Where to es­cape


Just launched in July, 2015, Ezard @ Le­van­tine Hill restau­rant

is a gastronomical part­ner­ship be­tween hat­ted chef Teage Ezard

and Le­van­tine Hill Es­tate.


“We do a lot of tricks too out there that will fool you and you don’t re­alise you’re be­ing fooled.”

Nor­man says East­ern gen­eral man­ager Ben Tel­ley has to take most of the credit for the move and seiz­ing the chance to se­cure the club’s long-term fu­ture. Tel­ley had the un­en­vi­able job of seal­ing the com­plex deal and en­sur­ing a smooth shift.

“As­set-rich, cash-poor is a com­mon sce­nario,” says Tel­ley. “It’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon for clubs to start look­ing not to the next five years, but ten and twenty years ahead and how they’re go­ing to se­cure their fu­ture long-term.

“When East­ern made the de­ci­sion to re­lo­cate [seven years ago], re­mark­ably it had cash in the bank, whereas a lot of clubs wait un­til they’re in debt, of­ten con­sid­er­able debt, be­fore they make those de­ci­sions.

“What that re­sulted in was the club hav­ing con­trol of its des­tiny. They were able to be pa­tient in the land sale of Don­caster and be able to ap­ply rigour in the process of plan­ning and de­sign in the Yarra Val­ley.”

East­ern is the lat­est of a trio of Mel­bourne clubs to grav­i­tate to the Yarra Val­ley for fu­ture-proof­ing. On a five-kilo­me­tre stretch of road there is also Yer­ing Mead­ows, which evolved from the land­locked Mel­bourne club Croy­don in 2008, and Gar­diners Run, which rose out of the ashes of nearby Chirn­side Park to open in May 2014.

Only slightly fur­ther afield are four other clubs, in­clud­ing the Jack Nick­laus-de­signed Her­itage Golf Club, a pri­vate park­lands but also open to New Zealand visi­tors seven days a week.

The pro­fu­sion of choice in the area is al­ready in­cit­ing de­bate over whether there are enough mem­bers to go around.

But sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues aside, the up­shot for the New Zealand golfer is that there’s never been a bet­ter time to visit, par­tic­u­larly for food­ies and lovers of fine wine.

East­ern is ar­guably the eas­i­est — and one of the most cost ef­fec­tive — op­tions from which to ex­plore the re­gion rich in culi­nary and scenic de­lights.

The club also boasts on-site ac­com­mo­da­tion via its Yer­ing Gorge Cot­tages, the keys to which also un­lock gen­er­ous green fee dis­counts (see side­bar).

There are eight free-stand­ing lux­ury one-bed­room hide­aways over­look­ing the course, two two-bed­room free­stand­ing chalets and an­other two two-bed­room choices that can be booked separately or to­gether to cre­ate a fourbed­room com­plex.

Each comes with its own elec­tric golf cart which makes ex­plor­ing the ma­jes­tic re­serve and its abun­dance of friendly res­i­dent kan­ga­roos and wom­bats even eas­ier.

For a more his­toric per­spec­tive on the serene sur­rounds, con­sider the nearby Chateau Yer­ing Ho­tel as your golf­ing base (see side­bar for rates). With ori­gins back to the 1850s, the coun­try house-style ho­tel set on 250 acres and with a 2.5km frontage to the Yarra River, has been beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated by co-owner Elly Mil­ner with an­tique fur­ni­ture and fit­tings be­fit­ting its rich her­itage.

Al­though deceptively large — there’s 32 lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, a restau­rant and a pur­pose- built func­tion cen­tre un­der the shadow of its sig­na­ture her­itage Chilean Palm — you’ll feel more like a guest in a pri­vate home.

Just 4km away lies an­other lov­ingly re­stored shrine to the Yarra’s glory days, Coombe Yarra Val­ley. It’s the for­mer home of Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous celebrity of the early 1900s, opera diva Dame Nel­lie Melba.

For years visi­tors won­dered what lay be­hind the property’s gi­ant hedges at the re­gion’s gate­way. Now, well-heeled Mel­bur­ni­ans make a bee­line here in the week­ends for gar­den tours, wed­dings and, above all else, to saviour the de­lights of ex­ec­u­tive chef Tony Mil­ton’s Melba Es­tate restau­rant.

There’s also a cel­lar door for wine tast­ings and a minimu­seum where you can learn all about the world of Dame Nel­lie.

There’s cer­tainly a re­newed buzz about Yarra Val­ley, in­sist those in the know. It’s even on the gin-lovers’ radar now thanks to the launch of award-win­ning start-up Four Pil­lars — the pil­lars re­fer­ring to brand main­stays; the still, botan­i­cals, wa­ter and the love of craft.

Part-owned by for­mer Aussie 400m sprint­ing star Cameron MacKen­zie, a hands-on reg­u­lar at the newly opened con­verted tim­ber yard HQ, Four Pil­lars adds an air of hip­ster-cool to the re­gion’s wine-cen­tric ter­roir.

Aside from four core ‘mod­ern Aussie’ vari­ants to choose from, visi­tors can also make their own be­spoke gin on-site, in just three hours.

With so much va­ri­ety in the Yarra Val­ley, Nor­man, for one, be­lieves the New Zealand golf trav­eller would be “crazy” to go any­where else.

“The last couple of days I’ve got to enjoy this part of the world more than ever be­cause I’ve stayed out here [on a friend’s farm]. Yarra Val­ley is now a mag­net for golfers and tourism — and we know if we get them there for the first time, they’ll al­ways come back.”

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