The game has begun, actually it begun the day when The Man hit off at Kalgoorlie on the Nullarbor Links Golf course. He is playing the longest golf course in the world… some 1,365klm long, running as it does alongside the path of the Eyre Highway. It is going to take anything from a few weeks to a few days to complete the course. For us it will be more weeks… than days.
This is something The Man has talked about doing for a long time and the course across the Nullabor is unique in the world. It is going to be fun! Usually when you play golf the hardest part, once you have learnt to hit the ball, is finding the thing again. On the Nullabor it is finding the course… heaven help you if you loose the ball.
Some of the holes are nicely laid out and manicured… one or two even have grass. When we met up with Heidi, a travelling Dame of indeterminate years on a mission to cross the country, she was inspecting the course at Caiguna amazed that it was even to be considered a golf course. Apparently her hubby plays golf and this was certainly something that would have interested him. She had never seen the like of it before but then I think there was a lot about Australia that she found oddly strange.
There are all of eighteen holes across the course, each at a Roadhouse generally, this except for Kalgoorlie, Kambalda and Ceduna which are actually golf course in their own right. The rest are usually to be found at a local rec’ centre or out in the sticks at a road house. The greatest hazard, apart from losing your ball to the desert scrub is choking to death on the bull dust stirred up from a slice at the ball. This of course if it isn’t raining and you aren’t bogged deep in the desert mire. Yes… it does rain on the Nullabor.
The Man tells me that after hitting the ball, the hardest part on the course is working out where the ball has gone. There are rocks on the Nullabor course and while your eagle eye can follow the path of a ball skyward, it pays to have a brilliantly coloured one when looking for it on the Nullabor. Once the ball lands, it is just as like to head off in any direction having hit one of the many rocks on the course. It also pays to have a caddy at hand. This would have to be the only course in the world where the caddy’s job is to go up ahead and espy where the ball goes to. The hardest hole on the entire course is not considered so because of its par. It is considered so because someone has planted a bloody great hill in the course.
The ‘wombat hole’ is a long par, it is also one where you hit blindly over one of the few hills to be found on the Nullarbor, a natural hazard and if you don’t have a caddy up ahead you could spend days there looking for that elusive little round bugga hiding in the desert scrub.
Rain on the Nullabor creates its own hazards and this not only for cars and trucks sinking into the waterless plane of what becomes a huge mudpit. While each hole has its own small shelter, a convenience that helps you locate the course, the natural condition of the course is in itself an attraction though this becomes the greatest of hazards at some of the holes. Many carry their full golf bag but soon learn that only three or four clubs are necessary. These are the 3 iron, the 9 iron and the putter along with the optional sand wedge. Some people though managed with only the challenge of the 3 iron and have just as good a time in enjoying the experience. Rain on the Nullabor… a truly delightful event is surely is if you out there playing golf.
The most amusing hole for me was the one where to find the green you had to aim for the big read dot! We had a great time of it and we were advised that the average score for the course for the first timer is 140. The par for the course is 72. Your score of course improves with experience but playing a game across the great waterless plain while you are off on your adventure to cross the Nullabor is a highlight of the journey for sure.
Playing the Nullabor Links brings to mind the wonderful poem by the great Aussie bard Banjo Paterson. Written in 1893 the verses of “The Geebung Polo Club” is reminiscent of the flavour and trials of the Nullabor Links and I am left wondering just what Banjo Paterson would have made of such a great adventure.
The Geebung Polo Club by Banjo Paterson
It was somewhere up the country in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives of the rugged mountainside,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn’t ride;
But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash –
They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:
And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong.
Though their coats were quite unpolished, and their manes and tails were long.
And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub:
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.
It was somewhere down the country, in a city’s smoke and steam,
That a polo club existed, called the Cuff and Collar Team.
As a social institution ’twas a marvellous success,
For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress.
They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek,
For their cultivated owners only rode ’em once a week.
So they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
And they took their valets with them – just to give their boots a rub
Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.
Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator’s leg was broken – just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar captain, when he tumbled off to die,
Was the last surviving player – so the game was called a tie.
Then the captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground,
Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around;
There was no one to oppose him – all the rest were in a trance,
So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance,
For he meant to make an effort to get victory to his side;
So he struck at goal – and missed it – then he tumbled off and died.
By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There’s a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a crude inscription saying, “Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here.”
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies’ feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub –
He’s been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.
The Antipodean, 1893