Finding the Fairway with Tom Coyne

By: Dylan Thaemert

Photo Credit: Recounter Photography

Since I started writing for PIG, my involvement with the game of golf has deepened considerably.  I have traveled to Bandon Dunes and developed a love of links golf, read books on the game’s great players and the history of golf course design, and watched countless hours of professional golf.

Among all of the golf experiences I’ve had, a few stand out for having changed my perception of golf in a positive, lasting way.  One of those experiences was reading Tom Coyne’s books, A Course Called Ireland and A Course Called Scotland.  

In both books, Coyne travels golf’s ancestral homelands and intertwines thoughts on the game and life in writing that is thoughtful, relatable, and funny.  At the risk of wearing out an already threadbare cliche, reading these books feels like talking with an old friend.  They are a unique combination of travelogue, golf commentary, and autobiography.  For the golf-obsessed reader, they offer an experience like no other.

I’m tempted to relay some of my favorite stories and moments from Ireland and Scotland, but it feels like doing so would be doing a disservice to the experience that you’ll have when you pick the books up and read them yourself.  There’s nothing worse than having a great story ruined by a second-hand telling, so I’m not going to fall victim to my own enthusiasm here.

While the two books have differences in the mode of travel he takes (on foot in Ireland and then, more wisely, by car in Scotland) and some of the existential concerns he deals with, they have more in common than not.  On page after page, you can feel, hear, and see Tom Coyne seeking the heart of golf.  It’s golf that exists independent of top 100 lists, logo’d quarter zips, and the technology and distance debates.  

Reading about Coyne’s experiences in Ireland and Scotland provide countless poignant reminders about what makes golf truly magical.  Namely, the camaraderie we experience on the course in the company of other golfers, particularly when we have traveled somewhere for the sole purpose of playing golf, and the sense of community that golf can foster if we approach it with the chief goal of having fun.

If your experience has been anything like mine, you’ve played two different kinds of golf.  You’ve played card and pencil golf, where you obsessed over your score, quietly berated yourself after every bad shot, and, in the end, wondered why you wasted the time.

Then, more rarely, you’ve played the kind of golf where you enjoy the experience of being out on the course.  You don’t think about your mechanics and the pars pile up effortlessly.  Every once in a while you catch yourself looking around at your surroundings and thinking, “Wow, how great is this?”

If you want to have a relationship with golf that’s more inspiring than it is frustrating, one that makes you remember why you fell in love with the game, go buy Tom Coyne’s books, A Course Called Ireland and A Course Called Scotland.  I also encourage you to keep tabs on Coyne’s next project, A Course Called America by following him on social media, @coynewriter on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Dylan Thaemert
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One Comment

  1. Great commentary! I have become a huge fan of Tom Coyne (I just bought ‘A Course Called Ireland’ for my golf pro)!!! A couple of years ago I played the New Course at St. Andrews with my wife, a gentleman from Belfast and a Scottish caddy. For ten million dollars I could not tell you what I shot with any degree of accuracy, but I can tell you it was the greatest afternoon of golf in the sixty years I have pursued the game!!! The sixth paragraph hits it down the middle!!!!

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