While strolling through a book warehouse recently, I spotted a book with bright red letters on the cover which looked like a postcard. The title read I Golfed Across Mongolia, and I was extremely intrigued by the book. Written by Andre Tolme, the book is 262 pages long and easy to read. It is divided into eighteen chapters with fairly large words and well-spaced lines on every page.
Andre Tolme was a typical, well-paid Civil Engineer living in New Hampshire with a strong interest in golf, which he tried to do every weekend. He also had a very strong interest in traveling, having visited over fifty countries in his lifetime. After traveling to Mongolia and seeing how the landscape was inviting for golf, he decided to do something crazy; he would quit his job for a year and try to golf across the entire country of Mongolia.
Most golf fanatics wish they could play golf every day, but jobs and family usually do not allow us to play so often. Tolme felt the same way, and asked his boss for a leave of absence so he could go on his golf expedition. His boss graciously allowed him to take a break from work and return to work when the expedition was over if he chose to do so. Tolme went on a shopping spree where he bought the essentials such as hiking shoes, approximately 500 golf balls, a sturdy tent, and a GPS system, and took off for Mongolia.
Overall, the expedition would take approximately three months by Tolme’s calculations and would traverse over 1,200 miles. He figured he could take about 120 to 140 shots every day with only a 3-iron and walk about 20 kilometers and meet his goal in 90 days. After getting off to a slow start, he started to meet his daily quota, sometimes even surpassing his expected number of shots and kilometers.
After a few days though, he started to experience serious problems. The main issue was the massive blisters forming on his feet. As you can imagine, walking 1,200 miles will take a toll on your feet. Tolme’s blisters were so bad that he was forced to cut them open himself and place salt on them per his friend’s instructions. His aching feet were an issue during the entire trip, but he dealt with the pain and pushed on. Also, he found that lifting his 40 to 60 pound pack 140 times per day was extremely tiring. His back began to hurt so bad that he started to think about other ways which he could get his pack from one shot to the next without lifting it himself.
Tolme’s solution came in the form of a cart. He had considered horses, camels, vehicles, and other people, but his best solution was a small cart. Between shots he would simply place his club on the cart and push it 200 yards or so to where his ball stopped rolling. Almost immediately though, he found that pushing the cart was even worse than continuously lifting his heavy bag. The cart would get caught on grass clumps and was positioned at a weird angle making pushing it up and down hills awkward. Therefore, he gave the cart away to a stranger in a different town, and started relying on humans.
Andre Tolme hired two caddies in his travels across Mongolia. He found local men through people he knew who were happy to use their jeeps to drive him several hundred miles at a time. A man named Khatanbaatar was especially helpful. This local Mongolian man gave Andre pointers about which direction he should be hitting his golf ball, served as a communicator to other Mongolians, helped him find food and water, and protected him when wind storms and questionable-looking locals arrived. Tolme’s journey across Mongolia would have been nearly impossible if it weren’t for the help of men like Khatanbaatar.
Tolme eventually meets his goal after 12,170 shots in a city called Khovd. When asked how he felt by a man he had met on his travels who found him in Khovd, Tolme tells him that he is simply, “Tired.” The journey has taken a large physical and mental toll on Tolme and he was very glad to be done. When asked why he even embarked on the journey in the first place, he said, “To raise awareness.” This is a very vague response, but that is how Tolme intended it. After completing his trek across Mongolia, he realized that he did not need a solid reason to embark on the journey. He knew that people now know where Mongolia is because of the publicity he provided, how decent its people are, and that you can really learn a great deal about the world and yourself by completely taking a change of pace in life.
Although this book is simple and silly at times, it is a very entertaining story about a country and people that many of us do not understand. Mongolia is a country that has basic people who will offer you food and water even if they do not have much themselves. The land is bare with periodic rivers and desert and largely uninhabited. Tolme constantly tells his readers how a random Mongolian would ride up to him or invite him to their tent home and give him their prime pieces of meat and water. The hospitality he received is refreshing and the insight he received on humanity and how to step back from life every once in a while is what I will remember most from reading I Golfed Across Mongolia. I rate this book a 3.5 out of 5.