The second hole at Quamby Estate can be a little nerve-wracking if you are easily intimidated. And I'm particularly easily intimidated whenever water is involved.
|From the second tee, I can see the flag on the other side of a steep-sided dam. I know a seven or eight iron should clear the water, but the green is looking very small and there's every chance an errant shot will simply roll back into the murky water even if it reaches the other side.
Thank goodness I'm not actually playing the course, merely taking a post-dawn, pre-breakfast jog around it. I have to be on the road by 9.30am and haven't got time to squeeze in a round. Sadly, testing my luck against the second will have to wait but it gives me another reason to return.
There's only been a golf course around the historic Quamby homestead since the early 1990s, but the Peter Toogood-designed course has continued to impress the harshest of critics as perhaps the finest nine hole course in Tasmania - certainly at the price ($20 for nine holes, $25 for 18).
At 6,847 metres, it boasts nine lakes, cascades or creeks and the longest par 5 hole in Tasmania (the eighth, at 576 metres). But it was the sand traps which particularly impressed the Australian Golf Digest magazine's reviewer recently who wrote: "It has some absolutely ripper holes that entice you to drop two or three balls to play your shots again (and) the best bunkering you're ever likely to see on a nine-hole golf course."
There are plans to add another nine holes sometime in the future. But you certainly don't need to be a golfer to fall in love with Quamby. Even the Georgian-style clubhouse - built in the 1850s to house the estate manager - now has a glass pavilion attached to it which is a popular wedding venue (Kate Ritchie, the Golden Logie award-winning actress, had a very private wedding here in 2010).
I had arrived the previous afternoon, knowing very little about Quamby. Frankly its own website doesn't do it justice - which is amazing given that it is jointly owned by Brett Godfrey
and Rob Sherrard
, two of the founders of Virgin Australia along with a shy, retiring friend called Sir Richard Branson.
The 25-minute taxi drive from Launceston airport hadn't really prepared me either. We had skirted round Australia's third-oldest city (after Sydney and Hobart) through sheep country before turning off onto a 1.5 km hedge-bordered drive more typical of an English country house.
But as you drive past the Victorian-era 'Georgian' clubhouse to the earlier homestead, it is impossible not to feel impressed by the architecture, the heritage or the sympathetic conversion to a 10-bedroomed boutique hotel.
And as I walked over the flagstone verandah, pushed the reassuringly heavy entrance door and entered the hotel proper, I knew I was about to experience something special.
In just 15 years time, Quamby will celebrate its bicentenary, having been built in 1828 in by Richard Dry, an Irish convict who was pardoned in 1819 and became a wealthy and influential citizen. His son, Sir Richard Dry, became Tasmania's first Australian-born Premier, and died in office on August 1, 1869. During his brief, three-year premiership, Quamby effectively became the state's northern government house.
Architects will love Quamby, one of Tasmania's most admired historic homes and a rare Australian example of the Anglo-Indian architectural style popularised in the British Raj: all white exterior, wide colonades, breezy verandahs, elegantly-appointed state rooms.
What remains of that almost vice-regal glory is a ten-bedroom country manor turned swish hotel, within a half-hour of Launceston's student-led nightlife or the aptly-named Meander Valley's gourmet experiences.
As I am escorted to my deluxe bedroom with its four poster bed and massive ensuite (stand-alone spa bath, luxury shower AND room for several easy chairs?) the thought crosses my mind: have they confused me with a visiting sheik?
But as I discover from my fellow guests the following morning, most of us have had similar experiences. Everyone over breakfast is talking about the sumptuous and flamboyant styling of their rooms, all of which have been extensively refurbished in 2013 with period antiques and the restoration of marble fireplaces and decorative cornices.
Apart from the bedrooms, Quamby has some very handsome wood-paneled public rooms, including the restaurant, bar and the exquisitely-furnished 'Green Room' where guests can read a book in front of the fire or play a game of chess while acting like a 19th century country squire. French doors open up onto the columned verandah, a perfect spot to relax in the shade on a summer's day.
Quamby's executive chef Michael Mackaway, aided by soux chef Patrick Maloney, changes the dinner menu daily, making superb use of whatever Tasmanian produce is looking good in the local markets.
The evening I dined in the multi-mirrored restaurant, the three course menu ($75) included an entree of seared Tasmanian scallops with confit angel tomatoes and crispy prosciutto, followed by Mount Rolland lamp rump served with ratatouille, parsnip chips, broccolini and thyme jus, with a Tasmanian cheese plate for dessert. Sunday lunches at $20 a head are a bargain.
If you feel you've over-indulged, you can always hire a mountain bike to explore the 60-hectare property. Heaven forbid, you could even hire a set of golf clubs and actually play the course. Just remember to take plenty of balls.
|Check in: Quamby Estate, 1145 Westwood Road, Hagley, Tasmania 7292 (transfers from Launceston airport).
|Ultimate Luxury: Golfers - combine a couple of days at Quamby with three days of golf at Barnbougle Downs, one of Australia's finest links courses.
|Most Indulgent Moment: Wallowing in the spa bath drinking a glass of Tasmania sparkling wine.
|Insider Secrets: A round of golf is included in the deluxe room price.
|The Little Things: Home baked bread rolls before dinner.
|Junior Luxies: Yes, no age restriction. Portocots available.
|Dress code: Country house casual.
|Dent in the platinum:
From $249 per night per person, twin share including airport transfers and three course dinner. Other packages available.
|Luxury Resorts Link: www.quambyestate.com.au.
Steve Meacham, 7/1/14