Best James Braid golf courses
Do you know what Thorpeness, St Enodoc and The Kings Course at Gleneagles all have in common? They were designed by the legendary, 5 times Open Championship winner James Braid. Find out more about his proud work here.
Wherever you travel in the UK and Ireland, it’s a safe bet that you are never too far away from a James Braid design.
Born in Fife in 1870, Braid would go on to win five Open Championships. His greatest legacy, however, would be his incalculable impact on golf course architecture. A member of the great triumvirate, the Scotsman would have a hand in the design of over 200 layouts throughout the course of his illustrious career. Few James Braid designs are ever likely to disappoint. To get a taste of his best work, be sure to play these ten exceptional layouts.
Located on the beautiful Gower Peninsula, some 200ft above sea level, the ‘links in the sky’ is one of the best courses in Wales. It is also one of the most spectacular. Overlooked by a twelfth-century Norman castle, the holes are routed through tumbling links terrain, and golfers must navigate humps and hollows, blind shots, and treacherous bunkers, as well as the odd cow, if they hope to play well.
At just over 6,300 yards from the back tees, it is certainly not the longest of courses, but with a strong wind the norm, rather than the exception, most are grateful for the extra yards. Pennard’s brilliance lies in eighteen unique and memorable holes, each emanating their own individual charm.
Royal Cinque Ports is one of four epic links courses lining the Kent coastline, all of which can be reached within an hour of the capital. James Braid, who would redesign the layout after it was almost totally destroyed during the First World War, considered Royal Cinque Ports to be the finest course in England. A century later and that claim is still not too far off the mark.
Host to two Open Championships, in 1909 and 1920, the links has hosted a number of prestigious championships over the years, most recently the Amateur Championship in 2013. The course is an absolute brute, with the final seven holes playing directly into the prevailing wind. Awkward stances, pot bunkers and narrow fairways lined with wild dune grass only exacerbate the challenge. Regardless of how well you navigate the challenge, Royal Cinque Ports is a course that will have you coming back for more time and time again.
It may have been the Jack Nicklaus signature course at Gleneagles that captured the world’s attention during the 2014 Ryder Cup, but that takes nothing away from the quality of the two fabulous James Braid designed layouts at the resort. Both of which rank among the finest courses in Scotland.
The Kings is widely considered to be the best moorland course in Britain. Dating back to 1919, the course is the jewel in Braid's glittering crown. A masterpiece in golf course design, the course offers exceptional panoramic views from almost every tee. Meanwhile, the beautiful natural setting of the Queens Course has captivated the imagination of some of the biggest names in golf, including Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson.
Nairn may not be the best known of Scotland’s links courses, but it is certainly one of the finest. James Braid has twice had a hand in the design of this spectacular seaside course, which was originally laid out by Old Tom Morris, and his trademarks are evident throughout. Located at the tip of the Highlands, close to Inverness, the course boasts sea views from every hole. The beach isn’t only for scenic value, however, particularly over the opening holes and anyone struggling with a slice should be sure to pack plenty of golf balls.
With spectacular views and some truly exceptional golf holes, St Enodoc is perhaps James Braid’s finest English design. Carving its way through the mighty dune land overlooking the Camel Estuary, the Cornish layout of the Church course is best known for the enormous 75ft bunker which sits menacingly at the heart of the 6th fairway. Positioned some 100-yards short of the green, golfers must hold their nerve and go for broke if they wish to make the green in two. The course may be quirky but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the layout, which is out of the very top drawer.
Situated along the beautiful Suffolk coastline, Thorpeness is widely considered to be one of Braid’s finest designs. Opened for play in 1922, the beguiling coastal design meanders its way through 150 acres of natural heathland, with each hole encircled by silver birch trees, gorse, and heather.
The course is best known for the unique ‘House in the Clouds’, a converted water tower turned private holiday home which stands above the course. Built on quick draining sandy soil, Thorpeness is a great choice whatever time of year you decide to play.
Anyone travelling north to tackle the golfing gladiator that is Royal Dornoch should sure to stop for a round at Brora Golf Club. One of Braid's lesser-known designs, Brora is links golf at its very best. The traditional out and back layout offers outstanding views across the North Sea coastline.
Nonetheless, with little in the way of protection from the Highlands elements, the course provides even the most accomplished golfer with a stern test, particularly when the wind picks up. Meanwhile, the greens, protected by a series of electric fences to ward off grazing cattle, are both slick and hard to hold. Rugged and charming in equal measure, Brora may be quite some distance off the beaten track but is more than worthy of the extra miles.
The oldest golf course in Wales, golf has been played on this rugged stretch of Pembrokeshire coastline since 1875. The Tenby course oozes an old-fashioned charm and despite not long by modern standards continues to be relevant to the modern day golfer. Blind shots, humps and lightning quick greens are all part and parcel of a round at this sensational links, which also offers fantastic views across to Caldey Island.
Old Tom Morris may have fashioned the original design for the Championship course at Carnoustie, but it is James Braid who would transform the formidable layout into the world-class links that can be found today. Regarded as one of the toughest courses on the Open Championship roster, the Scottish links may have aptly acquired the nickname ‘Car-Nasty’, but in truth, visitors will find a course that is likely to astound and inspire in equal measure.
Few golf fans will forget Jean van de Velde’s barefoot paddle and eventual downfall in Barry’s Burn at the 1999 Open Championship. The greatest testament to Carnoustie’s standing as one of Britain’s finest courses however is the long list of champions who have lifted the Claret Jug at the Angus venue over the years, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tom Watson just to name a few.
In an area famed for its world-class links, Fairhaven stands out as a championship heathland layout. Unquestionably one of the finest inland courses in England, the Lancashire layout has hosted several Open Championship Final Qualifying events.
While there are 118 bunkers littered across the layout, the course’s toughest defence may well be cunning wind. Routed in a classic style, with two loops of nine, the gusts can play havoc with your round and coupled with slick greens makes for one of the toughest challenges in Southport. While there are so many fantastic courses to play along the Lancashire coastline, Fairhaven is a real gem and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Golfbreaks Tournament Specialist