Our Western Australia golf tour started on Tuesday 31st Otober with a rendezvous at Perth airport. Some of the group had arrived a few days earlier for a game at Lake Karinyup, whilst others were flying in that morning.
The tour leaders got their first surprise for the trip when they realised that the Laurens' were flying in with Virgin, and Dawn flying in on Qantas - and that the terminals were now 30 minutes apart by shuttle. After a few delays, eventually we all got together, boarded our bus and headed off to our first adventure - lunch at The Black Swan winery in the Swan Valley. A delicious lunch was enjoyed overlooking the vineyards on a glorious sunny day. A perfect start.
After lunch we hopped back in the bus and checked into The Vines Resort where we stayed the next few nights. The key activity that night was playing the brand new mini putting course which everyone enjoyed immensely.
The Vines Resort is a lovely rambling resort in a real bush setting. The 36 holes of golf there have hosted many championships over the years, and are best remembered by the dramatic closing hole on the Lake course with water in play off the tee and for the approach. So on Wednesday afternoon we set off to play a combination course- playing select holes from both the Ellen Brook and Lakes courses just like the pros do - it is called 'The Championship Course', and with perfect weather the group went to work! On that famous last hole I recorded some nice aerial footage with my drone "Louie the Fly"...
We had decided to rate the courses using the 'Tom Doak Scale of Rating', and most were pretty happy with The Vines giving scores of 6/10 or more
That night we dined in house at The Vines gourmet restaurant and enjoyed a lovely meal.
Thursday morning we were back in the bus to travel to Joondalup Resort for a midday start.
Wilsons were the last couple to join the group and they met us at Joondalup Resort. But it was only Vern who togged up for golf as Chris had broken her wrist in a fall a few weeks prior.
Fortunately for us golf carts were the order of the day. There are 27 holes at Joondalup - The Dunes, Quarry & Lake nines - and while they are all good we were pleased to get access to the Quarry & Dune courses.
Again the weather was gorgeous and everyone really enjoyed the day. "Louie the Fly" got a run and we got some nice footage of the 3rd, 4th and 5th holes on the quarry nine.
After golf we were back in the bus to head to our accommodation for the next 3 nights at the iconic Esplanade Hotel in the heart of Fremantle.
One of the quirks we have developed on our tours is to number off on the bus in the local language- so what were we to do in Western Australia? We opted to adopt a local aboriginal dialect which combined the verbal number, with an action. It never did really catch on like some of the European languages, but the actions were popular. Bruce in particular seemed to enjoy his action at no 3! But Vern never got close to mastering his number- we just couldn't count on Vern at all.
Everyone loved Joondalup and rated it highly with 7's, 8's and 9's being bandied about.
After checking in at The Esplanade we dispersed for dinner in Fremantle. Some of us ended up at the popular 'Bread in Common' restaurant for Tapas. It was really buzzing for a Thursday night and the food and ambience was great.
After a morning exploring Fremantle, we jumped on the bus for the quick trip to the private Cottlesloe GC for a noon start. Cottlesloe is an impressive course. It is a strong championship course, but playable for members, and full of class. I particularly liked the strategic short par 4's and the beautiful bunkering. And there are plenty of hills at Cottlesloe so it was a big walk!!!
Surprisingly, the English Test cricketers were also practising their 'golf game' at Cottlesloe that afternoon. By the time we came through after 9 holes, we were being followed by the them. They didn't seem to realise how far they could hit and needed to apologise for hitting up on us.
Most of the group rated Cottlesloe very highly - perhaps up to the 2nd best course for the trip.
After golf we all dined at the Char Char Restaurant overlooking Fremantle Harbour and took a ride on the Ferris Wheel. A lovely night again.
Saturday morning we had time to explore Fremantle, the market was particularly popular. Heather had a T shirt printed for me with a picture of the group on the chest - just for a bit of fun!
In the late afternoon we played 9 holes at Royal Fremantle GC which is a reciprocal club with Rosanna. It was a really pleasant time to play and there were some good scores from the group.
Everyone enjoyed Freo, and thought it was exceptional value for money.
That night we had dinner at a famous harbourside brewery "Little Creatures Next Door" - it was busy and loud but a good night nevertheless. One funny moment was when Bruce and Di ordered Flathead for main course, but found they had actually ordered flatbread! It was a bit too noisy I guess...
On Sunday morning we checked out of The Esplanade and hopped into our "smaller than expected" bus. (the bus company would not return my calls for the rest of the trip,). So for the second time in our years of hosting trips we became 'The Travelling Sardines'. Everyone squeezed in and thankfully kept their sense of humour for our trip to the Margaret River Region and Bunker Bay Resort.
Our lunch stop was Busselton foreshore, where we did the long walk to the end of Busselton Pier- alomst 2kms long!
It was another beautiful sunny day (we came to expect them now), and it was nice to just relax in the company of friends and explore the history of the Busselton area. Lunch was enjoyed at the beachside cafe.
We then continued onto Bunker Bay where we checked into the very nice Bunker Bay Resort for a 3 night interlude. The day finished with a sunset whale cruise on calm Geographe Bay. What a hoot that was! We sighted blue whales a number of times - apparently they are rare and most whale watchers will never get to see one. Blue whales are the largest whales and are up to 100 feet long!! And of course we also saw humpbacks and dolphins.
Then it was back to Bunker Bay for a sumptous meal in the resort's restaurant.
We rose bright eyed and excited, with many choosing to start the day with an early morning swim in beautiful Bunker Bay. A day of sightseeing and wine tasting was planned, and we took off early for Mammoth cave where we did a self guided audio tour. The Cave was huge, with lots of interesting formations - the favourite being 'the shawl' formation
From there we visited Boranup Art Gallery, and then Cape Leeuwin lighthouse where two oceans meet. And it was windy!
Lunch beckoned... so we all had our Watershed moments. Lunch was a cafe style meal at the award winning Watershed Wines- and was followed by a little wine tasting as well.
Later we experienced another wine tasting at the very swish Voyager Wines.
At Vicki and Glenn's recommendation we also dropped into Cape Grace Wines - a boutique winery with some lovely product which we just had to sample.
It was late afternoon by the time we headed for home and with the sun was falling as we decided to make a last minute dash to a spectacular viewpoint to get a sunset photo. It was touch and go, but we made it.
Tuesday was Melbourne Cup Day back home, but for us it was "Vasse Felix Day."
We started at the magnificent Cullen winery, banging the door down at the 10 am opening, and really enjoyed the wine tasting. Cullen is one of THE world's leading producers of biodynamic wines. And I met Vanya Cullen herself.
But the main game for the day was the "Vasse Felix 5 course Degustation meal with matching wines". Before that began we had our own private wine tasting event in the 'Holmes a Court Art Gallery'. Then we watched/listened to/partially missed the running of the Cup before settling in for the serious business of eating and drinking.
For some it was THE highlight of the trip.
On the way back to Bunker Bay Resort we staggered in to The Margaret River Chocolate Company to taste their wares. We puchased a nice chocolate sauce which is still going down well with icecream!
All of us enjoyed our stay at Bunker Bay Resort, and any free time would find us on the beautiful beach where we would swim with whales breaching in the distance. It doesn't get better than this!.
We had our final swim Wednesday morning, before departing for golf at The Cut.
The Cut is a links style course set largely in sand dunes right on the coast. A number of holes actually play along the coastal cliffs, and with only a light wind in play, the aim of the day was to stay on the short grass. Not surprisingly the girls did this much more successfully than the boys.
Most enjoyed it although some of the fellas thought it a llittle unforgiving, particularly with so many blind shots for the first time player. Everyone agreed, that it is a course worth travelling to see.
Our accommodation for the last few nights was at Seashells Apartments right on the beach at Mandurah. It was a delightful location, and when we stepped out onto the beach in the morning we were delighted to find large pelicans with us on the beach, and a number of dolphins playing within metres of shore.
Glenn & Vicki waded in and befriended them.
Golf this day was at Meadow Springs G & CC. It is a very different Robert Trent Jones Jnr course from Joondalup, but it did display some common traits with its large undulating greens and impressive bunkering. Known for its majestic Tuart and gum trees, the course has a lovely feel.
I have always liked this course. So did the group.
And so we came to the last day of the tour, with an early start at Secret Harbour GC (now Secrets). Vicki had dominated our competition from go to whoa (woe), and now just needed to hold it together to bring home the chocolates. After a slow start she did just that, lapping the field for a strong win.
Secrets is a nicely designed links style course, but the conditioning has slipped in recent years, and it suffered by comparison to others we played.
And then it was back into the bus for the trip to the airport.
The trip has been blessed with exceptional weather throughout, a really nice group, some wonderful golf courses, world class wine tasting, good restaurants, caves, lighthouses, galleries, whales, dolphins etc
The hosts enjoyed the trip immensely. I think the crew did too!
Peter and Heather Wood
The Travelling Golfers
Pre Tour Lake Karinyup
The earlybirds- Malcolms and Febens joined us for golf at Lake Karinyup CC- regarded by many as the premier course in the west.
It was a cracking day- blue sky, 30 degrees and hardly a puff of wind- so we set off feeling pretty good about ourselves. Lake Karinyup was undergoing some work on the front nine and some temporary greens were in play, but that was expected and we did receive nicely discounted green fees. The club is very impressive, occuping a rolling bush landscape complete with gum trees, blackboys, and kangaroos- and the clubhouse sits quite regally on the top of the highest point looking over the course. The whole property is both natural bush and beautifully manicured- which seems like an oxymoron, but I am sticking with it. The course uses the hills so that it is quite a test of golf. It is no surprise that it makes a very good championship course, although it was certainly unforgiving in parts for the club golfer.
My favourite hole was the long par five third hole playing over and then around the lake to a green settled in against a creek.