The author of A Course Called Ireland (2009) returns with an account of his recent travels around Scotland, where he played more than 100 courses in 57 days.
Along with his clubs and luggage, Coyne (English/St. Joseph’s Univ.) carries some personal baggage, as he was forced to leave his wife and two young daughters (though they did visit) again for an extended period to play golf. Although he dealt with some guilt early on, the feeling, at least in his account, faded, and he began to focus on his mission: playing as many courses as he could in the birthplace of golf. The author “imagined a search for the soul of the game as a long-bearded seeker, a courier of fine hickory shafts, wandering in the Highlands and playing to the sounds of bagpipes and the smells of clan-stoked bonfires. Far from any driving range, I envisaged lost answers nestled at the bottom of ancient golf holes.” The author entertains us with accounts of foul weather, fair friends (one of whom got hit in the face with a drive), and astonishing courses, some dating back centuries. Although he is an English teacher, Coyne goes light on literary allusions, though he does discuss fellow linksman and poet Billy Collins. The author played a wide variety of courses on his journey, from remote ones in Shetland and the Orkneys to perhaps the most opulent of all: Skibo, the castle and property where Andrew Carnegie once held forth. Coyne also sprinkles in bits about golf history (and the origin of the word “golf”), the design of courses, the meaning of “links.” We learn a lot about pubs, as well. The epiphanies that arrive are generally unsurprising—e.g., families are important; always try hard and pursue your dreams, etc.
Golfers and golf-o-philes will gobble this down and no doubt ignore the repetitiveness that may dissuade other readers.