Brora: 'The finest traditional links golf course in the world'

Golfmagic uncover a hidden gem in the Scottish Highlands

Alex Dawkins's picture
Fri, 9 May 2014

Brora: 'The finest traditional links golf course in the world'

As I travelled up the scenic A9 to Brora Golf Club, I didn’t quite know what to expect, other than the wind to be blowing a gale. Brora is, after all, situated on the northeast coast of Scotland, some 50 miles north of Inverness.

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by sunshine and a very warm welcome from club president, Alistair Risk, who first played the course in 1955 and proved to be an extremely useful playing partner.

The wind was blowing but I got the feeling this was tame for the locals. We wasted no time in strolling down to the first tee – less than 100 yards from the white-sand beach (yes, really).

As I pulled out the driver, Alistair told me that Peter Thomson is a regular visitor to Brora and regards it as ‘the finest traditional links course in the world’. Given that only Harry Vardon can better Thomson’s five Open Championship wins, this seemed like high praise, and it didn’t take long to see why.

Brora was founded in 1891 as a nine-hole course but it was in 1923 that is became what it is today, when James Braid redesigned the course. It is testament to his work that the layout has barely changed since.

Indeed, Brora is the headquarters of the Braid Society, of which Thomson is the president, so you can rest assured that the course gets the seal of approval from all the right people.

Despite the town having a population of just 800, Brora has over 400 members, which reflects the quality and popularity of the course.

This really is links golf back to its roots. Cows and sheep roam the course, though they very rarely interfere with play. A slight downside of this is that the greens are all protected by electric fencing, although it doesn’t come close to detracting from the stunning views to be had at Brora (the view of the coastline stretching away into the North Sea standing on the 9th tee springs to mind).

The front nine hugs the shoreline, meaning the North Sea comes into play down the right side on all the holes apart from the par-3 sixth; while the back nine hugs the boundary of the neighbouring croft land.

In fact, the 10th hole claims to be the site of the longest drive ever hit, when a sliced tee shot leaked out towards the railway adjacent railway line and ended on a train to Portsmouth!

The course is by no means littered with bunkers, but this is largely due to the brilliant use of the natural undulating landscape to create hazards (such as small burns that weave across many of the holes).

Another Braid hallmark can be seen through the variety of the par-3 holes. There are two on the front nine and two coming back, ranging from 125-201 yards from the back tees. Each of the four faces a different point of the compass, ensuring golfers face as many different challenges as possible with the tee shots, regardless of the direction of the wind.

The par-70 6,211-yard course is a touch on the short side by modern standards, and that is surely all that stops this from being mentioned in the same bracket as the very top championship links venues in the game, such as nearby Royal Dornoch.

And what’s more, a round of golf at Brora won’t break the bank, costing just £49 on weekdays and £55 at weekends. In fact, it has frequently been voted as one of the top ten best value-for-money courses in the UK.

I can honestly say that I struggle to think of a round of golf I have enjoyed more than the one at Brora Golf Club. It is an absolutely essential stop-off on any golf tour of the Highlands. 

For more information on golf in Scotland, please visit http://golf.visitscotland.com
Where to play golf:www.broragolf.co.uk
Where to stay:www.clynelishfarm.co.uk