The Hunter Valley Golf and Country Club was originally named Portofino and was designed in 1998 by the current resident professional at the nearby Vintage, Richard Mercer, of the renowned family of golf pros including father David Mercer and uncle Alex Mercer.
Shortly after development, the formerly known Portofino club, ran into financial difficulty and later became Hunter Valley Golf & Country Club and these days it forms an integral part of the Crowne Plaza Resort. Measuring 5,774 metres, the par 71 design remains essentially the same. Not a long course by any means due to constraints on available land, Mercer still managed to create a challenging but somewhat quirky layout. A clever mix of almost drivable par 4s and reachable risk-reward par 5s featuring lovely views of adjoining vineyards and the ever present Brokenback Mountain range – Hunter Valley equals a delightful day’s golf.
On the 280-metre par 4 1st you will encounter a lake running across the front of the tee. Despite the very generous fairway width, this body of water somehow turns a very simple short hole into one that can be a tad destructive. Clear the mind of negativity, and a solid strike across the open fairway will result in just a short iron to the green.
Water is a common and protective theme at this track and the 167 metre 3rd dictates water carry from tee to green – again the mind is tested by the finality of water!
The hardest ranking hole is the 392-metre par 4 7th. With water lurking ominously to the left of the tee shot landing area and in front of the green, it poses a credible challenge to any player to reach the green in regulation. Once there a relatively flat putting surface is conducive to holing putts without too much fear of speed induced 3 putts!
At 399 metres par 4, the second hardest hole is the aptly numbered 13th. Out-of-bounds looms large the entire way from tee to green. A strong left directed tee shot can hopefully avoid this calamity and will set up a mid to long iron to the tightly guarded green. Your next shot will be fraught with danger, with the ample putting surface surrounded by water on the left and bunkers to the right.
Your final challenge for the day lies in wait at the risk-reward 454 metre par 5 18th. A tee shot to the left will avoid the water and get you to the layup area short of another body of water. If the green is out of range for the second shot, the last approach is hopefully a well-judged wedge to the lower tier of the double green (shared with the 9th). Retire gracefully now to the well-stocked bar!