Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Golf Touring under a Big Sky

Photo: Golf at Gunnedah

My thanks to Niki Payne from John Campbell Communication & Marketing for bringing this to my attention.

Now I am not a golfer. More precisely, I enjoy golf but rarely get to play it. So I would never have thought of golf tourism.

Well, it's not quite golf tourism as such. More an excuse to move from one golf course to another while having some bloody good fun!

Now here Niki pointed out that New England's Big Sky Country - the Northern Tablelands, Western Slopes and Plains - has a golf course in almost every town.

A round of golf is not only an essential holiday activity, it‘s an easy way to meet some of the locals.

Remember that while golf is fun, allow some time to sample some of the other attractions. The individual towns are not too far apart, there is a range of things to see and do, while the countryside itself varies in interesting ways. While travelling, do also drop in at some of the growing number of local vineyards.

So rough guide to the golf courses follows, Tamworth north to Tenterfield and west to Moree, along with some recommended attractions while you’re there.

Golf Links Road
(02) 6772 5837
Holes 18 Par 72
Busiest day: Saturday

The only course in the city known for its four distinct seasons is particularly spectacular in autumn and spring, with its mix of native and exotic trees. Its own water supply, from two dams, ensures the course always looks in lush condition. Snow can blanket the course occasionally in the winter. Locals say the 14th hole is one of the most difficult Par 3 holes in the district.

Essential activity for visitors: Armidale, long the prospective capital of the proposed New England new state, is a historic grazing and education centre with a range of attractions. Free heritage bus tour of the city; for the non-golfing partners, the shopping is appealing here.

Hutchinsons Road
(02) 6732 1555
Holes 18 Par 71
Busiest day: Weekends

Glen Innes is located in the heart of Celtic Country, given this name because of the number of Scottish settlers. The Glen Innes course is well set out with consistently green fairways that are often home to resident wallabies and roos. As in Armidale, each Glen Innes season is special, so the course is most appealing in autumn and spring. The sixth and tenth holes, both Par 4s, are the most challenging.

Essential activity for visitors: Among other things, the Australian Standing Stones, the national Celtic monument dedicated to the pioneers of the region.

Plane Avenue
Holes 18 Par 70
02 6778 4059
Busiest day: Weekends

Uralla is located 20 kilometres south of Armidale and grew with the nearby Rocky River goldfields. , the Uralla Golf Course is set in natural bushland and looks sensational in autumn. Reputed to be one of the best courses in the district, there’s three dams and well maintained greens. The 16th hole with a Par 5 is the challenging one.

Essential activity for visitors: Visit the unique McCrossins Mill Museum including its Chinese Joss House; try a Thunderbolt Pie, made to the recipe that bushranger Captain Thunderbolt apparently liked when he roamed these parts in the 1860s.

George Street
(02) 6742 2111
Holes 18 Par 70
Busiest day: Saturday

Located in the centre of Gunnedah, the golf course’s koala population makes it a bit of an unofficial tourist destination. The course is reasonably green most of the year, although in summer the fairways can dry off, making red earth a common sight. There’s a nice gentle slope away from the clubhouse and the trickiest hole is the fifth – a Par 4 with a couple of trees and dams to negotiate.

Essential activity for visitors: Koala spotting; self-guided Poet’s Drive and the Lyrical Loos.

McKie Parkway
Holes 18 Par 73
(02) 6779 1015
Busiest days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday

Situated around the Mother of Ducks Lagoon, a wetland reserve for birdlife that measures 14km in diameter, the Guyra course offers plenty of watery challenges. The Par 5 14th hole, an uphill dogleg over a dam, is usually cause for concern. Guyra is the highest town in the New England region, so wind can be a factor when playing here. The course is green year–round.

Essential activity for visitors: Trout fishing in one of the local rivers; visit one of the nearby national parks.

Bombelli Street
Holes 9 Par 66
(02) 6724 1206
Busiest day: Sunday

Bingara is located on the Gwydir River. The course is a long and narrow riverside course that is well maintained year-round by a band of local volunteers. The Par 4 fifth hole with a narrow approach to the green guarded by a river red gum causes a few headaches. There’s a honesty box at the front gate for players, as the club house is only staffed most week days after 4pm and on weekends after 12noon. The Bingara course hosts a Veterans Week of Golf in the first week of October each year.

Essential activity for visitors: Tour of the art-deco Roxy Theatre; Rocky Creek Glacial Area.

Tingha Road
Holes 18 Par 70
(02) 6722 1574
Busiest day: Saturday

Home of the Sapphire Cup, a two-day competition held each January, the Inverell course offers undulating hills on the front nine and a flatter back nine, with water hazards on the last seven holes. The greens are relatively fast.

Essential activity for visitors: Fossicking for sapphires; Inverell Transport Museum

Greenbah Road
Holes 18 Par 72
(02) 6752 1405
Busiest day: Weekends and Thursday.

In the western-most town of Big Sky Country, Moree’s golf course is a green retreat, with tree-lined fairways and the Mehi River running through the back nine. The recently renovated clubhouse offers some good views and the 17th and 18th holes are the most picturesque. This club offers regular competitions for all levels of player, including nine-hole contests on Tuesdays.

Essential activity for visitors: Swim or soak your post-golf aching muscles in the thermal Artesian water at the public pool or at one of the many hotels with a pool tapped directly into the thermal water supply.

Gibbons Street
Holes 18 Par 71
(02) 6792 2344
Busiest day: Saturday, but this course is very accessible seven days a week.

Narrabri is known as Australia’s sportiest shire and its golf course welcomes all visitors with open arms. It’s a fairly straightforward course with a challenging back nine, the most difficult of these being the Par 4 15th. Narrabri hosts a Veterans Week of Golf each May.

Essential activity for visitors: Mt Kaputar National Park and its geographical icon, Sawn Rocks.

Mahoney Street
Holes 18 Par 70
02 6765 9393
Busiest days: Wednesday and Saturday

A traditional course with tree-lined fairways, plenty of bunkers and some water hazards. Look out for the Par 4 second hole, with water on the left hand side and out of bounds of the right; and the sixth, with the large dam.

Bear in mind that during the Country Music Festival in January, it can be difficult to get a game.

Greg Norman Drive
Holes 18 Par 72
02 6765 2988
Busiest days: Wednesday and Saturday

Designed by Greg Norman, Longyard is gaining a reputation for being somewhat testing. With a flat front nine, a hilly back nine lined with mature olive trees and Moreton Bay figs, the links style course has 59 bunkers. The par 3 16th, over water and surrounded by bunkers, will be your biggest challenge.

Wildlife is abundant here.

Essential activity for visitors: Tamworth is a major regional centre with a wide range of attractions - A photo at the Golden Guitar: Walk A Country Mile Interpretive Centre at the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre; a night of live music at one of the pubs.

Werris Creek Road
Holes 9 Par 72
02 6746 1209
Busiest day: Saturday

The Quirindi course is a softly undulating course with two dams and two bunkers, this nine-hole course has grass greens and a tricky third hole where the ball often finds the water. The clubhouse is only open on Saturdays so the rest of the week it’s an honesty box system.

Essential activity for visitors: First Fleet Memorial Gardens; Australian Railway Monument in nearby Werris Creek.

Pelham Street
02 6736 1480
Holes 18 Par 71
Busiest day: Saturday

The Tenterfield course gets some glowing reviews on for its condition and views, and justifiably so. This is a superbly maintained course that is never crowded, with tree-lined fairways that look their most spectacular in autumn and views towards the mountains. The Par 4 10th hole is the most difficult and there’s a dam on the 7th to look out for. A motel on the course provides views from your verandah and offers “stay and play“ options.

Essential activity for visitors: The Tenterfield Saddlery, the inspiration for the Peter Allen song; a tour of the local wineries.

Oxley Highway
Holes 18 Par 70
02 6777 2143
Busiest day: Sunday

A hilly, rain-watered course with views to the mountains, Walcha is sometimes the host course for the NSW sand green titles. There are a few dams and only the one bunker. The Par 5 12th hole with a dog leg and dam running beside it might frustrate you. An honesty box operates during the week, with the clubhouse open on weekends.

Essential activity for visitors: Sculpture walk; Apsley Falls and Apsley Gorge in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.

Crosby Street
Holes 9 Par 70
02 67693268
Busiest day: Sunday

In the historic village of Nundle, this course is long, at 5,660 metres, with synthetic greens, no bunkers and no water hazards. The Par 4 third hole is a slight dog leg with a man made rise at the front of the green that creates some challenges. An honesty box system operates here through the week, with the clubhouse open for dinner on weekend nights. The course is amalgamated with the Bowls Club.

Essential activity for visitors: Lunch at the Peel Inn; a tour of the Nundle Woollen Mill.

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