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Scottish Links Golf

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AFSD - how to determine
the real length of a golf course

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What others say
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Brora Golf Club

When you drive into the parking lot of Brora Golf Club and see the simple clubhouse, you may be tempted to make a U turn and leave. But get out of the car, take a good look at the finishing hole, then walk over to the first and take a gander at that beauty. If you don't feel your pulse rate increase, better sell your golf clubs and take up tennis because links golf in Scotland doesn't get any better than this. Perhaps you've never heard of Brora, yet it's been a favourite of golfers for years, especially among golfers traveling independently.

Brora 18th green, what a view, what a golf course
Brora has one of the most enticing finishing holes and one of the most challenging. An uphill190 yard par 3, you must make it to the green or your ball will roll quite a distance down the hill into a deep collection area. It's an extremely tough up-and-down from there.

Brora is a GREAT golf course
The fun starts with a shortish par 4 with a gentle dogleg toward the sea. This veiw from the first tee doesn't really reveal the deceptive difficulty of this great golf course.

Brora borders the North Sea
Looking back from the first tee. This kind of scenery surrounds you throughout the round.

For several years I have admired the writing of Malcolm Campbell, former editor of Golf Monthly and author of The Encyclopedia of Golf and True Links. He served for many years on the Golf Magazine committee charged with making the annual selection of the World's Top 100 Golf Courses. I asked Malcolm which of the thousands of golf courses he has played was his favorite. He didn't have to think long before saying with a smile that Brora had a special place in his heart. He considers it one of the finest examples of links golf in the world. The famed Peter Thompson calls Brora, "The purest links golf course in the world."

James Braid, one of Scotland's (and the world's) finest golf architects, designed Brora. Braid also designed Carnoustie, the Gleneagles King's and Queen's courses, and a host of other equally famous courses. Brora is the headquarters of The James Braid Golfing Society.

Brora is one of those "sneaky good" golf courses. When you play Brora, the excellence of the golf course creeps up on you. After all, it's only 5,951 yards from the visitor's tees. How hard could it be? Plenty, that's how hard it can be! Consider this: There are onlyt two par 5s, so long-hitters have only two legitimate opportunity for an eagle--they can forget about having the usual four par 5s per round to feast on. And at a par of 70, the average fairway shot distance (AFSD) is a respectable 175 yards. Wait...there's more. Of the thirteen par fours, 4 of them are from 425 yards to 447 yards. Throw in the usual gusting winds off Kintradwell Bay--a small bay leading into the North Sea--and you have a real challenge. You could be clubbing up or down as much as 4 clubs when the wind is in your face or on your back. Lots of luck judging distance.

Brora is a classic Scottish seaside links course

Brora is a classic out-and-back layout, beginning with a relatively easy opening hole--just to warm you up and welcome you. Almost every hole from 1 thru 9 goes out in a northeast direction with the sea constantly on your right. (Slicers, beware!) The back nine return in a southwesterly direction, finishing with a wonderful190 yard par 3 that plays uphill and has a bunkered green to contend with and a devilishly deep collecting area to the left of the green just to keep you honest. If you're having a good round up until then, this hole can be a heartbreaker. If the wind is in your face and you don't think you can get there in one, do consider laying up. "Lay up on a par 3?" Yes, yes, yes.

Brora, Scottish links golf at its best
The view from the 6th tee affords the golfer a splendid view..

Ronan Rafferty, a member of Brora and also the James Braid Golfing Society summed up this golf course treasure as follows:
"James Braid had the vision to create something of great beauty--a traditional links course. That tradition is still alive and well and growing in stature at Brora. Here is
unveiled a links where little has changed since his visit in 1923. The hummocks and hollows are especially breathtaking as the sun sets. For the connoisseur, Brora is well worth the journey."

Thanks to the sheep and the cows

One bonus in playing Brora is the forgiving rough. You can thank the cows and sheep that populate the links for that. They manage to keep it under control and will continue to do so because of ancient grazing rights that continue to this day. Because they roam freely, each green is wired to keep them off. The wire stands about knee high and delivers a gentle jolt to the touch but it's easy to step over, however, and does not interfere with play. What happens if your ball rolls into one of the "cow patties?" It's considered "casual water" and you get a free drop--after cleaning it, of course. (Then again, you may want to leave your ball where it is and drop a new one.)

Cows "mow" the grass at Brora Sheep keep the grass short at Brora
Be thankful for the cows. They help to keep the rough short. And any "mess" them make is considered "casual water". The electric wire around the green does not interfere with play.
Like Rodney Dangerfield, Brora Golf Club "don't get no respect!" If this golf course were located in the United States there would be hoards of golfers crowding it daily and the green fees would be in the several hundreds of dollars. However, its location in the Northern Highlands assures a more intimate round of golf with golfing aficionados who have made a pilgrimage to this isolated area to sample one of James Braid's great masterpieces. For challenge and just plain fun, Brora is the equal of any golf course I've played. And the greens fees are very moderate. I urge you to make the trip to this out-of-the-way area of the Highlands and experience it for yourself.

Golf Nook Rating = an enthusiastic EAGLE



Mary-Alice suggests ...
What to Do All Day in Brora

Brora is a small northern highlands town on the North Sea, with one main street you can walk in a few minutes. But take your time, and also meander down the side streets--they almost all lead down to the sea. It will give you a sense of what life is like up here.

To begin your day in Brora, leave the car in the golf course carpark and walk the few blocks into town.

Clock tower, famous landmark  in Brora The ornate clock tower--Brora's major landmark--is at the bend in the road (the A9) north end of the town centre, just before you turn for the golf course. The tower is a war memorial for those lost in all wars from World War I to the present. The clock, a good site to fix your bearings on, chimes every quarter hour.

You'll find a good Co-Op supermarket where you can pick up sandwiches if you wish to eat lunch in a park, plus a few eateries and, oh, yes...public toilets are here (as well as in Golspie and every other town) and are clearly signposted.

Cunningham's - by the clock tower. Newsagent with alll sorts of stuff, especially books & info on the area.

Some Brora scenes

"Timespan" -- 11 miles north of Brora in Helmsdale. Check out their website to see if this interests you. If it does, in addition to the quite dramatic attraction, you'll enjoy the garden by the river, the excellent shop with original arts and crafts and gifts, etc. and the riverside cafe' with home-baked, fresh dishes made from local ingredients. Just off the A9, to the west.


Where To Eat in Brora

Capaldi's Ice Cream Shop - south end of town on the high street (A9). Traditionally made, old-fashioned ice cream.

Bridge Restaurant - Directly across the street from the clock tower.