What is Golf Mongolia?
Golf Mongolia is an extraordinary expedition where I walk 1,320 miles (2,100 km) across the country of Mongolia while hitting a golf ball. Some may call this extreme golf, adventure expressionism, or just plain crazy, but one thing is certain; this has never been done before and may never be done again. The country has been divided into 18 holes which follow dirt tracks, rivers, and nomadic herding trails from east to west across the land once ruled by Genghis Khan.
Golf Mongolia is meant to be both educational and entertaining. The expedition will showcase the beautiful geography and wonderful people of Mongolia but it is also a test of survival and endurance. On the central Mongolian steppe, food and water are scarce and enormous distances make up the space between towns. I'll be faced with the usual golfer's frustrations: lost balls in the rough, hitting into hazards, etc. But, these challenges must be overcome in the harsh climate and vast geography of Mongolia. Marmots (small rodents) are ubiquitous across the Mongolian countryside and are carriers of the Bubonic Plague. The four species of poisonous snakes in Mongolia must also be avoided while searching for golf balls in the rough.
I have organized and planned this project on my own and I am hoping to cover the costs of the expedition with help from sponsors. All donations are used for my survival in the countryside as well as reporting and photographing the journey to share with the world. Donations in excess of the project costs will be given to various charities working in Mongolia.
Why Golf Mongolia?
In visiting over 50 countries on five continents, I have realized that travel gives us a unique window into human existence, and how this existence varies among different cultures. Golfing gives this expedition an original theme but the heart and soul of Golf Mongolia are the frequent progress reports that I will write from Mongolia and post to this website. These reports on my encounters, experiences, and golfing progress allow you to follow the journey as I walk across the country for several months. Photographs will posted on this site as well as an updated scorecard showing my golfing progress across the country.
I fell in love with the country of Mongolia when I first visited there in September, 2001. Dramatic world events occurred in that month and I came to learn how important it is to understand other cultures in the world. I am hoping to do my part to bridge the gaps in cultural understanding through this expedition and website.
Who is the Golfer?
The Golfer and creator of Golf Mongolia is Andre Tolme. He was born in Laconia, New Hampshire, USA. He is a professional civil engineer licensed in the state of California, as well as being a travel writer, explorer, and avid golfer.
Andre has traveled to five continents and visited more than 50 countries. He most recently resided in Berkeley, California before rejoining the traveling road in December, 2000, and he has been enjoying the nomadic life ever since.
Andre has been golfing since the age of 10 and, along with traveling, it is one of the passions in his life. "Requiring extraordinary concentration and a strong link between mind and body, golf is like a martial art," he says. "The only difference is that you can do it while drinking beer with your friends on a Sunday afternoon." Andre plans to publish some of his travel writing soon.
Why am I doing this?
This is the question I'm asked the most. Am I doing this to set a world record? for charity? because I've lost my mind? I guess there's no simple answer other than "just because I want to". I do have certain goals for the project however:
1. To raise awareness about the country of Mongolia, its people, culture, geography and place in world history.
2. To pioneer the sport of Extreme Golf.
3. To successfully complete an ambitious personal challenge.
4. And to expand the artistic imagination by performing an original act.
Is Golf Mongolia a work of art?
The definition of art is subjective but I have coined the term "adventure expressionism" which I believe describes my expedition quite well. Golfing across Mongolia is indeed an absurd idea but the concept resonates with people's imaginations. Golf is known as an elitist sport and Mongolia is a poor country that, until 2003, did not have one golf course. It's this juxtaposition that is itself an artistic concept.
What are the rules?
It's pretty simple. I hit a golf ball as far as I can with a 3-iron, find it, then hit it again until I've covered more than 2,100 km (1,300 miles) from east to west across Mongolia. I take preferred lies on each shot. I have divided the country into 18 holes which each end in a town or city. Once a hole is finished, I pick up my ball and proceed to the far end of the urban area and tee it up again.
Where do I sleep and what do I eat?
I sleep in my tent every night and cook my own food. Occasionally, I'll be invited to eat with a Mongolian family that I pass by, and many nights, I pitch my tent near a family's ger (yurt). Though Mongolia is a vast, sparsely populated country, you can always find hospitable, generous people willing to help you out.
Am I tempted to cheat?
Come on now, golf is a Gentleman's game!