Father, son & Scotland: A bonus round at Brora?

By Ron Bellamy | Golf, Scotland |

Are the flights on time? Do we get lost in a roundabout? Is there enough daylight left?

Our flight from Washington D.C. through Detroit and Amsterdam is scheduled to arrive in Inverness, Scotland, at 12:40 p.m. on April 23. Hey, what can go wrong? Can son Jason and I get luggage, clear customs, get our rental car and some cash and be on our way to Dornoch by 3?

And then it’s a drive of just over an hour, if we don’t get lost in a roundabout, and time to check in at the Royal Golf Hotel, so can we be there there by 4:30? And Brora Golf Club is just 16 miles north up the road, and sunset on that day would be 8:45 p.m.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance …

I would at least love to see the place, to play as many holes as we could. (April greens fees are modest, 55 British pounds, or $75; regular-season rate is 80 pounds, just over $100.)

The original course overlooking Dornoch Firth was laid out in 1897, but in 1924 noted architect James Braid made one or two trips by train from London to advise on changes.

“Brora Golf Club is one of the finest examples of authentic links anywhere,” wrote George Peper and Malcolm Campbell in “True Links.”

“It took Braid only the time needed before the departure of the next train south to formulate his renovation plan. Braid’s fee was 25 pounds plus expenses, and to this day it probably represents the soundest investment the club has ever made since its founding in 1891. …

“This is links golf in its purest form. Braid left a heritage of fine golf holes over the hills and through the hollows between the dunes.”

As in the 19th century, sheep still graze at Brora Golf Club/photo by Tom Cade

Tom Coyne made the trek to the course, where cows and sheep still graze, the greens protected by electric wire, in writing “A Course Called Scotland.”

“Brora remains (Braid’s) unaltered vision,” Coyne wrote. “Like all the most soulful courses it transcends its architect and hides any hints of being designed at all. … If I had to make a case for what made golf along the edges of the British Isles great, Brora would be exhibit A.”

In “Scotland, Where Golf is Great,” the late James W. Finegan wrote:

“This is as fine an example of James Braid’s work as we are likely to find today. The course was built on a relatively narrow stretch of linksland just two holes wide, the sea on our right and in view on almost every hole. …

“The holes range from good to great.”

The No. 14 hole at Brora Golf Club/photo by Tom Cade

Finegan wrote that the par 4 No. 17 hole is “one of Scotland’s best par 4s, and was Braid’s favorite at Brora. It is named Tarbatness for the lighthouse down the coast that signals the optimum line of play.”

Will our adventure reach a view of Tarbatness? Or will we have to settle for merely settling in at the hotel and anticipating our first scheduled round the next day at Royal Dornoch Golf Club, which is ranked No. 2 in the world by Golf Digest?

Next: Royal Dornoch

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