I remember being pretty chuffed in the mid-1960s when I read that legendary South African golfer Bobby Locke — he of the equally legendary plus-four trousers — rated Orange’s Duntryleague the best non-metropolitan course in Australia.
After all, this was the course I played regularly. Or at least I played the second hole, a long par five which ran along the road and could easily be trespassed on early in the morning, especially on weekdays during the school holidays. Sometimes we also managed a few more holes before getting the heave-ho.
I’ve played the course legitimately many times since and it remains as challenging as it is beautiful, with tricky fairways lined with some 12,000 magnificent, fully mature shrubs and trees, many sweeping low to the ground to create instant death for errant golf balls, and huge, rolling, perfectly manicured greens that are a pleasure to putt on but oh so difficult to read.
The walk up the ninth hole towards the stately mansion that gave the course its name and now serves as clubhouse is surely one of grandest in golf, especially on a sunny autumn morning when the reds, oranges and yellows of the turning leaves contrast so strikingly with the rich green of the wide fairway.
Duntryleague — originally “Doon-tri-liag” — was built in 1876 as a home for James Dalton, a wealthy flour miller, who named it after his birthplace in near Galbally in County Limerick.
Dalton was a devout enough Catholic to be bestowed a Papal Knighthood and to be presented with a stained-glass window by Pope Gregory XVI. The window still holds pride of place on the first landing of Duntryleague’s formidable staircase.
The Orange Golf Club purchased the property in 1935 and the rest, as they say, is history.
These days the old home provides elegant, comfortable heritage accommodation as well as filling its clubhouse function.
There are about a dozen guest rooms, ranging from standard, through deluxe to executive, with some offering direct balcony access and spectacular views over the golf course.
The attraction of Duntryleague for golfers is all too obvious, but it certainly has much broader appeal for any traveller interested in getting away from the mainstream of well serviced but essentially humdrum country motels.
For further information, phone 02 6362 3466 or visit www.duntryleague.com.au
THINGS TO DO
1. Obviously, play golf.
2. Visit the area’s increasingly famous vineyards, restaurants and food producers.
3. Drive to the top of Mount Canobolas, the highest point on any straight line that you can draw from Sydney to the Indian Ocean.
4. Stroll through Cook Park, right in the main street of Orange and winner of many horticultural awards.
5. In season, buy some of the world’s best cherries, peaches and apples directly from the district’s many orchards.