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Scottish Links Travels - To Coyne a Phrase

By: | Mon 01 Jun 2015

Post from golf writer and golf blogger Kevin Markham.

American Tom Coyne is golfing his way around Scotland, playing the oldest and many of the best courses in the world. Our writer, Kevin Markham, went to meet him at Cruden Bay Golf Club.

You may remember a few years back when an American golf writer decided to walk around Ireland’s coastline, playing every links course he encountered along the way. His name is Tom Coyne, and he published a best-selling book about his adventures in 2008, called A Course Called Ireland.

It appears that didn’t satisfy his golfing wanderlust for he is now on a new quest in Scotland, for a book called, appropriately, A Course Called The Kingdom. He is no longer travelling by foot (the Keens he wore every day in Ireland were held together with band-aids by the time he finished). No, comfort has become more of a priority and he is driving from one course to the next. He is, however, cramming in golf to the tune of 36 and 54 holes a day. There are two reasons for such golfing gluttony: the first is his end game, which will see him teeing it up at Bruntsfield Golf Club on June 22nd; the second is the genesis of the book itself.

cruden bay

When Tom played his way around Ireland, in 2007, his handicap was 7. But he had played off +1, and if you have read his book, Paper Tiger, then you’ll know he ventured into the realms of the Pro Tour. For his journey to Scotland, he has spent the last year working hard to get his handicap back down. His work has paid off and he now plays off scratch… which is the minimum level required if he is to play in The Open Championship Regional Qualifier, at Bruntsfield. Playing in that qualifier is his end game. He returns to the States immediately afterwards.

“If I qualify,” Tom says, “I’ll just have to come back for the next round. But I’ll be playing against Tour Pros for just three Open slots.”

The genesis of the book is an entirely different matter.

“My publisher (Simon & Schuster) and I were discussing what type of book I should do next. He suggested something along the lines of A Course Called Ireland. After that, there was only one solution: Scotland.”

But that’s only the start of the story.

“Originally, I’d planned to play all the Open Championship rota courses,” Tom tells me, “but it grew from there.”
Through his blog, Tom asked readers for recommendations of links courses to play. The suggestions came thick and fast and he watched the numbers grow. That number is now 105, including three courses on the Scottish islands. In total, Scotland has 692 golf courses, but Tom is sticking to the coastlines, playing every links course. In fact, the only inland course he’ll play is Bruntsfield.

Tom’s quest, as he puts it on his blog, is to search the highlands for the secret to golf and a tee time in the oldest championship in sports.

It is an exhausting trip as the time he has given himself has not expanded at the same rate as the expanding list of golf courses.

“I’d planned to have rest days, but those have gone.” His golf at Cruden Bay varies from good to tired. Birdies are matched by bogeys and the occasional errant ball, but the easy rhythmic swing is clear to see.

When asked what courses have stood out so far, he points to a course he played the previous day.

“Murcar Links was something else. Some incredible holes,” he says. It is a course that, typically, ranks behind three of its renowned neighbours (Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay and Trump). Perhaps that gives it an advantage as the tossing landscape and intrigue come as a complete surprise.

cruden bay

Gullane and Kingsbarns also get mentioned, and Cruden Bay is impressing him no end. As we reach the 9th tee, high above the fairways below, we look over the entire course and out to sea, towards Slains Castle. It was from here that Bram Stoker drew his inspiration for Dracula. It is an amazing spot and Tom finally takes a few moments to relax and breathe it all as a rainbow falls on the castle ruins.

He hopes to have the book delivered by September, when he returns to St Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia, as Assistant Professor of English. Between now and then he has a lot more golf to play… and a lot more secrets of golf to find.

The book - A Course Called the Kingdom: In Search of Scotland, a Secret, and a Jug – will be published in 2016.

Related Articles

Feature review of Cruden Bay

Kevin Markham is an Irish golf writer, blogger and photographer who writes for a number of Irish and UK golf websites & magazines. His book 'Hooked: An Amateur's Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland' was published in 2011 and reviews all 350 golf courses which he played whilst travelling round Ireland in a campervan.

To read his blog visit: www.theirishgolfblog.com

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: golf travel

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