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A Course Called Ireland By Tom Coyne

Release date: 19th March, 2010
Publisher: Penguin Books

List Price: £19.99
Our Price: £12.66
You Save: £7.33 (36%)
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A Course Called Ireland
By Tom Coyne
Penguin Books price: £ 12.66, saving 33% on rrp

Over time, there are a number of books you pick up and think, "I wish I had thought of that", before immersing yourself into the text, simultaneously admiring the author's cleverness in beating you to the punch.

Invariably, the best examples of the genre involve authors spending time with a team, a player, or following a specific sport. The great thing about sporting literature is that the team or player doesn't have to be any good - in fact, the reader's sympathy is usually extended to the sporting participant who is enduring a difficult season or a bad run.

Then there's another, equally fascinating, branch of sports writing where the author takes it upon himself to follow where professionals lead, but at a considerably more leisurely pace. It is this category into which Tom Coyne's A Course Called Ireland falls.

Last year, Kevin Markham published Hooked, his account of the year he spent travelling around Ireland by camper van to play and rate every one (there are 349) of the 18-hole golf courses in the country.

The result was an excellent, incredibly well-researched guide to Irish golf courses: everything from the outrageously expensive, high-profile courses, to significantly more affordable hidden gems. While well written, it was essentially a guide book, hence its comprehensive spread, whereas Coyne has been much more selective, though he too travelled around the whole of Ireland in pursuit of some fantastic golf courses.

Faced one of those easily-identifiable crossroads in his life, he decided (and here's the clever idea) to play every one of Ireland's coastal courses.

Coyne's was a relatively short journey of just four months and his book could certainly not be referred to as a guide, but his stylish writing draws the reader in - we want to know where the bag-carrying author will end up next, how the course will play, what the members and locals are like.

By his own admission, Coyne is no lover of carrying his golf clubs, so the fact that he opts to do this and spend most nights in an Irish pub must have done wonders for his constitution.

What makes it such an enjoyable read is that he finds time to explore other aspects of Irish life and history, something which enables him to trace his own family's roots and to examine as an outsider the effects of Ireland's astonishing economic boom and subsequent bust.

Coyne has that rare gift: an ability to combine humour and poetry in the same sentence, something which elevates his text beyond that of a guidebook and into the 'must-read' section of sports books, even if you're not a golfer.

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