Exclusive Interview With Tom Coyne
By Kickntrue on 1/20/10
I recently had a chance to ask a few questions to famed golf author Tom Coyne. Oh- he has a new book out too, A Course Called Ireland, available February 2, in paperback. The New York Times best seller talks about Tom's 16-week journey around Ireland and its golf courses. It looks pretty fantastic and you can order it HERE.

Tom Coyne has written other golf books, most notably to me anyway, Paper Tiger. That book followed Coyne's journey in his attempt to transform from an average amateur golfer to a pro-caliber player. I don't want to ruin the surprise but since he's not a household name on the Golf Channel he may have found out that it wasn't too easy.

At any rate- Tom was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. I was going to chop them down- but his answers are great- so enjoy. We're going to be giving away a couple copies of Tom's new book in the coming week- so stay tuned.

The Paper Tiger project turned you into a very good golfer. It’s been a couple years, so how well do you play golf these days?
I am afraid that my best golf is behind me now. I get out a few times a month -- with my teaching schedule, a new baby, and a new non-golf book project I'm working on, I just can't find the time (or the money) to play nearly as much as I used to. And with the last two book projects where I basically gorged myself on golf, I feel like I've played enough golf for ten lifetimes, and I'm fine with that. The frustrating thing is when I'm a guest at on outing, or I'm taken out for golf by a reader, and they have these expectations of my game that I just can't live up to now--I have to remind them that Paper Tiger was six years ago, and that much has changed since then. That said, I'm a decent six or seven handicap now and I'm happy with that. If I break 80, it's a good day, and if I don't, it really doesn't bother me at all. I think in some ways I'm a better player, if not a better scorer, now that I'm playing purely for the fun and diversion of it.

What is the single biggest thing that separates a pro golfer from a very good amateur?
I think the biggest difference between the very good amateur and the successful pro is probably one's mindset. The real players that I had the chance to hang around with, they just had this air about them, this confidence, even arrogance, that made me want to get out of their way. They were totally comfortable in their tournament skin, and that is something that I never really accomplished, and it's something that can't be faked. Hit all the balls you want, it doesn't matter -- some guys approach a four day tournament like it's their regular game. Some guys approach it like it's the most terrifying experience on the planet. I, sadly, proved to be one of the latter. There's also an obsession and an uncommon focus that I saw in the successful pros I played alongside. They were golf. All golf. All the time. Made some of them pretty boring, but they could really hit it.

What was the single most beautiful course/hole you encountered on your trek around Ireland?
My favorite course in Ireland is a place called Carne in Belmullet. It's as wild and beautiful as any links in Ireland, but it is set in a remote part of the west coast of Ireland that doesn't get visited by many tourists, so the place still feels entirely unspoiled. It's a place that you feel like you are discovering with each swing. It's also the part of Ireland my family comes from (Mayo), and we had a beautiful, sunny day of golf when I was there. I played with my dad and I played well, so that always colors one's opinion of a course. I'm not a purist or a design expert, and I don't pretend to be -- I rate courses by how much fun I had, and how many times I reached for the camera. At Carne, there was plenty of both. If I had to pick one favorite hole, I might pick the 6th at Cruit Island, a little nine-holer hanging off the edge of Donegal. Greatest little par there I've ever played--about 180 over a seacave with the tide crashing into the rocks, splashing up on the tee box. Another great day in an undiscovered part of the country.

What is the difference between American and Irish golf?
I suppose the entire book is an effort to figure out the difference between our golf and their golf, and why so many of us flock to Ireland to experience golf their way. A few differences--Irish golf is more accessible. You can play any course in Ireland if you have a handicap and a credit card. There were a few stuffy places along the way, but for the most part there wasn't any sense of status attached to playing golf or being a member of a club, which I found refreshing. Irish golfers also play more quickly--considering how fickle the weather can be, the Irish seem to get out there and get on with it. Every tournament I encountered was Stableford scoring--no one ever seemed to talk about what they shot, or how many strokes they were over or under par--everything was points, which I also appreciated considering how punitive links golf can be. You can make a twelve on a hole without hardly trying, so their scoring system made sense. I could go on for pages about the difference between links golf and the kind of golf we play over here, which is more of a parkland style of golf (purists would argue that there are no true links courses anywhere in the US), but I'll just say that links golf, the kind you find all the way around Ireland, is more like bowling, and what we play is more like darts--both fun, just different. The courses are hard, fast, and protected by the breeze, so you are reminded that golf is meant to be played along the ground. And doing so on a links course is a real blast.

Why do you play golf?
Why do I play golf? Because like so many millions of golfers, I'm convinced that I'm a better player than I am, and I'm so damn sure that one day I will prove it...

[ comments ]
Banker85 says:
VERY COOL AND INTERESETING, i am with him about thinking i am better than i really am and one day i will have the breakthrough! Tiger paper seems like a great read cant wait to get a copy.
munk24 says:
Banker, Paper Tiger was a great book, couldnt put it down, He also wrote a fictional novel "A Gentlemans Game, that was made into a movie
Banker85 says:
Wasn't there a guy who made a documentary on almost the same thing, becoming a scratch golfer? I think oob did a post on it maybe 6 months ago?
tfarrell826 says:
That movie you are referring to sucked. The Back Nine or something like that. Do not waste your money, its awful. And I love stuff liek this.

Paper Tiger is great, except the end is all too predictible. Not how you want to turn out. Another book of the same type concept is "Dream On" which was written by a Northern Irish guy who's goal was to shoot an under par round at this home course in a year - while still keeping his family life and job in tact.
dpoimboeuf says:
I read A Course Called Ireland, and would recommend it highly. It's a great and fun read. After reading the book, I tracked down the author on Facebook and let him know how much I enjoyed it. He was nice enough to reply with a kind thank you, so I am glad to see the book is doing well. He actually walked around the perimeter of Ireland. Not just the courses, but the whole route! My favorite parts of the book are the historical tid bits about each different part of Ireland, the insight into the culture of Ireland, and the many colorful characters along the way. Do yourself a favor and read this book!
ctjunior says:
I travelled all the way from Melbourne Australia to play Carne and could not agree more with Tom's assessment of the beautiful Mayo coastal links. I had the pleasure of playing it with a local member who showed me every nook and cranny, and with great enthusiasm too. We zigzagged our way around the magnificent holes and took in the majestic views of the Atlantic on our way. After one round, I decided to play and play again such was my attraction to this fine piece of golfing architecture, sculpted by mother nature herself. i'd recommend it to anyone, whatever your golfing ability. It's fair and true and above all, a real pleasure to walk. Oh, and did I mention the club staff? Some of the nicest people you'll meet. l felt like a member of the family before they let me leave the clubhouse!
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