Page last updated at 07:10 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 08:10 UK

The world's longest golf course

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Ceduna, Australian outback

90 Mile Straight
One of the holes is called 90 Mile Straight

The vast Australian emptiness of the Nullarbor Plain is famous already as one of the world's most gruelling car journeys.

Now it has become the proud home of the world's longest golf course.

Eighteen holes spread over 1,365 km (848 miles) of outback terrain that can take as long as seven days to play - longer even, if you keep on hitting your balls into the scrubland or suffer the indignity of having them stolen by an errant dingo.

But more of the hazards of playing this mega-course later. Let's deal first with the mega-logistics.

This is a course which favours patient drivers, because you will be spending an awful lot of time behind the wheel.

Nullabor Plain highway
Some holes are 100km apart, so you need more than a golf buggy

The idea is that after playing one hole, you drive to the next... and then the next. The problem is that they are often 100km further down the highway.

So long is the course, in fact, that it is spread over two states, South Australia and Western Australia.

If approaching the Nullarbor Plain from the west, you can tee off in the former gold mining town of Kalgoorlie. From the east, the starting point is the coastal town of Ceduna.

Golfing safari

It's a par 72 course, and bright yellow warning signs alert you to wayward wombats and even kangaroos on the way.

The wildlife you will almost inevitably encounter is one of the great attractions of the course. The fourth hole at Nundroo claims to have the largest population of southern hairy-nosed wombats anywhere in Australia - surely a golfing first.

At the Dingo Den hole, there's a resident crow which likes to steal stray golf balls. Not to be outdone, dingoes have started muscling in on the act, as well. It is like a golfing safari.


Nick Bryant tees off on the Nullarbor Links

The Old Course at St Andrews this quite definitely is not. But there are shades of Augusta, Georgia, the home of the Masters.

Just as Augusta has a long-established tradition of naming its holes after the flowers which beautify the course, the Nullarbor Links references its outback landscape - Dingo's Den; Watering Hole; Border Kangaroo; Oyster Beds; Golden Horse; 90 Mile Straight.

The idea for the course came from a group of roadside businessmen, who wanted to slow down motorists as they crossed the mighty plain.

Rather than watch them hurtle down the highway, they preferred them to stop, take in the sights and spend some money.

After a couple of bottles of wine, the germ of an idea was born. "Perhaps we should have a golf course across Australia," said Don Harrington, who was there at the creation.

"From there the embryo was formed - and today, five years later, we're here and we've arrived. That's how it all happened."

Tourist attraction?

Mark Twain once said that golf was a good walk ruined. The record-breaking Nullarbor Links is more a case of golf enhancing an extremely long drive.

The hope is that the golf course will become a tourist trail.

Don Harrington at Sheep's Back
Don Harrington was one of the driving forces behind the idea

"If you are a tourist from the UK or anywhere around the world, you go to Sydney and you see the Opera House, you also see the bridge. But you don't see the Nullarbor Links, and this is the real part of Australia which people should come and see," said Alf Caputo, looking resplendent in his Nullarbor Links golf shirt.

Even ahead of its official opening, 600 golfers have played the course, and the Nullarbor Links boasts members in 27 countries.

Golfer Brian Bushfield and his wife Cindy came all the way from Calgary in Canada to play in the inaugural tournament on opening day.

"Isn't that amazing," said Cindy, who had no regrets about making the journey. "I think the course itself is going to be amazing. And it's definitely going to be a hard par six."

Aside from the distance, the searing heat and the Astroturf greens, there is another drawback of the world's longest golf course.

It is an absolute nightmare whenever you lose your ball.

Map showing full length

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