By Sam Tremlett
An iconic player and designer, Braid has had a big impact on the history of golf.
What Courses Has James Braid Designed?
A third of the Great Triumvirate along with Harry Vardon and JH Taylor, James Braid was born in 1870 and quickly got involved in the game of golf playing from a young age.
He would win five Open Championships, the last of which came in 1910. He would then scale back his playing career and became head professional at Walton Heath before embarking on a career in golf course design.
The creator of some famous designs, let's take a look at some of his best work.
Herbert Fowler, James Braid and Harry Colt have all left their mark on this out-and-back links that is nestled beautifully between rolling hills and the railway on one side, and the beach on the other.
James Braid is one of the most prolific architects in the world and this attractive woodland course is his reworking of an Alister MacKenzie design. Positioning from the tee is key, but despite the pine the fairways are generous. This heathland course is set through mature pines, silver birch and heather, and there’s a great sense of seclusion out on the fairways.
Golf has been played at Carnoustie for hundreds of years, but the Championship course is more recent – Allan Robertson laid out 10 holes in 1850, then Tom Morris made it 18. James Braid oversaw alterations in the 1920s.
Founded in 1884, the original course at Formby was redesigned by Willie Park at the start of the 20th century. A plan of the course from 1912 still hangs in the attractive and historic clubhouse, alongside a 1994 plan showing various alterations by the likes of James Braid, Hawtree & Taylor and Donald Steel.
Yorkshire’s finest, which oozes old-school class, dates back to 1891 when Tom Chisholm of St Andrews first laid out a course that would go on to host every major event a non-links course can host, including the Ryder Cup and Walker Cup. Nearly every bygone golfing great has lent a design hand over the years, including Harry Vardon (club professional from 1896 to 1903), James Braid, JH Taylor, Harry Colt, Dr Alister MacKenzie and Tom Simpson.
The King’s course on the majestic Gleneagles Estate is widely regarded as the masterpiece of prolific course designer James Braid. It opened for play in 1919 and has been frequently used for significant competitions. In 1921 a group of American professionals, including Walter Hagen, took on a team from Britain around the layout.
The shortest of Gleneagles’ three courses is regarded by many as its most enchanting, with further heather introduced to enhance the aesthetics. some Gleneagles aficionados would rate this the best, and indeed most delightful, of the estate’s courses, despite the scorecard not quite tip-toeing up to 6,000 yards. This may, in part, be due to its setting on the estate’s highest ground.
Dating from 1897 with additions by James Braid in 1922, this layout is memorable for its sheer quality as well as its beauty. The surrounding area has been designated a site of specific scientific interest and you’d struggle to find another course sitting in such a large swathe of land. The setting is truly beautiful with birches, rowans, pines and oaks in their thousands.
A fabulous Norfolk links, Hunstanton dates from 1891 although the course has evolved considerably with work by James Braid and recently by Martin Hawtree. It’s a traditional out-and-back layout with holes played on either side of a dune ridge, which runs through the middle of the layout.
The famous links to the west end of the seaside resort of Nairn began life in 1887 when the club’s founder Robert Finlay, later Viscount Finlay, employed Andrew Simpson of Aberdeen to design a course.
The layout was greatly changed by Old Tom Morris and again by James Braid. The latter was the first to break 70 around Nairn, a feat he accomplished in 1901.
Willie Park Junior designed the original course here in 1909, and James Braid made substantial modifications in 1937, which are now being refined and remodelled. The beckoning view from the patio outside the clubhouse is a magnet to the 1st tee, and throughout the round there are different and stimulating challenges, which appeal both strategically and visually.
Golf has been played here since 1896 with the course getting a major James Braid makeover in 1908. The current Par-71, 6231 yard lay-out has been described as the “links in the sky”, and looking down on the estuary from the 6th and 7th you’ll understand why. Its cliff-top site means there are constant sea views and it is indeed a links, albeit one that floats some 200 feet above the Bristol Channel. Where else will you find challenging links terrain, a Norman castle and beautiful sea views all-wrapped up in one package. All of which makes Wales’ 16th oldest club well worth a visit.
Royal Aberdeen (Balgownie)
The course was originally laid out by Archie and Robert Simpson of Carnoustie, before James Braid advised on alterations to the greens and bunkering in 1925. This is a classic out-and-back Scottish links with narrow and rumpled fairways, sloping greens, testing run-off areas and perilous bunkers.
Royal Cinque Ports
Founded in 1892, set among the rolling dunes to the north of the Kentish town of Deal, Royal Cinque Ports is one of the finest links courses in the south of England. The First World War had a detrimental effect on the land here but Braid resored the course and it reopened in 1919.
Royal Troon (Old)
The famous old links on the Ayrshire coast started out as a six-holer in the late 1870s, with the extension to 18, under the supervision of George Strath, completed in 1888. James Braid and Willie Fernie were eventually brought in to renovate and lengthen the course.
Situated to the east of Mansfield, Sherwood Forest has long been one of Nottinghamshire’s premier clubs, but in recent year’s this fine Harry Colt heathland layout, later refined by James Braid, has been catching a far wider eye.
Southport & Ainsdale
Twice a Ryder Cup venue, S&A is a James Braid design that has stood the test of time. It’s a fine and challenging links that sets out its stall form the word go with a daunting par-3 of nearly 200 yards as the opener. The fact the layout has remained largely unchanged since that time is testament to the quality of Braid’s design and the terrain on which it sits. This is a very natural-feeling links set over undulating duneland that was previously used for grazing cows and sheep.
St Enodoc (Church)
The rugged, rolling beauty of the Cornish coastline provides a stunning backdrop to this wonderfully varied James Braid design. Packed with memorable features such as the Himalayas bunker, it’s a thrilling ride all the way.
Other notable mentions: Bangor, Banstead Downs, Brora, Downfield, Dunbar, Dundalk, East Renfrewshire, Edzell (Old), Elie, Fairhaven, Forfar, Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Fraserburgh, Golspie, Goodwood (Downs), Goswick, Grange, Holyhead, Ipswich (Purdis Heath), Irvine, Lanark, Langland Bay, Lundin, Murcar Links, Musselburgh, Muswell Hill, Neath, North Hants, Panmure, Stranraer, Tenby, Welshpool, Woodbridge (Heath)
Don't forget to follow golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more golf content.