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Review of The Month - January 2022

25 February, 2022

The purpose of the Review of The Month feature is twofold. Top100GolfCourses has always aimed to salute and encourage those who are putting admirable effort into reviewing the world’s great golf courses. Moving forward, we are also looking to learn from these experts! We’ll be chatting with the month’s star authors and discussing topics such as golf in their area, what they like to see in a strong course review, and of course dig a little deeper into their own winning review.

January 2022’s Review of The Month comes from Michael Verity, who put together his thoughts on the idyllic linksland of Brora Golf Club.

You mention a few green sites are "outrageous"...can you give some further detail?

Fresh in the mind of most having completed their round at Brora would be the 18th green, which features such a dramatic, all-or-nothing greensite nestling under the watchful gaze of the clubhouse – a really well struck shot of some 200 yards can find this small target and set up a birdie look but anything not quite establishing itself over the green’s false front will fall back some 30, 40 yards down into a hellish chasm of sin well below the green surface that leaves you facing a really nervy, blind, uphill pitch with the exact same hazard front and centre on your mind – throw in countless pairs of eyes looking down on you from the comfort of the clubhouse above and you have a really volatile closing hole! One can only imagine how many scorecards have gone up in flames right at the end of a round there!

No. 1 is a gentle enough par 4 with no real demand on the tee shot but the pitch is to an interesting, visually-enticing green tilted toward the player with the stunning sea view and hills in the background. Any approach staying above the hole can leave you with a really challenging opening putt..or three!

No. 12 might be my favourite green on the course and serves as great protection on this short Par 4. Tiny, well-protected, undulating green with a savage run-off to punish any approach shots missing just right of the green. There are so many interesting putts on this green because of the various bumps and borrows.

No. 16 is a fantastic plateau green, situated high up some 40 feet above where the approach will be played from. A blind approach with a short iron makes judging distance extremely difficult. A shelf on the middle left of the green has influence on many putts on this green making reading and execution a challenge!

Would you mind sharing your favorite hole from Brora, and what you enjoyed about it?

No. 17 is a really enjoyable tee shot from up on high, reminds me a lot of the 18th at St Enodoc, another fine Braid, in the way it looks and plays to a certain extent. The hole is a long, demanding Par 4 and moves ever so gently left to right; the fairway and landing area is generous enough, featuring many humps and bumps and an awkward island of rough at driving distance that is to be avoided in order to comfortably go for the green in two. Getting an even lie for the approach can be a lottery in itself. From there, you’re asked of your best long iron to a small enough green that repels balls coming up slightly under-hit and will also feed off anything slightly left into a tricky bunker or down a slope that leaves a troubling recovery shot.

How does Brora stand among the other James Braid designs you've had the opportunity to play?

Obviously Braid designed but also subsequently altered many courses but of the courses that seem to have been crafted exclusively by Braid, Brora is right up there in the top 5 or so Braids I have played.

My favourite Braid that I have played would probably be St Enodoc followed by the likes of Pennard, Woodbridge and courses he had a strong influence on like Hankley Common and Parkstone.

Braid crafted so many good courses, he seemed to be very adept whether working with Links, Heathland or Parkland landscapes.

The region around Inverness hosts numerous acclaimed courses, including Dornoch, Castle Stuart and Nairn. Does a shorter, quirkier club like Brora get pushed under the rug a bit, in your opinion?

I think in the past, maybe this was the case but in more recent years I believe some of these more hidden, secret designs off the beaten track are almost becoming popular because of their “niche-ness” in an odd twist of irony. Social media, photography, literature and golf course rankings and lists such as have really brought some of these places into focus for the formerly unaware.

I guess if you travel as far north as Inverness or Dornoch looking to play golf then you have to be a golf aficionado by default almost, which probably now means that places like Brora, Golspie and Tain are well enough on your radar. I suspect a lot of golfers have now heard of Brora but probably still don’t realise just how good it is! Make the trip if you can!

One ranking Top100 editor acknowledged their admiration for the photo of the highland cow you included. How do such charms impact your thoughts on a course?

I think I just really like the unique aspects that you can encounter when playing golf in really varied environments, especially when you are a visitor who won’t play the course every week – the extra visual stimulus of seeing rare but really impressive wildlife so close up can really add to your experience — be it Highland Cattle at Brora and Pennard, sheep at Cleeve Hill and Southerndown; kangaroos at Lake Karrinyup or on courses down the Mornington peninsula in Australia; monkeys at Sentosa in Singapore; wild boar at courses in Scottsdale and coyotes on courses in Las Vegas; deer at Knole Park and Richmond Park in Southern England – it’s just amazing to share the playing area in such close proximity to such brilliant animals. Golf and nature in flawless unison.

Now that you're a celebrated "Review of The Month" winner, let us know what factors you appreciate in a strong golf course review!

Try as best as possible to be very golf course-centric. Concise and to the point. Give a feel for what the overall impression of the course is, pick out four to five holes max that you think presented some sort of unique or interesting challenge that you would like to document. A short line that maybe mentions something about the history of the club that you found out on your visit. Any criticisms/areas for improvement you feel should be mentioned. One to five photos that you feel best captures the aspects you enjoyed about the course

What's one course that you'd love to write a review for during 2022?

England: Royal West Norfolk. Overseas: Merion or Sand Hills.


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