‘This is real, what have I done?’ – former Hong Kong rugby player Adam Rolston pushed to the brink during 2,000km golf odyssey across Mongolia

The 28-year-old, with the help of friend and caddie Ron Rutland, braves sleet, snow and extreme heat to play more than 20,000 strokes during 80-day odyssey

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 10:47am

Pushed to the brink by the harsh Mongolian climate and the sheer enormity of the task at hand, former Hong Kong rugby player Adam Rolston has defied logic to golf himself into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Rolston, whose friend Ron Rutland acted as caddie, covered 2,000km from the base camp of Khuiten Peak – the highest and most western point in Mongolia – to Saturday’s finish at the 18th hole of the Mt Bogd Golf & Country Club in Ulan Bator.

The epic odyssey took 80 days and more than 20,000 strokes, with the pair so far raising US$20,000 for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation after deciding to go on an adventure in the name of charity but also to push themselves out of their comfort zones.

“It’s the country without fences and it’s probably the last frontier,” Rolston said before setting out on what they named The Longest Hole.

While it was all smiles at the finish line, there were times in the early stages where Rolston thought he had bitten off more than he could chew, with the mountainous terrain and atrocious weather restricting him to mainly chip shots for the first four days.

“We were only doing 10km a day and our quota was 25km,” says Rolston, who lives in Hong Kong and played his last game of international rugby in 2016.

“It was cold and wet at night and knowing you have got to put your wet shoes on in the morning, that’s when it was like ‘what have I done? This is real, is it even possible to keep playing golf? I told so many people I am going to do this and now we are so far behind after the first four days, how on earth are we ever going to catch up?’”

“The first four days where the toughest thing I’ve ever done I think – that was the only point I thought I wouldn’t make it.

“The journey we had to the tee off, we drove five hours and then got a camel. None of us had ridden horses before, we had a five-hour trek to the top of this glacier and it just started chucking it down with sleet and snow.”

Sanctioned by the European Tour, the concept even prompted the team at Guinness World Records to create a new category for the longest golf hole ever played, with 28-year-old Rolston confident he met the criteria required to have he and Rutland’s name etched into the record books.

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The GPS location of every shot was recorded by an app on Rolston’s phone and, surprisingly, he lost less than 150 of the 400 balls he took.

The pair even adopted a dog on their travels, which they named U.B after Ulan Bator.

“We found this stray dog after two days and it just followed us for 2,000km,” Rolston says. “Ron’s not a dog person or a pet person, so I think he saw the dog as more of a burden but I see the dog as part of the team. He is probably 10 years old and he has just walked the whole country.”

A week of freezing cold was followed by weeks of sweltering desert heat, before the wet season kicked into gear and finally some stunning autumn weather arrived, with the pair staying predominantly in tents and eating a mixture of dry food and local cuisine.

Rutland, a 42-year-old South African who spent time living in Hong Kong and met Rolston while playing rugby at Valley, was faced with the momentous task of pulling everything required for the journey in a custom-built cart.

Despite the great unknown of how their bodies would respond to 80 days of punishment, things went as well as could have been expected.

“It’s the attritional 25km a day,” Rolston says. “I had a pretty bad back and neck for two weeks so I struggled with that, but it got so much better in the last few days.

“Ron’s got a hip issue, he had hip surgery two years ago so he is going to have to get that sorted out when he gets back.

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“I wasn’t muscle bound before I left but I’m certainly lighter now. Ron has lost some weight. Other than that we are all good.”

The positives certainly outweighed the negatives on their once-in-a-lifetime adventure, with Rolston saying the Mongolian people were “awesome” other than the odd “run in”.

“It was fun, I enjoyed playing golf. Ron may have a different opinion because he had to drag a cart but you just get in a rhythm,” Rolston says.

“Our family and my friends are here in Ulan Bator and we are going to have an awesome weekend.

“We said to ourselves during the last week ‘we have got to just enjoy this, because it won’t be here any more and we will have to go back and do whatever’.

“It’s been awesome and it’s been tough. You can relate it to rugby, you don’t enjoy every minute of it but when you look back on things you enjoy the tough things you do in life.”