Live Vicariously through Tom Coyne’s Golfing Adventure: A Course Called Ireland

Every now and then you come across a book that touches you in a way you didn’t expect. Recently, I was introduced to a book about golfing in Ireland and thought to myself…”Okay, my grandfather was from Ireland. I just finished a series of posts about PEI, to where many Irish people emigrated. I haven’t been to Ireland yet, so…it might be worth quick perusal.”

So one night before bed, I cracked open the cover and started to read, expecting it to lull me to sleep in a few minutes. I was wrong.

Here’s how the book started…

“The dog was going to be a problem.

I had already faced off against a gang of galloping livestock, gone toe to hoof with a mountain goat, and narrowly escaped the nip of a mother swan. I had climbed my way out of sandy pits and thorny ditches, scrambled up stone walls, splashed my way through deep and icy waters. I had felt speeding cars brush the hair on my knuckles. I had lowered my chin into a month-long rain, peeled the blisters off my blisters, watched my feet turn to piles of soggy porridge. I had chafed. Over the last four months, I had encountered quick and flying fists, smelled the sour breath of a hundred lost men, fought my damndest not to become one of them. I took on the British Army. I dodged the police. And I felt the despair of every man who ever chose to walk alone, then found himself dreaming he could go back and choose differently.

But with just a few hours to go, and just a few paces left on my journey, I met a growl in the middle of a quiet country road, and it sounded just like the last thing a person might ever hear.

The dog was tall as a Harley with paws the size of pancakes. His skin was taut and caked in mud as if he’d been resurrected from a bog, and a winding scar cut up his face like a map. A redness leaked from his eyes, and in his stare I recognized a disquieting certainty about how the next few minutes were going to proceed. This wasn’t an animal I was looking at, I told myself. This was an inevitability.”

Now THAT didn’t sound like a boring golf travelogue to me, so I kept reading, and reading and reading for more than 2 hours to discover that “A Course Called Ireland: A Long Walk in Search of a Country, a Pint and the Next Tee” is a delight!

So much more than a book about golfing in Ireland, A Course Called Ireland is an adventure story of a man (many thought was crazy) who embarks on a quest to walk and play the longest golf course in the world – that course being the entire perimeter of Ireland, ending in Ballybunion.

Over a 4 month period, author Tom Coyne walked over 1,000 miles and played 990 holes (par 3,895) of links golf on 56 courses. The adventures, or should I say misadventures, he and his golf buddies encounter along his journey are hilarious; the people he meets, unforgettable; and the golf courses he describes make you want to grab your clubs and catch next plane to the Emerald Isle.

The book is a great read made all the more entertaining by Coyne’s captivating writing style which makes you feel like you are on the journey with him. Tom is a wonderfully entertaining storyteller.

As you can tell…I loved this book. Every night I would read a few holes (that’s a clever way Tom divides up the chapters) and I don’t think there was one evening when I didn’t elbow my husband, while laughing out loud, saying, “Hey, listen to this!”, and then proceeded to read out loud a funny anecdote or phrase.

By the end of the book, I had dog-eared more pages and highlighted more quotable quotes than I could count.

This is definitely NOT a book I can regift…Haha…but I wouldn’t want to. This is a book I will reference again and again. And if I ever get a chance to visit Ireland, it will be my bible of where to play and what to bring with me.

After reading A Course Called Ireland I just had to talk to Tom about walking where no man had walked before….

I won’t ruin the book for you by giving away any more excerpts, but I can tell you that when Tom writes about a golf course, it’s not the typical hole by hole description you’d normally see on blogs like mine. I learned something about writing course reviews from Tom – Don’t tell people about the holes, yardages and hazards – make them feel the wind on your face, the wonder of the landscape and the fears, frustrations and fun that they can expect to feel when they play the course.

If you are still wondering what motivated Tom to take on such a brutally difficult challenge, check out this podcast on Smarter Golf.

Then go out and buy A Course Called Ireland. And from the warm and safe comfort of your bedroom or study, live vicariously through Tom’s journey, complete with 38 days of horrid rain, man-eating canines, full Irish breakfasts that could convert most carnivores into vegetarians, blisters on blisters, traffic nightmares and the wild and wonderful golf courses he played along the way.

A word crops up from time to time in Tom’s book…’Craic’ (pronounced ‘crack’), which means “fun, enjoyment, abandonment, or lighthearted mischief”. I guess that really sums up Tom Coyne’s adventure and his book – it’s just great craic!


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  1. I am looking for a book to read-I think I will pick this one up! thanks!

  2. Hi golfgal,
    Being Irish I know there was a lot of coverage about Tom’s trip. It was an amazing feat. I have one question though – what did you think of the chapter about The Incident? Fairly unsavoury and I’d love to ask Tom why he felt the need to include it – it didn’t go down well here in Ireland.

  3. Hey Kevin!
    The scatological incident was a bit out of place with the tone of the rest of the book. I agree.

    But if I was honest, I’d have to say, my mouth dropped when I read it. But then I laughed out loud. I couldn’t believe it actually happened. But yes, it was a bit over the top.

    I wonder if that went down well with the victim of that incident. If it had been me, I would have worked hard to keep it out of the book.


  4. I was trying to meet Tom while I was travelling around the country in my camper van – for my own book – but I missed him by a couple of days. I kept being asked if I was the guy walking round Ireland writing a book – even when I was sitting in the camper. Odd people, we Irish.

    Keep up the good work

  5. Haha…I love the Irish – grandpa was from Ireland. My husband owned an Irish Pub for 16 years – fun fun fun!

    I want to travel North America in an RV and golf as many courses as I can in a year when I retire. Kids think I’m crazy 🙂

    Then I’ll hit Europe and UK.

  6. I have yet to see the courses in Ireland. Thus my curiosity you see. I heard that somewhere in Loch Lamond has a mini golf range.

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