Date: May 09, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

Outback Masters’ fourth stop in the Channel Country

It’s been raining in Boulia, in Outback Queensland, which is not unusual.

The good news is that the flood waters receded, as they usually do in the ‘Channel Country’, and the famous camel races are not far away.

Not to mention Boulia’s first glimpse of a big golf tournament, with the Outback Masters set to be played at the local golf club on 22-23 July.

Boulia (pronounced Bull-ya), population just 300 and on the road between Mt Isa and Birdsville, is authentic outback with its summer temperatures topping 50 degrees and it’s little, 18-hole golf course with the dirt fairways and black sand greens. The club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.

It is one of the great spin-offs from the first Outback Masters that towns like Boulia will earn some well-deserved attention.

With the camel races scheduled on the three days before the golf, tourists and golfers will be able to get the full taste of the outback over a five-day period.

“It’s going to be a big time,’’ said Shelley Norton, Boulia Golf Club treasurer (who also is secretary of the camel races).

“We have a Channel Country Open every year, and we’ve had sand greens championships. But this is pretty much new for all of Outback Queensland.”

Boulia Golf Club has only around 10 playing members, according to Ms Norton, although a few more social members.

Players who step out in the Outback Masters, which starts on 17 June in Roma and winds its way through the outback, will find that when they reach the ‘green’, a rake will be used to smooth the path of their putts.

“Everyone putts from the same line,’’ she said.

“You bring your ball around in that radius so that you don’t have to rake every line. It’s real Outback-style golf.’’

Boulia the town has a pub, the Australian, and a service station (rare out there), with a main street that is uncharacteristically wide because it was built to allow the Cobb and Co coaches to turn around more than a century ago.

Its main industries are beef and tourism, with the enormous Marion Downs station at 1.2 million hectares being nearby.

But it is the famous Min Min Lights that attract most tourists to the town, a mysterious set of lights that appear without warning and which draw many astronomers and interested watchers every year.

The Min Min Encounter Tourism Centre in the main street explores all the different theories about the origin of the lights.

Ms Norton has never seen the lights herself, but as a former tourism officer in the town, she knows the value of the attraction.

“No one’s ever explained them,” she said.

“There are so many theories, from the scientific to the supernatural, so many people who’ve been out to study it. In the wide open spaces, light can travel so far but it’s still a mystery to this stage. It’s not like the Northern Lights which appear at certain times. It’s very random.”

The locals have a saying about the lights: ‘You can’t look for the Min Min Lights. They look for you’.

Cyclone Trevor caused untold devastation in Queensland recently but for Boulia, the waters crossed the bridge at the start of the town, crept up as far as the petrol station, but never came much further.

The presence of the channels that carry water to the pastoral properties nearby are a Godsend.

So all is in readiness for the big tourist drive, starting with the camel races on 19-21 July.

Tourists who come in for that event will be able to stay on for the golf, with plenty of accommodation at the pub, the Desert Sands Motel and in the caravan park, as well as local farm stays.

Flights to Boulia go from Mt Isa or it is about a four-hour drive. Coming from the south it is an eight-hour drive.

For information about the Outback Masters, go to: