Braid’s Northern Jewel
Brora Golf Club was the furthest north I was to travel on WBGD tour of the Highlands. One hour north of Inverness, its on the same latitude as The Gulf of Alaska, Hudson Bay and Siberia. So pretty far north, no wonder its logo is the Arctic Tern.
Brora Golf Club was formed in 1891 and at 130 years old, is the newest of the links on this trip. Originally a 9 hole course, it was extended to 18 holes in 1900. In 1923, 5 times Open Champion James Braid was invited to give his thoughts on redesigning the links. He submitted his ideas, which were adopted and the design of the course now, is all James Braid.
Braid did this for £25 plus expenses, how much it would cost now for a course redesign?
Brora was not a place I’d been to before but due to the Club being extremely active on social media, I felt I knew the place already. I first became aware of Brora through Tony Gill, the General Manager as Tony and I had been on the board of the Club Managers Association of Europe at the same time.
Tony, a Londoner, always extolled the virtues of the Brora Links and living in the Highlands. It must be idyllic, to keep him so far away from his beloved Chelsea FC.
Brora is not a wealthy Club. It had been active on social media in recent years out of necessity, raising money from all around the world. It was the first club I knew of that sold the naming rights for all its bunkers. The amount raised allowed them to buy some much needed greens equipment.
They generated sponsorship income from their pin flags, another first for me. You pay an amount to get your name on the flag and at the end of the year, they send you the flag. In Brora’s fight to still exist during the Covid 19 pandemic, they also introduced a new category of membership, limited to ten in number, the Platinum Membership. This special membership, alongside the existing International membership has generated tens of thousands of pounds for the club from avid overseas golfers. In 2021, Brora has secured their future by buying the land it sits on, thanks to an interest free loan from one of their Platinum members.
The ingenuity of these revenue generation ideas would make Andrew Wood proud and it helps when Open Champions Peter Thomson and Tom Watson have waxed lyrical about Brora.
Amazingly, the cost of International Membership is only £323 a YEAR, probably not even a month’s dues at the average US member club, and yes, it’s available to those who want to boast to their golf mates that they’re a member of a club in Scotland!!
It was all these preconceived impressions that drew me to Brora, that and the long standing invite from Tony and when I arrived there, I knew I was in for a treat.
The Scotsman, the Englishman and the American
I met with Tony and Larry Coben, a Brora member from the USA, for lunch prior to golf. Larry was obviously enjoying Brora and he was heading out for his 2nd 18 holes of the day with us.
Standing on the first tee, I had no idea where I was going until Tony gave me advice on the club to hit and direction to hit it. Thankfully, I was able follow his guidance and find the fairway and off we went in glorious sunshine.
It was at this point I discovered how unique Brora was, as after hitting my approach onto the first green, Tony pointed out the electric fencing round the greens. Yes, I did say the fencing was electrified, 12 volts apparently, enough of a shock to keep the sheep away, and enough to make me very careful when straddling the wires to get to the greens……I have played many a course in my lifetime, but this was a first!!
Brora is just over 6,200 yards from the tips and a par 70 with evenly balanced nines of 35. My accuracy off the tee at the first, didn’t last and I spent the next few holes trying to hit approach shots from the left rough. My scrambling prowess was impressing my playing partners as I managed 7 pars on the front nine, despite only hitting the first fairway.
A bogey on the short 5th and a triple on the par 3 6th ruining an acceptable first nine played out along the scenic Kintradwell Bay.
The back nine is played inland of the bay but there is enough elevation to get glimpses of the bay from some of the holes. My back nine mirrored the front in many ways, again 7 pars with a double on 12 and a 3 putt bogey on 17 spoiling the homeward stretch.
I was delighted to have 14 pars playing Brora for the first time and my thanks go to Tony for the invite and finding the time to play with me and to both him and Larry for their advice and great company on the way round. I don’t think either of them had visited the parts of the course before, where my tee shots ended up…
I could say any of the ones I parred, but special mention goes to the short par 3 13th where all 3 of us hit the small green, a special occasion given my inaccuracy from the tee. It was only a wedge on the day but into a strong breeze, you could hit anything and there’s no bail out.
I loved the par 3 18th, 201 yards where you can’t miss short, long or left and there’s bunkers on the right!! It’s a potential card wrecker of a final hole. My glorious 5 iron up the right got a favourable bounce onto the front of the green and I managed a grateful par.
Brora is definitely worth the trip this far north. Always interesting, always challenging, it will get you thinking over every shot, that and having to remember not to touch the wires when approaching every green, it will certainly keep you on your toes.
At a Glance:
- Traditional links golf designed by James Braid
- Small practice area
- Lovely Clubhouse with great views
- Well stocked Pro Shop
- International Memberships available
- 75 minutes north of Inverness Airport, four hours from Edinburgh and three hours 45 minutes from Glasgow
- Several historical links courses can be found within an hour’s drive including Royal Dornoch, Golspie, Tain and Fortrose and Rosemarkie, making it ideal for a golf trip
- Plenty of accommodation choices available locally
- Read more about Brora Golf Club here