Never mind The Ryder Cup or the Solheim Cup, we were delighted to host a growing team event over our famous links earlier this month as the Coyne Cup visited Brora!
Leading American author Tom Coyne, who penned the New York Times bestselling ‘A Course Called Ireland’ and followed it up with ‘A Course Called Scotland,’ brought the fourth staging of his three-day competition to the Highlands for more golf, competition and camaraderie.
A visitor to Brora in 2015 when he wrote his book on Scotland, Tom loves links golf and we caught up with him for an exclusive Q&A as the Philadelphia-based writer enjoyed a trip back to our shores.
Tom, it was great to welcome you back to Scotland. How was the weather?!
“The weather was actually fantastic. We had a little rain at Brora, but the forecast was generally better than predicted so we were blessed. It makes such a huge difference seeing courses in some sunshine. When you get wind and rain, people tend to want to get off the course – so we had an absolute blast.”
How did the Coyne Cup concept first come about?
“It came from a tour operator (Old Sod Travel) who were getting requests from golfers who had read my books and wanted to go to some of the places I had visited. This was at a time when it was just the Ireland book, but the Scotland book was coming out as well. They thought it would be fun for me to host the trip and I thought it was a great idea. We wanted to make it interesting so we came up with a little competition, playing a Ryder Cup format for three days. I captain a team and every year one of the characters from the books is the captain of another team. Some years we have four teams, other years two, depending on how many people play.”
Did you anticipate this as a spring off from your books?
“It’s incredibly cool and definitely not something I anticipated when I wrote the books. We go to courses that are in the books and courses that I loved, playing them with some of the people in the books as well. I would hesitate to call it a ‘fan trip’ as the idea of having fans is very strange, but they are trips where you get to live some of the adventures from the books. It keeps growing every year. We had 60 people with us this year, 40 golfers and 20 family members doing other activities.”
How much did you enjoy Brora again?
“I played Brora in 2015 when I played every links in Scotland for the book. I absolutely loved it then and write about it as most people getting to Dornoch and then it’s like touching a wall and they can turn around. And they are missing out if they don’t make the effort to go up to Brora! I played a few courses in Ireland that have fenced greens, and that’s a quirk which is fun and interesting, but I mean Brora is so much more than that. It’s a James Braid time capsule. You can tell not much has been done to the course, it’s been left as Braid built it and designed it – it’s genius.
“When you walk a course like Brora and you realise it was created before there were bulldozers and steam shovels, that this is what the ground offered, it blows you away. It’s humbling, it’s amazing and even spiritual to play on ground that is so wonderfully suited to golf. I just love everything about Brora. Braid found places to put tees and greens without having to move land and yet came up with incredibly interesting and playable golf holes – it’s just so cool.”
Where did the rest of the trip take you in Scotland?
“We first went to Nairn on our arrival day, a warm-up practice round. I love the course there, a pure links, before it was then onto Castle Stuart, Brora and Royal Dornoch for the three rounds of the official tournament. Team Coyne took the honours so we have the cup back, which is great. We do a little extension each year for those who want to stay a little longer and play more golf, which this year were rounds at Murcar Links, Cruden Bay and Carnoustie.”
You have a great love for both Irish and Scottish golf. Could you pick one country over the other?
“I fell in love with links golf going to Ireland with my dad and have been there probably 30 to 40 times. I have a real kinship there and go back every year, it’s very close to my heart. But Scotland, at this stage in my life, there is something about the place that might make it a preference for me just now. My wife doesn’t even golf and loves St Andrews! She just loves everything about the town. The amount of golf and its proximity is also easier in Scotland, as the courses are more spread out in Ireland. I love the history in Scotland too, the birthplace of the game, but it’s a hard question to choose one country over the other! They both offer so much in terms of golf and hospitality.”
Thanks Tom, and we look forward to seeing you back at Brora soon!
Main photo: Tom is pictured with some of his golf companions in the Coyne Cup on the 17th tee at Brora.
You can purchase Tom’s book ‘A Course Called Scotland: Searching the Home of Golf for the Secret to Its Game’ here