"that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on,-- Until, the breath of this corporeal frame And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul: While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things." -- William Wordsworth
It was in nature that Wordsworth found his spirit. In a world transformed by industry, he found energy and peace and redemption in the landscapes of Britain. His spiritual settings are harder to locate today, but I still find them along the edges of Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, where the game of golf has preserved the most moving stretches of coastline, where you can still see into the life of things in the wild and windblown dunescapes and feel something in yourself come unlocked.
You don’t have to be a golfer to see it. But it helps.
I have chased a golf ball around much of the globe, stalking lower scores and wilder links and greater rounds, trying to pin down the ultimate golf experience. I have learned a few things in this quest: first, I’m still looking. The joy of golf-obsession is that there’s always another hole, another round, another shot to save. I also know that, for me, the dunes are the only place worth searching. Links golf is a conversation with the soul of the game, where you pioneer your golf ball through the landscapes that first inspired a hunter or shepherd to knock a pebble through the grass (an unlikely scenario for golf’s birth, but perhaps not too far off the mark). And I have learned that the magic of my greatest golf experience isn’t out there, but in here, a feeling in our gut that Wordsworth knew, and an emotion that, for me, comes easy on the links of the British Isles.
In A Course Called Ireland, I played Ireland as one grand golf course, walking the entire coastline with clubs strapped to my back and playing every links on the island —990 holes, 4,531 strokes (only 636 over par), 129 balls, and 1,100 miles on the hoof. It broadened my view of the world and of myself, and turned my feet into soggy and blistered stumps. I have proven to myself that I can golf a country on foot, but I have yet to prove that I can golf a country well. So the round plays on.
There is a secret to this game that I’ve touched and sampled, a vision of golf simplicity that has me revisiting competitive golf at age 40. This April 25th, I’m back on the road (via car, ferry, and prop plane this time), searching for the secret to golf across 105 UK links courses in 57 days, playing the British Open Rota plus many dozen more, then putting my links lessons to the test in round #105, a qualifier for the Open at St. Andrews. (I was going to clean out my basement this summer, but I thought I would do this instead.)
My path will be chronicled in A Course Called the Kingdom (2016, Simon & Schuster), but in the meantime, follow my search for the secret at coyneblog.com. And if you find yourself over there on the links this summer, look for the tired American ginger with the handsome headcovers.
Here’s to the life of things.
Tom Coyne is the author of the NYT bestseller A Course Called Ireland, Paper Tiger, and the novel, A Gentleman’s Game, which was made into a film starring Gary Sinise. Visit his website, www.tomcoyne.com.