The Sylvan Glen Country House in the NSW Southern Highlands is a golfer’s dream. Between old-world lodgings and your own private course, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to St Andrews.
It’s been a convalescent home for returned soldiers from two World Wars. Today it’s a convalescent home for intrepid golfers. Above all, it’s one of Australia’s best-kept golfing secrets.
Sylvan Glen is a gem: the black opal of Australia’s plethora of idyllic golfing weekends. And it’s just 1.5 hours’ drive from Sydney or Canberra. The guesthouse, which oozes old-world charm, sleeps 14 – seven double rooms with en suites.
Built in the 1870s, Sylvan Glen is the oldest guesthouse in the Southern Highlands of NSW. It was refurbished in the mid-’80s and the golf course was established 16 years ago. And in those 16 years of frayed tempers, not one golfer – not one – has broken par, a meagre 31 on a course measuring 1959 metres, with five par threes.
The undulating greens, rather than the tee-to-green terrain, require the dexterity of a surgeon. To conquer the nine greens in the regulation 18 putts is the equivalent to climbing Mt Everest blindfolded.
Book the guesthouse as a group and the golf course becomes your exclusive domain. That’s the unique thing about this experience: a golf course to call your own. So, with only the odd kangaroo within earshot, obscenities go unheard.
Putting aside, it’s doubtful whether there’s a more picturesque golf course in Australia. Each hole has its individual character: the fifth – a par three, 128m “shot of your life” – is Sylvan Glen’s signature hole. An eight iron looks a safe bet but the tee shot demands clockwork rhythm. A manmade dam beckons the slightest of errant shots.
The owners, Matt and Donna Hescott, are from England. They’re young, vibrant, discerning and extremely dedicated. They’re also dutifully supported by Matt’s parents, John and Joan. John slaves over the golf course; there is nary a grain of sand out of place in the strategically placed bunkers. Joan cooks. The empty plates after each meal are testimony to the quality and variety – but the roast, a la British mode, is to die for.
Nigh on four years ago, Matt spotted an advertisement in Sydney’s North Shore Times listing Sylvan Glen for sale. The auction attracted so few that the opening bid, at $1 million, was from the owner. The price skidded to $700,000 but was passed in. Negotiations took place and Matt and Donna purchased Sylvan Glen for $750,000.
The course has seven dams, hence the verdant splendour. Since taking over, Matt and Donna have spent $350,000 on course maintenance and enhancement. The tees are hand sewn; the fairways manicured to blend with the contour of the land while the greens, if not true, are in pristine condition.
To play Sylvan Glen is a challenge. To walk Sylvan Glen is a trip to the Garden of Eden. All rooms have recently been refurbished. The snooker room is of championship standard, as is the home cinema room. If there is a glitch it’s that the summer months of December, January and February are just too damned hot. The rest of the year is an invitation to harmony, tranquillity and relaxation.
Non-staying visitors are welcome to play at just $13 a round, but they’re few and far between. It’s as though they feel they’re intruding on the paid guests of the house – some of whom have included the Archbishop of Sydney and the Chairman of the Australian Rugby League, Colin Love.
Small conferences are catered for and weddings are becoming popular; bookings can be made for 120 with outdoor marquees provided. Activities abound such as fly fishing, paintball rumbles, cycling, walks, tennis, shopping at neighbouring Bundanoon, Berrima and Bowral – and in the warmer months, outdoor movies on the third fairway.
Golf schools are conducted throughout the year at $819 for three days and three nights covering all meals, lessons and golf, as well as a day at the nearby Bowral Country Club course.
Sylvan Glen is your very own country retreat with staff. The hospitality is second to none. To find any fault with the establishment is to exhibit a disregard for the beauty of Australia’s bushland. Why, even the owners (who hail from England) don’t whinge.
DETAILS: Sylvan Glen Country House & Golf Course
Best months: Spring and autumn, although some like it hot.
Style: Oldest country guesthouse in the NSW Southern Highlands.
Location: Penrose, 1.5 hours’ drive from Sydney.
Size: Seven double rooms with ensuites set in 60 acres of bush.
Service: Attentive, unobtrusive.
Cuisine: Three cooked meals a day with an English flair.
Outlook: Minutes from the sensational Morton National Park. Overlooks nine-hole golf course.
Disabled Facilities? Yes.
Inclusions: Linen, all meals, nine-hole course, tennis court, fly fishing, snooker.
Exclusions: Alcohol (BYO).
Fee: Single nights available, but best deal is: three days, two nights, double room, all meals, golf, tennis and “run of house” for $375pp.
Best Thing: Accommodation, meals, golf course and tranquillity.
Worst Thing: Lack of in-house wine list (for now).
Matt and Donna Hescott
Phone: (02) 4884 4306