Plans to build the world's longest golf course, across 1,200 km (750 miles) of treeless desert, received a welcome boost on Wednesday when the Australian government offered seed funding for the venture.

The 18-hole course will stretch along the Eyre Highway which crosses the arid Nullarbor Plain in the south of the continent, with one hole placed in each town along the way, and one at a remote sheep farm.

Doughty golfers who tee off in the Western Australian mining town of Kalgoorlie will end their round in the South Australian south coast town of Ceduna, more than 1,200 km to the east.

"The Japanese are prepared to play golf on a rooftop, that's how keen they are. Can you imagine? They'll be flocking in hordes to get over here and play this," course promoter Alf Caputo told Australian Associated Press.

Caputo, from the Eyre Highway Operators Association, said the golf idea had been dreamt up to promote remote-area tourism and encourage people who drive across the Nullarbor Plain to stop and see the local towns.

He said four holes were already in play, but he hoped the full 18 holes would be operating by mid 2008 at a total cost of

A$800,000 ($680,000).

Australian Tourism Minister Fran Bailey announced A$331,000 in government funding for the project on Wednesday, saying the money would be used to help promote the golf course and pay for signs and fixtures at each hole location.

The Nullarbor Plain, named for its lack of trees, is the world's largest flat bedrock surface, covering about 270,000 square km and featuring about 250 km of steep ocean cliffs on its southern edge.