Coyne's 'Golf Bug' Leads to Scotland

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

by Julia Snyder

At 8 years old, Tom Coyne didn’t like golf. 

“Well, it was hard and it was something my brother was really good at. I didn’t want to do it because you never want to do what your siblings are good at,” says Coyne, M.F.A., then the youngest of five children in the Coyne family, of Media, Pennsylvania, now the director of the writing studies program and an associate professor in the English Department at Saint Joseph’s University. “But somewhere along the way I just got the bug.”

That bug has embedded itself deep in Coyne. He published his fourth creative nonfiction book about the game, A Course Called Scotland, earlier this year. 

“With book projects, I always think, ‘Well, maybe the next one won’t be about golf.’ But to do these kind of crazy adventure stories, there really has to be a strong compulsion to do it and with me that only comes around golf,” says Coyne. “I always come back to it because I don’t find other pastimes to be as rich with story or as personally compelling to me.” 

In his newest project, Coyne travels to and through the birthplace of the game and reaffirms his passion for golf on some of the sport's most prestigious courses. 

“I was actually going to try to find the secret to golf, if there is one,” says Coyne. “I guess that’s the thing that I’ve really been searching for all along. And I said if there is any sort of answer to how to figure the game out, it’s got to be in the place where it was born. So Scotland it was. But I couldn’t just look here and there, I had to go everywhere. And so I did.”

For Coyne, “everywhere” meant 110 golf courses in 57 days. 

“One nice surprise was there are so many great courses in Scotland that are so close to one another, so there were a lot of opportunities for me to just stay in one place and visit a lot of different courses,” says Coyne. “But I couldn’t quite plan for what playing three rounds of golf a day for a week straight was actually ever going to feel like. And it feels really tired.”

Coyne’s childhood hobby has grown into an entrepreneurial mini-golf-empire: one movie (based on his novel A Gentleman’s Game), four books, countless articles and a TV show (“Golfing the World”). The author even has a partnership with Old Sod Travel to host an annual overseas golfing tournament: The Coyne Cup. How does Coyne manage to retain that original love for his favorite pastime? 

“It’s a balance. My approach to the game is that of a writer and I’m on these trips not to just have fun but to collect stories. I’m looking for characters and places that I can write about,” he says. “The good thing about golf is that I feel like I have to do it anyway. I am really obsessed with trying to play better and find new places to play. These are all things that I personally want to do so it never feels too much like a job.” 

Coyne has tried to transfer his love to his daughters, Maggie, 8, and Caroline, 5. So far they are more interested in swimming and playing tennis, but dad still hopes to pass on his “golf bug”. 

“I think it’s something that if I push it they’re definitely not going to do it,” he says. “They’ve certainly been exposed to plenty of it, though. They’ve been to golf destinations that a lot of golfers would kill to see and as little girls they have no idea what they’re doing.”

Released in July 2018, Scotland is Coyne’s second New York Times bestseller, following in the footsteps of his first golf-adventure novel, A Course Called Ireland.

“You write these things and hope that somebody who’s not related to you reads it. Every time I go back I meet someone who’s at one of the courses and they’re using the book as their guide — and that’s amazing,” Coyne says. “It’s cool to see that something that meant something to you means something to somebody else. That kind of connection is why I do this.”  

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