranged for us to have rooms with the best views. Whether it was Sydney Harbour, the beach in Adelaide or the river and skyline in Melbourne, we always enjoyed a magical view from our rooms. We even had a kangaroo outside our room in Tasmania, but I seriously doubt that Simon had much to do with that!
Of course, Australia is more than just golf courses, and if one travels all that way additional activities are a must. Many of these are not just for the non-golfers, but also for the golfers. I urge you to experience as much as you can both on and off the golf course! Wisely, Simon arranged for a city tour of Sydney the day after we arrived in country. This tour included a luncheon harbor cruise and excursions to some of Sydney’s famous beaches – Manly and Bondi. We were happy to have this introduction to Sydney and to Australia to start our visit.
While we were in Adelaide, Simon arranged for a private, full-day trip to the famous Barossa Valley wine district. As is true of everything Simon did, this was a first class tour. Our guide was not only well versed in local wines, but also in local history and lore. The day’s itinerary included lunch at a gourmet winery restaurant. We tasted excellent wines at a variety of vineyards and learned about the development of the wine industry in Australia. As an added bonus, our guide gave us a short tour of Adelaide and its history.
For us, without question, the main event was the golf. In addition to playing three courses ranked in the top 50 in the world, we also played four Alister MacKenzie courses. We played three courses in Melbourne: Metropolitan; Royal Melbourne (ranked #7 in the world); and National. Simon is a member of National and joined us for our round there. National is home to three gorgeous courses on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne. We played the Old Course. Having a local guide and playing partner was truly a great bonus. The weather was pleasant and although the course was challenging, we thoroughly enjoyed the day.
From there we traveled to Adelaide to play Royal Adelaide and Kooyonga, both hosts to many national and international championships. Both courses offered superior hospitality to visiting golfers. Royal Adelaide allowed us to play an additional 9 holes (at no extra cost) since we completed our round early in the day. The course was in excellent condition to add to our enjoyment.
Our next stop for golf was Tasmania, thanks to Simon’s recommendation. Barnbougle Dunes (ranked #35 in the world) and Lost Farm at Barnbougle on the northern coast of Tasmania were true highlights of our trip. The extra flight and 90-minute drive from Launceston was well worth it.
The golf courses are spectacular links land tracks laid out amidst the sand dunes of one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches I have even seen. We were blessed to enjoy the two courses on calm days. Wind would have added to the challenge! Both courses are walking courses only, but worth the extra effort. For an added bonus, you are almost guaranteed to see kangaroos and wallabies on the course. We even saw a wombat!
The lodge at Lost Farm is understated but well appointed, and the food in the main dining room was above average. One of the wonderful surprises was Tasmanian wines. The lodge offered an excellent selection to sample and we were duly impressed! We only wish we had allowed more time on Tasmania and at the resort, Lost Farm.
We wrapped up our tour back in Sydney in time to enjoy the iconic New Year’s Eve celebration. Once again, Simon arranged for us to golf two amazing courses to start our New Year – New South Wales (ranked #38 in the world) and The Lakes, both near famed Botany Bay. And to our good fortune, Simon joined us for these two rounds. We felt extra special to have the benefit of his local course knowledge and his friendly Aussie personality!
If you love to golf and travel, call GTA today! You will not be disappointed!