Here we review Tom Coyne's book on finding the secret of golf in Scotland.

A Course Called Scotland – Book Review

Continuing on from his immensely successful A Course Called Ireland book, Tom Coyne is back with A Course Called Scotland which focuses on Scotland (and briefly a bit of English and Welsh golf too). The premise this time around is simple – Coyne plays a whole load of links golf courses, including all the Open venues, before playing in an Open Championship qualifier.

The objective? To find the heart and soul of golf and answer the age-old questions, what is it really about? What is its secret?

We join Coyne along for the ride as he drives, flies and sails his way up and down England, Wales and Scotland in what should best be described as one heck of a book. Below are a few reasons why I think that way;

First things first the map in the opening couple of pages is top-notch. In a book such as this, a good map showing the location of the courses and the route taken was vital. It would have been easy to make the reader simply use their imagination but luckily Coyne provides a clear picture instead.

Second, the occasional focus on history is brilliant. Golf and Scotland both play a key role in each other’s history and I think Coyne reflects that beautifully with small nuggets of knowledge and facts that truly enrich the reading experience. For example he regularly gives in-depth history on many of the courses he visits, how they came to being, who designed them, how they have changed over time, and he also provides explanations for some of the common terms we find in golf such as bogey, par, birdie and so on. My degree was in history so as you can imagine I welcomed all of this.

Third, the people he meets, and who we are introduced to, make the whole experience more personal and connective. The way Coyne describes the characters and personalities on his trip makes you think you are meeting them too. Without having met any of them before, it feels like we know them and share a bond with each of them, the bond being the game of golf. This sense of exploration and socialising was so strong that it got me reminiscing about my time travelling in New Zealand.

Coyne plays the lesser known courses like Crail as well as the big courses like the ones just down the road at St Andrews

Another facet I love is Coyne plays a lot of lesser known golf courses. The big ones that regularly frequent top-100 lists don’t really need the publicity whereas the lesser ones do. We learn that golf is not just about the big boys like Turnberry, Carnoustie, Muirfield and so on. It is about Craigielaw, Lundin, Crail, Fraserburgh, Stromness, Shiskine and Askernish and countless others too. Golf is just as pure and can be just as enjoyable there than at any of the Open venues. All too often we get caught up in the idea of crossing courses off our lists when at the end of the day, golf is golf regardless of where you play. To put it lightly, the book just made me want to go on a golf trip big time….

So 111 rounds and countless aches and pains later, what was Coyne’s conclusion? What is golf really about then? What is the secret? (Spoiler alert coming up FYI)

Well towards the end of the book Coyne gets asked if he found what he was looking for, to which he replies ‘not yet’. He also makes a clear point of never quitting regardless of how you are playing and how he still loves the game even after so many rounds. But to be honest I thought that the answer to the question will differ for everyone, that is the beauty of golf. Every reader from the book will take a different lesson or message from it which is possibly Coyne’s intention. For example, from my perspective golf was about simply enjoying it more irrespective of score. Enjoying the moment and not forgetting the landscape or people I am with. I saw myself thinking about all the rounds I had wasted because I was too concerned with my score and the idea that if I didn’t play well, I couldn’t enjoy playing. In short, Coyne’s work makes you re-evaluate your relationship to the game for the better.

His writing style is constantly flowing from one sentence to the next and he seems to have the unique ability to be able to take his time and yet make his point succinctly and clearly too. It is incredibly easy to read and I think I can now add Coyne to a list of writers of whom I will try to read everything they have ever written.

I cannot recommend this enough and I think A Course Called Ireland is next on my agenda.

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