When informed that we were heading to Brora for the day he says, “It’s a very special place, the course simply builds and builds and the back nine is truly outstanding.”
However, it wasn’t the words that came out of his mouth that excited us but rather the sparkle in his eyes that told us all that we needed to know. Today was going to be a memorable day.
Brora is the perfect example of how simple and brilliant golf can be. This natural links that James Braid has routed over perfect golfing land is quite simply out of this world. Its naturalness is only bettered by its brilliance. The creased landscape is ideal for golf and the simplicity is its genius.
There are few better golfing vistas from the car park than at Brora; it’s a course that grabs your attention before you’ve even struck a ball. A warm welcome from the pro-shop, a brief introduction about the course and an invitation to play from whichever tees we wanted was everything needed to set us on our way.
Deciding to play Brora is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made but it was a quick one and very little time was required to book a tee-time at this exceptional course over 400 miles from home. Deciding what club to hit from the first tee took a lot longer. There’s an option to go for the partially hidden green, over broken duneland, or perhaps play down the left to try and find the fairway for an approach directly up the tilted green, but which club and how far should you hit? It’s the first of many decisions you will make during the round on what is a highly strategic layout.
The entire course, established in 1891, falls so peacefully over the mildly undulating and wrinkled terrain, the round just flows and before you can blink you’ve played five holes along the shoreline; all par fours, all varied and all excellent.
You then turn 90 degrees to play the jaw-dropping sixth, a par-three called ‘Witch’ measuring 190 yards that has the most amazing green complex; two bunkers to the left and one to the right with steep run-offs at both sides and the front. The putting surface has the most movement that we have encountered so far in the round and it all makes for a truly world-class golf hole.
More elegant golf follows until you reach the ‘Sea Hole’ ninth, a picturesque one-shotter with a captivating backdrop of imposing mountains, golden sand and deep blue sea. Now we must head for home and more of the same follows; gracefully falling and rising fairways, outstanding green complexes and a feeling that you are at one with the golf course.
There are many highlights on the inward nine that does indeed build to a crescendo that ultimately peaks at the 17th in my opinion. From the joys of the unbelievable 12th fairway, to the delights of the delicate 125-yard 12th, to the big hitting golf required to find the raised green at the 15th, every hole is mesmeric and individual.
The 16th raises the bar higher with a fairway that rocks and rolls then sweeps up and to the right towards a green in the clouds. And the 17th is pure class. An elevated tee gives you a great view of the entire hole that features a raised green at the end of its 438 yards. Before then however a rough covered mound at driving distance must be negotiated. You can drive to the wide left side of the fairway or go down the right, the narrower high side, for a better angle and shorter route to the green.
The round ends under the clubhouse window with a demanding par three that offers nothing for short. Instead of heading to the nearby clubhouse you want to head back to the adjacent first tee and do it all again.
Cattle and sheep roam the course but never interfere; the electric fences around the greens see to that for the most part. The condition of the course was to a championship standard with the riveted bunkering, green surrounds and quality of hole-cutting particularly noteworthy; all maintained with just three full-time greenkeepers.
The playability of this unspoilt course was perfect too. You would be confident that if setting out with just one golf ball you would complete your round. The rough makes approach shots more difficult for sure but it is unlikely to swallow up your ball.
There is unassuming roominess to the course at Brora, a surprising bigness to the out-and-back linksland and although it wouldn’t be classed as a championship course, and it has no pretentions to be one, it could certainly host one. It's one of the most underrated golf courses in Great Britain.
Not that it really matters but for the record par is 70 and the total yardage is 6,211.
If only golf in general was as simple and uplifting as the golf course at Brora.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.