I’d always wanted to embark on an adventure, and in June 2017 it began: the longest hole of golf ever played. Ron Rutland, a friend who’d just finished cycling through every country in Africa, signed up as my caddie. Mongolia was the ideal choice – a vast country with a small population and no fences.
Khüiten Peak base camp
We began our journey from a makeshift tee box at the 2,500-metre base camp of Mongolia’s highest mountain, Khüiten Peak. To get there we flew to Ölgii, the westernmost city in Mongolia – and by city, I mean 25,000 people – followed by a six-hour jeep ride, then a camel and horse trek. They were the hardest four days of our lives. It was June and meant to be sunny, but winds blew in from the glacier bringing sleet and snow. It felt like we would never complete the mammoth task ahead.
Not a where, but a who. The most unexpected, and ultimately best, part of the journey came in the form of a wild black dog who started following us on day two. We tried to get rid of him, but he slept by our tents and by day four he was part of our team. We named him UB – short for Ulaanbaatar, the capital – and he became a protector of our cart and a fantastic companion.
The Gobi desert
There were four days playing golf across the desolate Mars-like northern Gobi where we didn’t see another person. All around was flatness and nothingness, an arid landscape and no signal. Temperatures would ratchet up to 40°C by 10am, so we had to wake at 4am and play until it got too hot, then lie under a tarpaulin stretched across the cart until it got cooler. But it was beautiful to watch the sunrise and the stars.
From the brutal Gobi desert we entered the pristine alpine forests of the Khangai mountains – one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Deep valleys, waterfalls and flowing rivers felt like the Alps of Mongolia. It finally seemed like we’d broken the back of the expedition.
The last four weeks across the Mongolian plain were the easiest. Flat and green with rolling hills, the perfect golfing conditions – we kept one ball in play for 60 kilometres. The closer we got to Ulaanbaatar, the more settlements there were and the more we got to enjoy the amazing Mongolian hospitality. They couldn’t have been more friendly, force-feeding us vodka at every opportunity.
Mount Bogd Golf Club
Our final designation was Mongolia’s international championship golf course, 16 kilometres east of Ulaanbaatar. We were surrounded by cheering friends and family as we made the final putt to the 18th hole – 20,093 shots after we started. We also found a home for UB with the caretakers of the gorgeous Gorkhi Terelj National Park outside of Ulaanbaatar. He’s a remarkable dog – a true Mongolian nomad.