- Full Name
- James Braid
- Visit Website
- Year of Birth
- 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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