Tue, Nov 16, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Australia plans world's largest golf course

MASSIVE SANDTRAP Plans are afoot to change a desert highway stretching through the Outback's Nullarbor Plain into a 1,400km golf course -- further than the length of Britain

AFP , SYDNEY

This handout photo taken on Nov. 12 shows the white sand dunes of Nullarbor National Park that will soon be the backdrop to the world's largest golf course. Authorities have unveiled plans to build one hole at each of the 18 towns and petrol stations dotted along the Eyre Highway, to be collectively known as Nullarbor Links. Motorists will stop at each petrol station, play a hole, then drive some 100km to the next teeing-off point.

PHOTO: AFP

Authorities in Australia have unveiled plans to open the world's largest golf course alongside a desert highway, in a scheme which will convert the Outback's Nullarbor Plain into a 1,400km sandtrap.

Local councils along the length of the Nullarbor have approved construction of the course, hoping it will induce tourists to slow down and appreciate what is generally regarded as one of the most desolate environments in Australia.

The plan is to build one hole at each of the 18 towns and road-houses (petrol stations) dotted along the Nullarbor section of the Eyre Highway, to be collectively known as Nullarbor Links.

Motorists will stop at one roadhouse, play a hole, then drive on to the next teeing-off point -- 100km down the road in some cases.

The idea is the brainchild of Balladonia roadhouse manager Bob Bongiorno, who said it combined his love of golf and hopes of boosting tourism.

"I brought my golf clubs when I first came out here seven years ago and tried hitting a few balls in the bush," he said. "I had to fight the spiders to get them back, though, so I gave it away."

Bongiorno said about 300 vehicles passed along the Eyre Highway each day, but most motorists were intent on completing the journey as quickly as possible.

To remedy the situation, he said Nullarbor Links would provide a unique golf experience and every stop on the course would showcase a hidden local treasure -- from whale-watching spots just 500m from the highway to ancient fossil beds.

Bongiorno's local attraction in Balladonia is the site where the US Skylab satellite came crashing to earth in 1979.

"Even if people only play a few holes, it will break up their journey and give them the chance to say they've played on the world's biggest golf course," he said.

The roadhouse manager plans to build the world's largest golfball in Balladonia to publicize the course. Its dimensions are yet to be finalized.

Goldfields Tourism Association chairman Alf Caputo said local councils had agreed to use their roadworks equipment to create the dirt fairways and "greens" made of oiled sand -- real grass is impossible to maintain in the arid environment.

"It's never going to be St. Andrews," he said. "But it's an awesome idea for promoting our area and should be a lot of fun."

Trial holes will be built in the next few months and the entire course is scheduled to open in 2006.

Caputo said he had already received calls from tour operators wanting to offer clients a round of Outback golf.

"Most of the interest is coming from overseas," he said, pointing out that the proposed course stretches further than the length of Britain.

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