Desolate. Windy. Dusty. And, a bucket list item for every golf fan. Voted as one of the World’s Top 10 Most Unique Golf Courses, the Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club at Coober Pedy, Australia, definitely fits the bill.
The good folks at the Old Timers Mine in downtown Coober Pedy pique our interest in seeing this golf course for two reasons. First, this is a grassless course. Instead, the course has crushed rock fairways. Second, this is the only golf club that carries a reciprocal agreement with St. Andrew’s Golf Club in Scotland. After paying the fee for a round of golf (currently $20), we drive to the course just outside of town.
As the only people on the course, we can take our time and soak in the atmosphere, along with all the airborne sand. Instructions received as we paid along with signage at the clubhouse indicate we are to choose a club, choose a ball, grab a small square of artificial grass, and go up the hill above the clubhouse to the first tee. This is intriguing.
The first tee sits on a large rectangular platform, supported by boulders. Looking out from the tee, we see an expanse of desert dotted with the “greens”. We laugh. This is definitely one of the most interesting experiences we’ve had in Australia. The fairways are lined with tires, tractors, and other machinery for interest as well as boundaries. The “greens” are sand soaked with sump oil.
While the wind will help carry the ball off this first tee, it’s wreaking havoc as well. Sand particles pelt us in the face when we are forced to look in the direction of the wind. Unfortunately, sand also invades my camera. The lens covering gets stuck slightly open. Ignoring that for the time being, we both take our turn and walk to where the balls lie in the fairway.
Here’s where that little square of artificial grass comes in. The instructions indicate we are to use this grass for each hit on the fairway. We continue to laugh. Carrying our own piece of grass to hit off is funny enough. In addition, we get an odd feeling looking around and not seeing evidence of people moving about, seemingly for miles in any direction… almost as if we are in an apocalypse movie. Yet, here we are attempting to play golf in the blinding sand. Eventually, we manage to get to the first “green” and sink our putts. Onward to the next hole.
Despite the one of a kind experience this golf course offers, we give up after a few holes because of the constant sand hitting us. If only we were going to be here for another day, we could try again for calmer weather so we could more fully enjoy the experience. Regardless, we had fun attempting to play a few holes. Following the honor system, we return our clubs, balls, and turf to the clubhouse storage room and call it a day.
Obviously, St. Andrews is the better golf course. But, Coober Pedy offers an equally memorable experience.
If you ever make it to Coober Pedy, definitely stop and play a round of golf. Even if you only play a few holes like we did, the memory of the lunar-like landscape and carrying a piece of artificial grass through each fairway will stay with you forever.
The course is a par 72, 18 holes.