James Braid

Full Name
James Braid
Website:
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Year of Birth
1870
Year of Death
1950 aged 80
Place Born
Earlsferry, Fife, Scotland
Place Died
London, England

World Golf Hall of Fame – Class of 1976: “James Braid’s worst finish in The Open Championship from 1901-1910 was fifth. In 1904, he was also the first player in an Open to break 70, shooting 69 in the third round at Royal St. George’s.”

James Braid was born in 1870 in Earlsferry, the adjoining village to Elie in the East Neuk of Fife, leaving school at the tender age of thirteen to train as a joiner’s apprentice. He became a member of Earlsferry Thistle two years later, playing on what was then an 11-hole course at Elie, and was down to scratch by his sixteenth birthday.

Braid moved to St Andrews in 1889, playing in matches against Andrew Kirkcaldy and his brother Hugh, then moved to Edinburgh two years later, joining the Edinburgh Thistle Club which played on the Braids municipal moorland course overlooking the capital. He spent another two years working there before heading south of the border.

His friend Charles Smith, the foreman clubmaker at the Army and Navy Stores in London had notified Braid of a vacancy that had arisen. So, although Braid had never made a club in his life and knew nothing about the process, he set off for the Big Smoke with at least an understanding of how to work with wood and tools.

From late 1893 until the summer of 1896, Braid’s time away from his London day job saw him practice at a number of clubs, including Chiswick, Sudbrook Park and Mid-Surrey. He also assisted at Hastings in 1895 before becoming the fulltime professional at Romford a year later.

Braid laid out the course at nearby Theydon Bois in 1898, receiving £4.13s.6d for his efforts. It was a 9-hole affair (which Fred Hawtree extended to eighteen holes in 1971), most of which is still intact. It would be the first of many courses he’d design but his professional playing career was also in full swing.

Three years after winning his first Open in 1901, Braid moved to Walton Heath and he would remain Head Professional there until his death forty-six years later. The club’s two courses are the work of Herbert Fowler and the canny Scotsman knew better than to tinker with layouts generally accepted as being among the best in the British Isles.

Instead, he concentrated on winning the Open again and by the end of the decade, he would be crowned Champion Golfer of the Year and hold aloft the Claret Jug a further four times; twice at St Andrews in 1905 and 1910, at Muirfield (again) in 1906 and at Prestwick in 1908.

Braid’s contract at Walton Heath allowed him to be away from the club for up to ninety days during a year so, when he was not competing in tournaments, he was able to travel the length and breadth of the country designing new courses or modifying and advising on existing layouts.

During his career, it’s reckoned Braid designed more than a hundred 9-hole and 18-hole courses. He also extended more than fifty 9-holers to 18-hole layouts and he either reconstructed or altered over two hundred courses in some way or another, even if just advising on new bunker schemes.

Braid rarely travelled abroad – he was apparently affected badly by motion sickness – so his foreign designs are limited to around a dozen in total in N. Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man. He ventured occasionally to play on the continent of Europe, winning the French Open at La Boulie in 1910.

Braid used Paisley contractor John R. Stutt for construction work on at least fifty of his projects over a time span of more than quarter of a century and it was his trusted friend Stutt who completed his last course at Stranraer in Dumfries and Galloway, shortly after he died in 1950.

In the book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses, authors John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming had this to say in their epilogue: “Braid’s courses seem to stand the test of time better than most… [his] work will never become obsolete: it has actually become ‘required reading’ for today’s trainee architects who, it is to be hoped, will remember the values which Braid established.”

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Courses designed by and courses remodelled and added to by James Braid

Aberdovey

1st North Wales - Best in Area 2nd Wales Ranking 64th Britain & Ireland Ranking

Aberdovey Golf Club is set enchantingly within the Snowdonia National Park at the mouth of the Dovey Estuary...

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Av. Reviewers Score:
Description: Aberdovey Golf Club is set enchantingly within the Snowdonia National Park at the mouth of the Dovey Estuary... Rating: 4.9 out of 6

Alloa

3rd Central Scotland - Best in Area

Situated in 150 acres of beautiful parkland estate in the shadow of the Ochil Hills, the 6,200 yard layout at Alloa Golf Club is a fine test of golf.

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Description: Situated in 150 acres of beautiful parkland estate in the shadow of the Ochil Hills, the 6,200 yard layout at Alloa Golf Club is a fine test of golf. Rating: 3.5 out of 6

Alyth

7th Perth & Kinross - Best in Area 89th Scotland Ranking

Alyth Golf Club, in the Vale of Strathmore, is a little off the main Scottish golfing tracks, but is well worth the deviation away from other more well known courses.

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Av. Reviewers Score:
Description: Alyth Golf Club, in the Vale of Strathmore, is a little off the main Scottish golfing tracks, but is well worth the deviation away from other more well known courses. Rating: 4.3 out of 6

Arbroath

10th Angus & Dundee - Best in Area

Home to Arbroath Artisan Golf Club, Old Tom Morris designed Arbroath Golf Links in 1877. This little known course lies a mere five miles up the North Sea coast from Carnoustie.

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Av. Reviewers Score:
Description: Home to Arbroath Artisan Golf Club, Old Tom Morris designed Arbroath Golf Links in 1877. This little known course lies a mere five miles up the North Sea coast from Carnoustie. Rating: 4.3 out of 6

Bangor

9th Down - Best in Area 17th Northern Ireland Ranking

Bangor Golf Club still retains the original Braid design hallmarks that have delighted generations of local golfers.

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Description: Bangor Golf Club still retains the original Braid design hallmarks that have delighted generations of local golfers. Rating: 5 out of 6

Bath

2nd Somerset - Best in Area

Set out on a former stone quarry that operated on high ground overlooking the town, Bath Golf Club is blessed with free-draining soil...

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Description: Set out on a former stone quarry that operated on high ground overlooking the town, Bath Golf Club is blessed with free-draining soil... Rating: 4.3 out of 6

Belleisle

16th Ayrshire & Arran - Best in Area

Ayr Belleisle is one of the best public golf courses in Scotland... designed by the great James Braid.

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Description: Ayr Belleisle is one of the best public golf courses in Scotland... designed by the great James Braid. Rating: 4 out of 6

Berkhamsted

6th Hertfordshire - Best in Area

If you like golf as Nature intended, or if sand bunker play is not a strong part of your game, you’ll love it here at Berkhamsted Golf Club...

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Description: If you like golf as Nature intended, or if sand bunker play is not a strong part of your game, you’ll love it here at Berkhamsted Golf Club... Rating: 4.3 out of 6

Berwick-upon-Tweed - Goswick

1st Northumberland - Best in Area 86th England Ranking

Founded in 1890 on land named Goswick (Goose Farm) by the Romans, Berwick-upon-Tweed Golf Club boasts views of the North Sea and to the south, Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle.

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Description: Founded in 1890 on land named Goswick (Goose Farm) by the Romans, Berwick-upon-Tweed Golf Club boasts views of the North Sea and to the south, Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle. Rating: 5 out of 6

Bishop's Stortford

24th Hertfordshire - Best in Area

Established in 1910, the gently undulating parkland course at Bishop’s Stortford Golf Club was originally designed by James Braid and later altered by Harry Colt.

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Av. Reviewers Score:
Description: Established in 1910, the gently undulating parkland course at Bishop’s Stortford Golf Club was originally designed by James Braid and later altered by Harry Colt. Rating: 3.7 out of 6