Friday, June 21, 2013

Is this the Best Book on Irish Links Golf?

You could have conversations - or arguments depending on how passionate you feel - about what constitutes a 'Best Book' on Irish golf. 
Portstewart's Old course is more of a holiday affair. The big
brother is the Strand course, up the road.
  • Do you want a coffee table book with glorious photographs of the golf course? 
  • Would you prefer a book that includes the scorecard and a layout of the course? 
  • How about one that copies and pastes the text from the relevant golf course's website? 
  • Or, are you after something that gets under the skin of a golf course ? 

How you answer those questions will dictate whether you agree with me or not on my particular nomination. And my nomination for best Irish Links Golf book is this:

Links of Heaven: A Complete Guide to Golf Journeys in Ireland

by Richard Phinney and Scott Whitley

The book was first published in 1996, and reprinted in 2007, so getting hold of it is not always easy. Sure, you'll find it on the usual websites, but the prices might make you baulk. New £49.93 Used £8.58 New $142.28 Used $13.38
eBay: Prices range up to $17

Or... you could pop along to Book Station in my home town, Gorey, or one of their other 14 stores (from Athlone and Carlow to Bray and Dublin), and spend the princely sum of €3.

Two for €5. The other book, on the left, has plenty in it to keep you
entertained for €2.50
Why not get two for €5 and start selling them on eBay yourself. This is what you could call - in technical terms - a steal!

What makes the book so special? 

That's easy. It exposes the soul of every links course on our island... telling its story, its glorious history,  and taking you out onto the course, from tee to tee, and green to green. There are quotes from, and stories about, many of the people involved in those clubs, thereby adding a personal touch you don't expect.

True, there are no photos - something people often want (see below) - but this is a rollercoaster read and the writing paints such an idyllic picture that photographs feel superfluous.

Some 35 links courses receive a four to seven page homage, first taking you into the history - be it Old Tom Morris laying out Royal County Down, or a priest rallying the local community to make Connemara Links a reality - and then describing the course, the quirks and the challenges that you will enjoy today. You wouldn't feel out of place walking Narin and Portnoo's fairways, reading the book as you go.

Dozens of other courses are reviewed in detail over the books 368 pages, including the likes of the K Club and Killarney, but you're buying this for the authors' devotion to Ireland's links. If it doesn't inspire you to get out and play these amazing courses, then nothing will!

View from Narin and Portnoo's 8th tee over the 9th green


Don't get me wrong, I like photographs of golf courses (I've taken enough of them), even if they're taken from up in the sky or from some distant mountain where you will never be playing a golf shot. They make a course look fantastic and you get an instant buzz. The fact that photographers have slaved over that one shot - probably for days or weeks to get the perfect conditions - doesn't detract from the beauty.  But putting photographs into a book is a pricey enterprise. When I told my publisher I wanted colour images on every page, his reply was: 'Do you want the book to cost €80?'

So, if that's what you're after, you could always try this book on Irish Golf's greatest holes


  1. Bought Links of Heaven in a fleashop near Middle Abbey St for a fiver. Absolutely

    1. You can't complain about a fiver, can you! Have you played any of the courses as a result of the book?