Welcome to the longest golf hole ever played – 2,000km, par 14,000
Julian Bennetts meets the men who hacked their way through wilds of Mongolia, all in the name of charity
At exactly 10am yesterday, Adam Rolston nervelessly rolled in a slippery seven-foot putt on the 18th green of the Mt Bogd Golf Club in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to bring to an end the strangest hole in golfing history. It had taken Rolston 80 days and 20,093 shots – just the 6,093 over par – to complete. He had covered 2,011km, playing through swamps, on frozen rivers and across deserts.
The former Hong Kong rugby international had lost dozens of balls and narrowly avoided a sticky end when his golf cart, which weighed 120kg, got stuck in a swamp and almost fell on top of him. But finally, yesterday, it was done. “My mates have all been saying you can’t do this, and that has been on repeat in my head,” laughs Rolston.
“This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m in awe of the fact we’ve done it.”
It began when Rolston met up with a former rugby colleague, Ron Rutland, while in Kenya. They discussed Rutland’s previous charity escapade: a 26,000 km cycle through every country in Africa before arriving in Brighton to watch his beloved Springboks face Japan in the 2015 World Cup – a game that ended in humiliation for South Africa.
Rolston came up with the idea of an equivalent golfing challenge and they settled on Mongolia because it was an enormous country with few people, no fences and the largest fairways in the world.
The idea was to finish on the 18th green of the one golf course in the country, and to tee off from the westernmost point of Mongolia. He calculated it would take him 14,000 shots – and set that as his par. Rutland agreed to be his caddie, and eight months later, they were raising money for Laureus, which runs children’s sports charities worldwide, and were at the base of Khuiten Peak, the highest as well as the most western point of Mongolia.
“We have had dozens of people telling us we were mad or crazy, with comments ranging from, ‘That’s impossible’ to, ‘Do you not have anything better to do?’,” says Rolston, who hails from Northern Ireland.
“That first week was the hardest of my life. To get to the first tee we had to take a Russian jeep through a national park for five hours. From there, it was ridiculous.
“We had to load our cart on to a camel and then the bloke taking us to base camp just pointed at three horses. We had never ridden in our lives but we were thrown on to them for four hours to ride to the top of a precipice.
“Up there we found a shrine from where I hit the very first shot. That was the last time we saw the sun for four days.
“We had a route planned out, through grass below shoe-height – but the rain meant it was all marshland. Ron couldn’t get the cart through. I thought I’d see if I could pull it across.
“I got stuck around knee deep. He came in to try and save me and the wheels got suctioned off the axles. The heavy cart dropped down and almost chopped Ron’s foot off.”
A stray dog started following them – and has stuck with them for 1,500km.
“We have a lot of feelers out now to try and get him a good home and there is a lot of interest in him,” said Rutland, who says they have yet to work out how much money they have raised.
After this epic hole, does Rolston want to give up golf for a while?
“I definitely want to keep playing when I get back,” he says. “I’ve been super-pumped about playing golf every day. I might hit fewer balls when I get back, but I will still be addicted to the game as much as I ever have been.”
Long game: Adam Rolston drives, with Ron Rutland and a stray dog as spectators