Tennant Creek Golf Club
We arrived at Tennant Creek Golf Club on a Saturday afternoon. It was mid-October, roughly a million degrees, and there wasn’t another soul around. In all honestly, there probably wasn’t another golfing couple this crazy in all of Australia! Undeterred, we pushed open the gate, drove into the empty car park, and stared out at the arid landscape.
The town of Tennant Creek lies almost directly in the middle of the Northern Territories. Home to much of Australia’s iconic scorched red landscape, the entire Top End as it is known, is a remote and desolate place. And Tennant Creek is literally miles from anywhere. But then again, everything is miles away from anywhere up here.
And when we say it was hot, we don’t mean just hot. No, we mean it was the NT type of hot that chokes the very breath out of you. It is that heat that makes life in the NT difficult to survive. Difficult unless, however, you are a fly.
The Golf Club at Tennant Creek surprisingly has 18 holes. Perhaps ‘surprisingly’ isn’t fair, because, for all the things that the NT might not have, adequate space for 18 holes is exactly what it does have! The course measures 6603-yards from the Members Tees and 5453 from the Associate’s Tees. Par is 72 from both markers.
Menekse decided that it was simply too hot, and she wisely decided to remain in our campervan Putu. But, being the golf maniac that I am, I laced up my shoes, threw my Jones bag over my shoulder, and set out determined to play a couple of holes. If nothing else, I figured Tennant Creek would be great preparation for a unique golf course that is on our bucket list– Coober Pedy!
After sliding my 10 dollars into the honesty box located next to the first tee and grabbing a scorecard, I stepped up to the 376-yard par four opening hole. The tee box rests on a slightly elevated platform. As I tried to force my tee into the dark rock-hard ground, the rain-starved earth didn’t budge. Afraid of damaging my driver, I teed it high while scanning the area for a discernible fairway. Not really seeing one, I took aim between 2 trees that I thought best outlined the hole, making a scared swing, and pushed it right. The sun was fiercely beating down overhead, and I hesitantly set off.
As I walked off down what I had determined was the first fairway, a frightening thought gripped me. Australia is home to some of the world’s most unique animals. Koalas, kangaroos, and wombats are simply adorable, and we are overcome with joy each time we see them in the wild!
But Australia is also home to some of the deadliest animals in the world. Menekse and I had already traveled for nearly a year in Australia, but the thought of all the animals eager to kill us never ventured far from our minds. And while we had seen plenty of adorable animals in our travels, we had also seen two huge Pythons fighting to the death in the Daintree River. And a shark when we went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Ok, so it was “just” a harmless Whitetip Reef Shark, but it was still a shark!
Grip it and RIP it!
Giving the trees, and especially anything that lurked in their shade plenty of space, I luckily found my ball in a wide opening right of the “fairway”. Guessing I was maybe a wedge over the short scrubby trees to the green, I hit a shot that looked like it landed on but bounced over the dark sand green. I found it laying a little too near to a tree for comfort and moved it to ease my nervous mind. I then proceeded to hit one of the greatest chips of my life! One that bounced on and quickly came to rest about a foot or so from the hole. I had gotten up and down for an extremely satisfying par! James 1, Tennant Creek 0!
Exhausted from the heat after only one hole and realizing I didn’t have any junk golf balls in my bag, I decided to skip over to the 339-yard par 4 ninth hole. Too afraid to hit driver, I grabbed a 5-iron out of my bag and stepped up to the tee box that I had now noticed resembled a freshly dug grave. Fittingly! Not wanting to hit it fat and disturb anything buried beneath me, I again teed it high, picked it clean, and watched it sail down the left edge of the fairway. Not that there was any noticeable difference between the fairway and rough!
I found my ball this time with a clear view of the sand green directly in front of me. With Putu resting just a wrongly selected club away, I decided on a full wedge that landed well short but bounced on. I gave the putt a mighty whack, but it somehow broke right at the last second. But I had managed to make another par. James 2, Tennant Creek 0!
In the end, the heat of the day got the best of me, and I only played two holes. Menekse was smart to have stayed and rested in Putu. As I sat down struggling to take off my golf shoes, my head was already throbbing from the sun. The golf course probably hasn’t seen rain in forever, and the clouds overhead that should have offered relief perhaps were just a mirage. The Red Centre of Australia is an extremely harsh land, and when you don’t respect it, it could be a dangerous place.
Menekse made me an electrolyte drink, which I gulped down eagerly. After resting in Putu, I was feeling better. We were ready to continue our journey of golfing the Explorers Way. Pulling out of the car park, I tallied up the final score in my mind. James 2, Tennant Creek 16!