October 11, 2012

World's Longest Golf Course


david ellis

YOU'VE got to have a pretty good explanation when you saying you're going out for a game of golf and you don't come home for four days.

But that's the average on Australia's newest course, Nullarbor Links where every hole of this 18-hole track has a 19th attached to it, but which alone is not reason enough for your tardiness.

Rather it's the tyranny of distance that's the major obstacle in getting home on time from this one: because from where you drive off in the direction of the first hole, and through to the 18th, is anything but your average 6500-yards or so.

This par 72 course stretches an amazing 1365 kilometres across two States including the seemingly endless Nullarbor Plain, and when opened in October last year wrote itself into history as "the world's longest golf course."

So unique is it that American, European and UK television networks have given  prime-time air space to it, with show hosts musing over obstacles from that daunting distance, "to wandering camels, obstinate wombats and bounding kangaroos."

And in just two months when the course opened, its website received 7,600,000 hits, including from twenty-seven non-English speaking countries.

Nullarbor Links is the idea of the Eyre Highway Operators Association whose members runs service stations, motels and roadhouses along that great stretch of bitumen from Port Augusta in South Australia to Norseman just south of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

Three members in particular, Bob Bongiorno, Alf Caputo and Don Harrington were the principal drivers, seeing the golf course as a unique way of publicising the tourist route, while also breaking up the monotony of the long trip across the vast and arid landscape.

Not that you're expected to tramp that 1365km from first to last hole.

Each hole is in fact located at a different town, village or way-station along the Highway between Ceduna in SA and just-off the other end at Kalgoorlie, at mostly "one-hole courses" – plus the obligatory 19th within easy coo-ee.

And on average they're around 80km apart.

Over 1000 golfers from the serious to once-in-a-lifetime hackers wanting to record playing "the world's longest golf course" have already paid the $50 for a scorecard at whichever end they began their cross-Nullarbor journey, had the card stamped at the local roadhouse at each subsequent hole, and at the 18th received a free certificate of their achievement.

So popular has it become in the few months that its been opened that Nullarbor Links is now sponsored by the Federal Government's Department of  Tourism and a half-dozen major corporations.

Only three true golf courses are involved (2-holes each at Ceduna, Norseman and Kalgoorlie,) with artificial greens at the others. Fairways could, at the most kindly, be referred to as "rough," and to date only one player has carded a hole-in-one.

And of course there's no need for artificial bunkers – Mother Nature has provided ample at no extra cost.

Holes have been given typically Aussie-vernacular names such as Wombat Hole at Numdroo, Dingo's Den (Nullarbor Motel,) Brumby's Run (Madura,) and 90-Mile Straight (Frazer Range.)

One of the most famous is The Nymph at Eucla: according to local legend, back in the 1970s a beautiful blonde who'd gone feral could on occasions be seen romping near-naked in the sandhills out of town.

When word got out, photographers flocked from around the world hoping for a million-dollar snap of The Nymph, who'd allegedly lost the ability to communicate in anything but animal-like grunts; most failed, but in 1972 a Melbourne journalist and photographer said they'd tracked her down and even managed a blurred pic before she fled back into the dunes.

That "rare photo" is now held in the National Archives in Canberra – but those of the era who've seen it, say it bears an uncanny resemblance to a barmaid the journo and the photographer befriended at the Eucla Roadhouse during the search for The Nymph…

Another famous hole is Skylab at Balladonia which was showered by debris when America's Skylab space craft broke up over the little settlement when crashing back to earth; President Jimmy Carter phoned the-then owner of the roadhouse to apologise for the debris on his roof and in his carpark.

If you're tempted to play "the world's longest golf course" go onto www.nullaborlinks.com



[] LONG way between drinks: Nullabor Plains provides "world's longest golf Course."

[] HELPING hand – local Nadiju dancers get the spirits on side for a crack at the Brumby's Run hole at Madura.

[] BIT rough: no need for artificial bunkers here.

[] DRIVING force: Alf Caputo (l) and Don Harrington were two of the three "main drivers" behind Nullarbor Links.

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