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Australia: Playing Golf, Drinking Beer

I’ve loved Australia since the first time I visited, and have returned as a travel writer for many reasons, including wine country visits, Scuba diving, epicurean “research,” and more, but to me, golf Down Under will always stand out in my memories. In fact, in a very real sense, golf in Australia changed my life.

Australia has a disproportionate number of the world’s great courses, but then again, so do Scotland and Ireland. What makes Australia so special to me is something that happened on a single day, February 18, 2004. That is the middle of summer in Australia, and I woke up early that morning at a Sydney hotel, in the vibrant and touristy Rocks neighborhood in the shadow of the famous Harbour Bridge. I proceeded to the legendary New South Wales Golf Club, one of the top 50 ranked courses on earth, where I played, then sped to the Sydney airport and boarded a non-stop Qantas flight to LAX. As soon as I arrived, I grabbed a rental car, drove to Newport Beach, and played golf again, at Pelican Hill, a Top 100 US public course. Thanks to the International Date Line, it was still February 18th when I wrapped up a very long day, one lasting more than 24 hours.

Why did I do this? It was a carefully choreographed effort to break the Guinness World Record for “Greatest Distance Traveled Between Two Rounds of Golf Played in Same Day.” At 7,496 miles, I shattered the previous mark by almost two thousand miles, and in doing so, I “got into Guinness,” with my name in the gold 50th anniversary edition of the best-selling, copyrighted book in human history.

But I soon discovered my journey was far from over. I had done this stunt for a first person article for Golf Magazine, but I immediately encountered an unbelievable level of interest among friends and strangers, and the same questions over and over: how did the book get started? Does it have anything to do with the beer? What did you get? How did you have to prove what you did? And so on. This level of interest led me to research that in turn led me to realize that virtually no one knows anything about a book that has become a global phenomenon, and to date, the Guinness World Records is history’s greatest global bestseller, with more than 110 million copies published in three dozen languages. The fascinating stories I uncovered about the book, its history and evolution, and the crazy people like me who do the oddest things to get into its pages led me to write my book, Getting Into Guinness, which tells this funny and amazing tale.

When I do interviews about my book, one of the questions I am always asked is “What’s next?” Well, in 2005 a small town in Australia, Maryborough (population 25,000) set the record for Largest Pub Crawl, when 1,198 locals had a drink in each of the town’s 17 pubs. The next year, Maryborough broke its own record with 2,700 drinkers and decided to make it an annual festivity. That is one record breaking I am ready to grab my passport and head back Down Under for.

Larry Olmsted is a well published travel journalist who has written more than 3,000 newspaper and magazine articles. He writes a weekly column for USA Today, America’s largest newspaper, and is the author of Getting Into Guinness (HarperCollins, $24.95), to be released on Tuesday, September 16, 2008.


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Golf Lesson

Never been to Australia. But I play golf, it’s my favorite sport. Nice to hear that you have enjoyed your stay there.

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