Q&A with Richard Mercer, Golf Pro

Richard Mercer, Golf Pro of The Vintage, Hunter Valley shares his expert golfing tips

What do you like most about the Cork & Fork Tournament at The Vintage?

Mixing food, wine and golf is such a great combo. It may be the longest game of golf you’ll ever play, but it’s bound to be the most enjoyable. When you hit off, you know you’ve got a six-to-seven hour day ahead of you sampling a gourmet snack and glass of wine at every hole. Also, this event brings together the avid golfer and the rookie, and the camaraderie on the day is incredible.

Toughest hole on The Vintage course?

The 8th hole without a doubt. I think it’s the hardest par 3 in the world. We’ve got a prevailing left to right wind, lakes and it’s 195 metres long. I know a lot of people get the shakes when they tackle the 8th, and I bet there would be hundreds or thousands of balls in that water!

Best course you’ve played?

Cypress Point on Monterey Peninsula in California without doubt. It has a combination of everything – it’s like playing six holes at NSW Golf Club, six holes at Augusta in Georgia, and six holes at Turnberry in Scotland… all on the one course. In Australia, I think the best course is NSW Golf Club but I also love Lake Karrinyup in Western Australia.

Hardest course?

That would have to be Kiawah Island in South Carolina. They’ve held the Ryder Cup there and the US PGA and it’s a huge challenge for any golfer, regardless of their skill.

Favourite piece of advice to give to golfers?

Practise, practise, practise but practise the right way. It’s essential that people learn the basics when they’re young so they don’t play the wrong way and they need to invest a lot of time. You can’t learn how to play golf well in a couple of weeks – it’s like riding a bike, you’ve got your training wheels on until you get your balance. Golf is the same – you need to take the time to get your balance and practise every afternoon after work to see improvement. Book in for lessons and don’t expect miracles overnight.

What makes you such a good player?

I was very lucky to have been born into a golfing family. My father David was a golf professional, so he was always on hand to give some advice on my game from a really young age. I had the facilities, a wonderful teacher and was willing to practise constantly when I was young.

What do you do on a weekend off?

I live and breathe golf – I even live on the course – so on weekends I tend to get away from the greens. I love fishing and going to the beach, so most weekends you’ll find me on a Newcastle beach or perched beside a river with my fishing rod and a glass of Hunter Valley wine.