by Tom Coyne
Teacher’s Comments: A thoroughly pleasant travelogue.
Tom Coyne has to be either the luckiest man in the world, the most self indulgent or the most audacious.
After spending two years chasing the quixotic dream of becoming a Tour pro (detailed in Paper Tiger), Coyne takes off on another mad golfing fantasy—this time to walk the perimeter of Ireland, playing every golf course along the way. By journey’s end, Coyne spent sixteen weeks walking more than 600 miles and playing fifty-six different courses for a total 990 holes. If an addict can be said to have overdosed on golf, it’s Coyne. He played more golf in those four months than most weekend hackers will play in a decade.
In the final analysis, I vote for audacious, for it takes a sort of mad genius to even conceive of such a plan. It’s the golf equivalent of Hillary’s Everest expedition, of Roosevelt’s trip down the River of Doubt, or Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki. It’s a publicity stunt worthy of PT Barnum.
And it makes for a fine read. A Course Called Ireland is a light hearted excursion, full of humorous moments and keen observations of both golf and life in Ireland.
Fortunately, Coyne avoids the temptation to tell the reader about every one of those thousand holes. There’s nothing more boring than the guy at the bar telling you about every hole—every shot—of his last round. Instead, offers highlights, describing the courses in general, and perhaps one or two noteworthy holes. Coyne actually is quite good at this, easily evoking images of the wind (and rain) swept Irish links.
I want to go to Ireland to play tomorrow. The Irish Tourist board owes Coyne some money for his book length travel advertisement.
Ironically, it’s not the golf that I’ll remember the most. Instead, it’s the trip itself that I found most fascinating. Coyne writes about the roads, the towns, the pubs, the food, the bread-and-breakfastes, shops, dogs, sheep and mostly, the people. Ireland is apparently a rapidly changing society,with remnants of the 18th century living alongside elements of the 21st. There are also bits about family ties to Ireland, and previous visits with his father.
Coyne’s accounts of the details of his long walk are fun. I laughed at his gamy Keen shoes (I have the same pair of Keen hiking boots shown in the photo), his backpacking, (as an Eagle Scout, I have done my fair share of backpacking), and the various hiking issues he faced —blisters, sore muscles, chafing bits and so on.
Coyne also gets a good deal of mileage out of the various companions who joined him for parts of his trip, and of their different approaches to his epic journey. I’ve heard it said that you really get ot know a fellow when you travel together on a golf trip. In Coyne’s case, the extreme nature of his travels revealed character very quickly.
For several legs of the trip, Coyne was joined by his wife Allyson. She’s an interesting character, always on the periphery of the story, but only making brief appearances. I fouind myself wondering, though: What kind of a woman puts up with this sort of foolishness? First he spends two years chasing the PGA Tour dream, and then he takes off for Ireland. I don’t know many wives who would put up with that.
I have just two complaints about the book. The first is that it’s a little too long. At several points, it became tedious (and I can only imagine how it was for him): another road, another links course. Coyne always managed to bring it back wiht a humorous anectdote, but I think a little less would have been more.
Second, the photos of the trip in the middle of the book are horribly reproduced—something I’ve seen in several books lately. If a publisher is going to offer photos, it should take care to ensure that they’re worth viewing. Otherwise, leave them out of the volume.