Extended golf getaways can take on a cosmic complexion when undertaken in a caravan. So, hook up the van because these are the best places to visit, on and off the beaten track.

In late June, our family bid farewell to two of our friends who were about to embark on a three-month caravan journey across Australia. Their itinerary alone was enough to make you drool, but Di – one half of the travelling duo – is a golfer, so naturally a question arose about taking clubs.

“Just a half-set,” she replied, a little sheepishly. “I don’t know how many chances I’ll have to play.”

My guess is she’ll learn along the way just how many opportunities will surface. The caravan movement is a rapidly growing one in Australia, especially since COVID pointed our collective holidaying attention towards our own country. There’s also a rising van fascination among golfers. Think about the benefits: you get to set your own schedule, keeping it flexible if you like an area or its golf courses and wish to stay longer, and you can wait out or dodge any bad weather.

You call the shots in a caravan and your dwelling and possessions move with you. There are no lengthy check-in queues, no flight delays, no hordes of fellow exasperated travellers and, best of all, you’re not tied down to a return date. It’s a palate-cleanser mode of travel and it might just be the best way for travellers – golfers in particular – to get the most out of touring Australia.


In what surely constitutes the ultimate entry into retirement for golfers, Nick and Deirdre (Dee) Degnian used this year’s Outback Queensland Masters to launch a caravanning odyssey across Australia that will last at least a year and possibly longer. The former nurse (Dee) and medical imaging engineer (Nick) both retired in the past 12 months, having sold their farm on Queensland’s Darling Downs two years ago. They still live in the region yet won’t see much of it for a while.

The couple has essentially packed up their lives into their 16-foot Mountain Trail hybrid van, using their second time playing in the six-week-long Outback Queensland Masters (OQM) as the entrée to a much, much larger meal.

“We both really love golf and once we retired, there’s no reason to just stay at our home course,” says Nick, a 10-handicapper. “We could travel and do what we wanted. That was the easiest part about it. The Outback Masters side of things come up because someone else told us about it – this is their fourth year out of four. So we did it last year, but missed out on the Birdsville and Mount Isa legs due to COVID. We had unfinished business; we just wanted to come back and do it again.”

“The people are likeminded, so it’s just a really friendly atmosphere,” adds Dee, who carries a handicap of 21. “Everybody’s there to have a good time. Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed if you didn’t enjoy it.”

The intrepid pair has tested the golf-and-caravanning waters before. Prior to retiring, they embarked on trips into northern Queensland and the south-eastern corner of mainland Australia.

“Last year we did a trip along coastal Queensland that went as far as Cooktown and then came back down in the countryside to Charters Towers and down through the centre,” Nick says. “And that was just stopping and playing golf wherever we felt like. The year before, we did southern New South Wales down to Lakes Entrance. We started at Wollongong, Narooma – we played eight or nine games going down in three to four weeks. We ended up at Lakes Entrance then come back and played at Bonville [above] then went across to Inverell.”

Letting their whims set the schedule will remain the theme once the OQM concludes in late July and they push west into the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

“We didn’t plan anything then – it doesn’t really matter,” Nick insists. “[Travelling in a caravan] allows us to change direction really, really quickly if we need to. We’ve been caught with some rain and flooding up here in this trip just in this last leg last week. You’ve got to go in different directions – we were going out towards Windorah and then Cooper Creek coming into Longreach, and those roads were cut by rain two days ago (early July).”

“It gives you more freedom and flexibility,” Dee, who retired a mere week before departing, confirms of their van lifestyle. “And a lot of it isn’t governed by golf.”

Indeed, as an avid photographer, she is also interested in seeing the natural wonders of this wide, brown land, giving their pilgrimage twin motivations.

“When we left home three weeks ago, we packed up everything,” Nick says. “We’ve got some friends staying in our house and we’re on an indefinite trip. We’re heading into the Northern Territory and then across into Western Australia with a view of: ‘We’re just going to travel for the next 12 months – golf clubs in the back. If we see something we like, then that’s what we’ll do.’”

When asked if they can get all the way around Australia in that time, the couple laugh and say in unison, “We don’t know.” But of course they don’t have to know. If their adventure spills into a second year, so be it. Even better, you’d suggest.

“If that’s the case, then we’ll take two years,” Nick confirms with a hearty chuckle. “The OQM gave us the perfect kickstart to the whole thing. It’s a great concept – while we are all there for the golf, I guess golf is probably secondary to meeting people over the six weeks of travelling. It’s great to get on stage [as a prize-winner] at the end of a round, but really people are all just out there having fun.”

The biggest advantage of such an itinerant lifestyle is being able to change travel plans easily as they hear recommendations. “We are pretty self-sufficient so if we see or hear about something, be it a golf course, national park or attraction, we can just go. That allows access to off-the-beaten-track places like Cameron Corner, Birdsville and places we haven’t heard of… yet.”

Before you sell up, buy a van, pack the clubs and hit the road in envious emulation, be aware that there are pitfalls to navigate. The Degnians’ travel experiences before this trip have revealed some issues that warrant attention. For instance, space and weight are always at a premium. “These days, we have it down to a fine art,” Nick says. “The van contains our life and the car has only us and our golf clubs. Depending on where we go and if we are travelling with other people determines if the clubs are in, but generally they are the first items packed.

“For OQM we take push buggies, but normally we would not and instead hire a cart or push buggy depending on the course. We bought a couple of lighter stand bags that are smaller and emptied all the excess before we went. We carry extra gloves, tees, balls, etc. in the car. Going to courses for the first time sometimes results in using (losing) a lot more balls than we catered for.”

Naturally, though, the highlights outweigh the difficulties. In their travels to date, the Degnians – who have been married for 33 years – have a list of favourites, starting with the OQM. Beyond that, Narooma Golf Club (especially Hogan’s Hole and the whales breaching offshore) and Bonville Golf Resort were popular stops. They were pleasantly surprised by the golf courses of Bowen, on the coast south-east of Townsville, as well as Tenterfield, Howlong, Wollongong and the tri-state layout at Cameron Corner, where NSW, Queensland and South Australia meet.

“Sometimes it’s as flash as it gets; sometimes there’s an honesty box with scorecards beside it,” Nick says of the mix of golf courses to be found in the areas they’ve travelled to so far.

As for what has them excited golf-wise for the months ahead, Nick is most interested in seeing the courses in and around Perth, while Dee can’t wait to tackle the sprawling Nullarbor Links, which spans 1,365 kilometres across the barren landscape of South and Western Australia.

By the time they finish that particular run of 18 holes, their ‘golf odometer’ is sure to reveal a much larger and more impressive figure.