To any golfer who’s ever lugged a golf bag around the country, what’s happening in Sydney right now is a kind of bliss on a par with draining an eagle putt.
After landing at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith airport, I have walked straight past the oversize luggage collection area to a sleek, black LuxGolf Porsche Cayenne waiting just outside the door for me. It’s already loaded with a new set of Callaway Legacy golf clubs and is ready to take me to Bonnie Doon Golf Club. One of the country’s top courses, Bonnie Doon is located on the edge of Sydney’s CBD, but feels miles from any town, let alone Australia’s largest city.
On arrival, I’m escorted to the first tee, given drinks, snacks, Callaway balls, a Callaway glove and a golf cart with a GPS. Normally, prestigious Sydney courses like Bonnie Doon are inaccessible to non-members, and membership waiting lists can take decades to work your way through. But LuxGolf Australia has changed all that. It is the first luxury golf tour company in Australia to provide special access to the most exclusive golf clubs in the country.
With all the hard work seemingly done, I tee off down the first fairway on this cloudless, windless Thursday morning. It’s in the milliseconds after my driver connects with the ball that I realise others can only do part of the legwork. Yes, they can get the average suburban hacker onto the best private courses in Sydney, but they can’t assist your game. These courses didn’t earn their reputations for nothing. They’re some of the world’s toughest courses. Bonnie Doon Golf Club – just like its close and very illustrious neighbours, New South Wales Golf Club and St Michael’s Golf Club – provides an exercise in golf ecstasy and agony. And for your average handicapper, that agony comes in generous servings.
The course is set beside a national park and each fairway is lined with hectares upon hectares of coastal bush. While it’s just a couple of kilometres to Sydney’s world-famous coastline, you don’t need to leave the course to find the sand. Most fairways are littered with bunkers. I’m only midway down the first fairway and I’ve already found one.
This is one of Sydney’s prettiest courses. Its naturally undulating terrain leads me to elevated tee-boxes where I can see Sydney’s striking skyline in the distance. Close by though, there’s barely a single building to spoil the rural landscape. When the wind blows – and it does here often – this course famously bears its teeth. Luckily, I have it on a benign late-Spring morning and the only thing holding me back is my complete inability to thread my way between the banksia shrub lining the tight fairways.
It’s a glorious day out all the same. My frustration is countered by the views of Sydney’s prettiest coastal bushland and the fact that I’m fortunate enough to be on the course at all. At the 18th hole, I’m met by my LuxGolf Australia host and, after a beer in the clubhouse, I’m taken back to my hotel by Porsche without even needing to lift my clubs from my cart.
This is the sort of golf experience never previously offered to high-end travellers visiting Sydney. While our hospitable neighbours in New Zealand and across the Timor Sea in Bali offer unlimited access to some of the world’s top courses (with all the trappings), Sydney has lagged behind with strict rules on membership and access. Until now.
Tomorrow I will have my choice of private courses with New South Wales, St Michael’s and The Lakes golf clubs on my shortlist. In Melbourne, expect to play the likes of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and Huntingdale golf clubs.
Back to Sydney where my luxury experience extends beyond the green. After my round, I am driven to the Langham Hotel, set among the cobbled streets of The Rocks. My room looks out across Sydney Harbour to ferries plying their way across the water, delivering commuters to pretty bays and peninsulas. In the evening I walk to dinner, strolling slowly through Australia’s oldest precinct, past the buskers and ferry docks at Circular Quay, and then to celebrity chef Matt Moran’s Aria Restaurant. I eat my favourite dish – sourdough crusted barramundi fillet with silverbeet, smoked eel and horseradish – while looking out over the Sydney’s iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
It is these off-course attractions that position Sydney as a unique high-end golfing destination. When I tire of having my game bent out of shape by some of the trickiest Links-style courses in the country, I take a chartered yacht tour right across Sydney Harbour. I am even handed the steering wheel on a 12-metre yacht under full sail as we duck and weave between the Manly ferries, and sail right under the Harbour Bridge. You try doing that on a golf trip anywhere else around the world.