|Driving round Tasmania (with golf clubs ofcourse)|
|Written by The Licorice Gallery|
|Friday, 23 March 2007|
It’s another stinking hot day in Melbourne with the mercury bubbling at near forty degrees. I’m stranded at a railway crossing on the busy Toorak Road on my way to Malvern Valley golf course in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs. Some friends of mine had booked us in for a round and I was already running late amongst heavy traffic. My desire to go on was melting under the searing heat outside and the sauna like conditions inside my car. I was under pressure from my friends to arrive on time as I had been late on previous occasions and the booking had been made three weeks ago. I thought to myself, i could do without the added scrutiny of my drive off the tee in front of impatient onlookers.
My mind wandered in search of an escape. To a place where a round of golf could be transformed from the metropolitan hustle and bustle to the tranquility and comforts of a relaxed three wood off the tee. A drive long and hard slicing the clean air and landing perfectly between slanting wattles and towering gums on the fairway. Oh how i yearned for that vision of golfing paradise. A paradise lost amongst tardy tee off appointments and golfing fours backed up on the seventh tee waiting for weekend hitters like me to retrieve my ball from the bushes not far from the tee.
On the back roads driving round Tasmania a smile as wide as a Royal Melbourne fairway appears on my face. No dodging peak hour traffic, no waiting at rail-crossings or getting stuck behind city bound trams. A walk up to the tee, isolated between the natural beauty and the cries from native birds that had gathered to assess my drive up the fairway at the first.
At last I have found my escape. It’s right here in Tasmania. The island is surely a golfer’s paradise, dotted with courses from North to South and with green fees that would still leave you with change out of a twenty dollar note for a couple of beers at the nineteenth. With almost 80 courses to choose from in varying designs and difficulties this stunning island offers golfers a truly wonderful escape into a plethora of history, cuisine and old-fashioned style accommodation. Throw in the golf and paradise is at your doorstep.
It hasn’t always been paradise in these parts though. Situated about a ninety-minute drive from Hobart you will find Port Arthur, one of Tasmania’s biggest tourist destinations. Here lay the ruins of the penal settlement where convicts were transported to after committing felonies in England. It’s a place with a tragic past surrounded by stunning scenery. An eerie atmosphere hangs in the air and you can’t help but wonder what life must have been like here. Who would have thought that just four kilometres from the settlement would be a golf course, and a beauty at that. The Tasman golf club sits on the edge of cliffs along a coastline of breathtaking scenery. Perched high above waters that would have been treacherous enough for ships to negate without knowing what lay ahead for the convicts onboard. The signature hole is the par three eighth of 124 metres. Players tee off from one cliff’s edge to the green on another, over a deep alcove with the chilling southern waters below. When the tide is out a platform of slippery, hazardous rocks are waiting for the next feed of balls failing to make the flight from tee to green.
Walking down fairways on the Tasman golf course one can sense the history that belongs to the region. It is a pleasant escape to one of the most southern golf courses in Australia. Somehow I feel though an escape that would not have come so easy to the convicts who once called the cells of Port Arthur their home.
A more pleasant welcome and accommodation awaits you at the Norfolk Bay Convict Station bed and breakfast, situated on the Arthur Highway at Taranna just ten minutes before Port Arthur. Lynton and Lorella will start your day with a hearty breakfast that will have you bursting with energy for the bushwalking; scuba diving and fishing that are on offer nearby in the Tasman National Park. Later in the day put your feet up on the front verandah overlooking Little Norfolk Bay and sample some of their home cooked jams from fruit grown in their own orchard.
Heading north along the East Coast the waters become more inviting and the sandy beaches roll along like a pastry chef’s pin. The town of Orford is where summer allures city dwellers to holiday shacks overlooking the clear blue waters that surround Maria Island. A ferry from nearby Triabunna leaves for Maria Island daily and an overnight stay can have you sleeping amongst the ruins of the Darlington convict settlement. From high on the lush nine-hole course at Orford the views will have you rushing for your trunks after your game for a dip in the waters of Mercury Passage across the road.
Further North to Swansea and another coastal retreat where the boot of the car will need to have plenty of room for the fishing gear as well as the clubs. The East Coast of Tasmania is a fishing bonanza where the island’s finest catches can be reeled in ready for a night on a traveler’s dinner plate. All of this after another peaceful and invigorating round on one of the five nine hole courses along the coast. The course at Swansea is nestled right on the edge of Great Oyster Bay, adjacent to the local cemetery, but don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm for a game here. From the tee of the seventh hole your eyes can wander far across the water towards another of Tassie’s tourism gems, Freycinet National Park home to Wineglass Bay. Swansea is a great stop to experience all that Tasmania has to offer from the finest of seafood to the natural beauty of the island.
At the Ugly Duck Out café try the grilled scallops and prawns with exotic masala salsa and then wash it all down with some Boags Premium beer brewed in Launceston. From the balcony take in the relaxing view across the bay and find it hard not to feel that Swansea is a part of Tasmania’s golfing paradise. There is no shortage of accommodation here either with Wagner’s Cottages just two kilometres out of town a pleasant reminder of this island’s heritage.
There could be no greater reminder however, of the history associated with Tasmania than the town of Bothwell. Hidden on the roads to the Central Highlands it is home to the oldest golf course in the southern hemisphere. Along the fairways there is no real sign of it’s past; it is like someone just decided to clear a couple of paddocks and build a golf course. Built in 1839, the greens are unique in that they are square with a fence around their perimeters to keep hungry sheep from grazing on them. There is a gate on each green to allow golfers easy access.
“It’s not the oldest club but it is the oldest course around” greens-keeper Max Stewart informed me whilst doing some handiwork on the fences.
“The sheep don’t seem to mind the golf; they soon get out of the way when a stray shot heads in their direction”.
In town you will find the Australasian golf museum. Home to golfing memorabilia and archives including the earliest of golf club design that will have you appreciating your new driver just that little bit more the next time you pull it out of the bag.
It’s hard to imagine Tasmania’s rugged West Coast being home to any golf courses, with the terrain and weather a good excuse not to have one. However you can pack the clubs for this side of the island as well with courses at Strahan, Queenstown, Zeehan and Rosebery. The pick is Rosebery, about 50km north of Queenstown. Surrounded by dense rain forest the course is built into the side of a mountain and the climb up the 8th to a view back towards the clubhouse is worth the effort. Ah you can almost here the Brown Trout jumping out of the nearby highland lakes. On weekdays around these parts you could find yourself the only player on the course. An honesty box is used for green fees, which are generally around the ten-dollar mark. There is plenty to do after a round in Strahan with a cruise along Macquarie Harbour towards Hell’s Gates or down the Gordon and Franklin Rivers. Onboard lunches will have you feasting on fresh Tasmanian produce from local crayfish and trout to cheese and fruit whilst sampling some of Tasmania’s finest wines and beers.
Your deep in the heart of World Heritage-listed wilderness now, but a golf course is never too far away.
Sheffield in the state’s North West just under an hours drive from Launceston is the township of murals and the gateway to Cradle Mountain another of Tasmania’s must sees. An entrée to this main meal is Mount Roland a beautiful backdrop to the golf course on the outskirts of town. Teeing off on the 9th and heading towards the green and clubhouse, Roland gradually looms in size and beauty. Intriguing towns called Paradise, Promised Land and Nowhere Else surround Sheffield and seem appropriately named considering the land in this region. A round here on weekdays will set you back only eleven dollars and club-hire is available.
The North West Coast of Tasmania is a farming region of riches. The fields spread out like coloured patchworks of quilt and have claim to some of the countries finest vegetables. Golfers can enjoy any one of a dozen courses scattered along the coastline. From Devonport, the gateway to the Apple Isle where the Spirit of Tasmania passenger ships berth, to Smithton in the far North West.
Wynyard, about an hours drive from Devonport is blessed enough to have two of these. One is the Sherbrook 18 hole heading into town and the other; one of Tassie’s highest regarded nine-hole courses. Set alongside the waters of Bass Strait the fairways here roll around encouraging players to rest at every tee to take in the beautiful scenery. Off the first tee you head towards Bass Strait and then swing left towards Table Cape where the par four 275 metre third hole will pause your game at the tee. Your eyes will cast over and out into Bass Strait and ahead to Table Cape jotting out from behind the coastline. If the view from there doesn’t inspire your drive off the tee, then perhaps the climb to Fossil Bluff behind the green and overlooking the whole course and coastline will. A magnificent sight above a green that resembles the print of a gigantic bear with four small bunkers tucked into the fairway just before it.
Further along the coastline at Stanley you can tee off for as little as eleven dollars and marvel at the town’s landmark the Nut. With cliffs that plummet 143 metres to the sea below, the Nut towers above the tiny town-ship and provides a fascinating backdrop to the golf course. The club will hold their inaugural Pro-Am in February 2006.
“We are holding it on the 13th, the day before Valentines day” local golfer David Murphy explained to me as he sank another putt in fading light.
“For the love of golf, that’s the theme” he added.
You couldn’t help but feel how easy it would be to fall in love with golf here in Tasmania.
The state has a luxury of courses that are diverse, accessible, picturesque and affordable. Rich in history and the outdoor life, Tasmania welcomes you into her arms. In one day here there is ample time to play a couple of rounds on different courses, dine on the local produce and still have time to drop a line in the rivers and lakes and catch your own trout.
Oops there goes another tee shot into the bushes.
Oh well i’m in no hurry here; i have the fairways all to myself.
This must be paradise!
Words / Photos; Shane Goss / licoricegallery.com
Published in International Golf Leisure and Lifestyle magazine Spring edition 2005
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