I wanted to share a book with you: don’t worry – it’s a golf book – and it’s one of the most inspiring on golf that I’ve read.
A bit of context first, though. One of the great advantages of living in Hong Kong is its proximity to some incredible destinations. An example is somewhere that has become one of my favourite places on the planet: Mongolia. Just four hours flight from Hong Kong, it’s a country that I’ve dreamed of visiting for many years. Most people outside of the larger cities still live traditional lives – as they have since Genghis Khan’s time – in a wild and remote natural environment. To anyone who has ever yearned to travel across vast, wide open spaces, Mongolia is their idea of heaven. So, I was delighted to be able to visit this incredible country with my family a few months ago – and it was everything I’d ever dreamed of. One thing kept occurring to me, however, which brings me to the book I want to tell you about.
The world’s biggest fairway
Of course, as a golfer, I love the idea of all those endless expanses of grass. So when I eventually arrived in Mongolia, I couldn’t help thinking about how many golf courses could be built in the country by only having to add a bit of dirt and cutting the grass a bit shorter. It seems however that someone else has already had the same idea – an incredible young American called André Tolmé.
In his remarkable book I Golfed Across Mongolia: How an Improbable Adventure Helped Me Rediscover the Spirit of Golf (and Life) he tells the inspiring story of his unique journey across Mongolia in the summer of 2004. To a fellow golfer, it is quite a tale. Armed with his 3-iron, some golf balls and his Mongolian caddy Khatanbaatar, André set out across the whole of this vast country, playing it as if it were an 18-hole golf course. He’d hit his ball as far as he could, and then he and Khatanbaatar would run off to try and find it. As you’d expect, it’s an epic undertaking and it makes for a thoroughly entertaining read.
I was struck by a few things when I read about André’s adventures. The first was the fact that it shone a light on so many parts of this incredible country that I’d like to visit again myself. My time there was only brief, but reading about André’s journey across Mongolia was a fantastic way to prepare me for some of the stunning places and people I encountered while I was there. And André has such a great, easy-going way of approaching even the most challenging situations that I think is a real inspiration to all of us who like to travel. I’d even say that you don’t actually need to be a golfer to enjoy this book – anyone who enjoys travelling and discovering new countries and cultures will find something to enjoy in this adventure. It’s also hugely funny – André’s adventures are very entertaining (I particularly enjoyed the episode where our golfing hero gets stuck in the middle of a cross-country horse race) – and his ongoing terror of running out of golf balls is probably a fear that is familiar to many of us.
A universal challenge
Most of all, I enjoyed an aspect of André’s challenge that I think is an essential part of being a golfer – and perhaps even a human being – a willingness to try something that is many ways absurd, and to approach it with an open-hearted optimism and firm belief that you’ll succeed. The task that André had set himself is essentially ridiculous – but the journey he goes on personally as he hits 3-irons across Mongolia (and then tries to find the ball) – is truly inspiring. It’s a lesson in what is possible when you put your mind to it, but also in what is important in life – a sense of fun, an openness to other cultures, and sheer determination.