868-Mile Golf Course Planned for Australia

In mid-November, Australian authorities unveiled plans to open the world's longest "golf course" alongside a desert highway. The project involves converting the Outback's Nullarbor Plain into an 868-mile golf course. Local councils along the Nullarbor have approved construction of the project, hoping it will induce tourists to slow down and appreciate what is generally regarded as one of the most desolate environments in Australia.

The project involves building one hole in each of the 18 towns and roadhouses (gas stations) dotted along the Nullarbor section of the Eyre Highway. Collectively known as Nullarbor Links, the course will hopefully attract motorists to stop at a roadhouse, play a regulation-length hole, then drive to the next hole - 62 miles down the road in some cases.

The Outback golf course is the brainchild of Balladonia's roadhouse manager Bob Bongiorno, who said it combines 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 told Agence France-Presse. "I had to fight the spiders to get them back, though, so I gave (them) away."

Bongiorno said about 300 vehicles pass along the Eyre Highway each day, but most motorists are too intent on completing the journey as quickly as possible and don't stop. To remedy that situation, Nullarbor Links will provide a unique golf experience. Every on the course will showcase a local feature - from whale-watching spots close to the highway to ancient fossil beds.

Bongiorno's local attraction in Balladonia is where the U.S. 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 told AFP.

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

Goldfields Tourism Association chairman Alf Caputo said local councils will use their road-building equipment to shape the dirt fairways and "greens" made of oiled sand - real grass is impossible to maintain in this arid environment. "It's never going to be St. Andrews," Caputo told AFP. "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 may open by 2006. Caputo said he has 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 entire length of Britain.