If you’re planning a golf trip in Scotland, you’ll probably pinpoint a few regions. Fife, Aberdeenshire, perhaps even Inverness. Rarely, however, will golfers make the journey north of Inverness, north of Dornoch and to Brora.
The first thing most people will tell you about the golf course at Brora is the electric fences around the greens. While these are certainly unusual, the putting surfaces that they guard are invariably in excellent condition.
You might also think that these fences detract from the playing experience, but after a few holes, you’ll barely notice them. The chance of them interfering with your shot is minimal, but if they do, you can choose to move your ball or replay your shot.
Of course, the small fences are there to keep livestock off the greens, but there’s nothing stopping cows and sheep roaming the fairways, rough and tee boxes. Once again though, this doesn’t take away from a brilliant example of traditional Scottish links golf.
At Brora, you’ll find a classic routing of nine holes out and nine holes back in. It’s James Braid’s most northerly course design, and one that has remained more-or-less unchanged since he visited the club in 1924.
It may not be the toughest, or most prestigious test of golf in Scotland, but the tricky par-3s, devilishly placed burns and bumpy fairways make for a hugely enjoyable test.
Although the first is a dog-leg, it’s not a challenging opening. The tee shot only requires an iron for position, before a wedge to a green that slopes violently from back-to-front. You would be well advised to keep your ball below the hole here if possible, especially if you didn’t fit in a trip to the putting green before teeing off.
Walking onto the next tee, you’ll appreciate one of the best views on the golf course to your right. In front of you though is a sterner test than the first, and the pair of fairway bunkers to the left hand-side will focus your mind as you tee it up.
Three more par-4s take you to the sixth tee, the first of Brora’s par-3s, and a tough test. Miss the green in the wrong spot here and you will be fighting to make not just a par, but perhaps even a bogey. Anything coming up short may well find a bunker, or get carried away by a steep false front.
The following stretch of holes require some thought, starting at the seventh. Longer hitters will need to dial back before taking any headcovers off, with the Achrimsdale Burn bisecting the hole. Avoid this though, and it’s a good chance to pick up a shot.
The eighth is appropriately named “Long,” and is the first par-5 at Brora. Off the tee, it doesn’t give many clues, with a small stone with a white stripe the only guide to the fairway over the hill. Get your tee shot over this though, and you’ll be in good shape to attack the green in two, particularly with a favourable wind.
That wind that may have been aiding you on the eighth will not be as warmly welcomed on the short par-3 ninth. Only requiring a short iron or wedge, the North Sea awaits any shot that airmails the green.
🗣 ”To become the owners of the land on which our golf course sits is a proud moment in the 130-year history of Brora GC."— Brora Golf Club (@BroraGolfClub) March 24, 2021
We're delighted to have secured the ‘milestone’ purchase of the land on which our links sits to help us build for the future 👍
The course heads back for home now, and a tricky run of holes await. The tenth is a straight away par-4, but a huge sloping green means if you’re on the wrong side of the pin after two blows, you’ll do well to make par. You’ll once again encounter the Achrimsdale Burn on the 11th, and you’ll have a decision to make whether you want to fly it and reach the green in two, or lay-up short and try to make a birdie that way.
While the out of bounds fence runs alongside the opening two holes on the back nine, it should only really become a factor on the excellent 12th. Take your tee shot close to the boundary fence, and the livestock to the other side of it, and your line to the green will be ideal. Play safely away from the out of bounds, and you’ll face a tricky second shot to a green well-guarded by bunkers. This is a fairway that you’ll need to watch closely, as bumps and hollows may well take your ball pretty far from its original landing spot.
The 13th is the shortest hole on the course, and one that better players might consider easy. However, the winding burn in front of the green, the crosswind that usually blows across the hole, and the five pot bunkers that guard the green would say otherwise.
By the time you reach the penultimate hole, you should be well used to Brora’s bumpy fairways, and it’s just as well. The 17th is the best driving hole on the course, to a fairway where a mound of rough sits in the middle. For most golfers, that mound is the line off the tee, as you’ll not reach it and your ball will filter to the left. That will set up another long shot to a massive, undulating green, protected by a very well-placed bunker to the front left of the green. A brilliant hole that really tests your ball striking.
The closing hole is a long par-3, and another excellent, tough test. Come up short here and you’ll find a pretty popular catchment area to the front left of the green. From here you’re unlikely to see the pin, and even less likely to get up and down.
While the clubhouse might scrutinise your every move coming up the last, take comfort in knowing you’ll be there soon to reflect on what is a fantastic round of golf.
If you’re a golfer in Scotland and haven’t yet made the trip to Brora, you really need to change that. Combine a welcoming environment, with a golf course full of character, and you can’t really go wrong.
It’s also a great test of golf. Holes like the sixth, 12th and 17th will examine your ball striking, as well as make you think strategy on the tee box. While the yardage is nowhere near today’s championship standards, don’t expect to bomb it around here and make a score.
There are a few contenders, but the 17th is excellent. Off the member’s tees, it measures over 430 yards, and although it plays downhill, it needs two good strikes to get home in regulation. If you think you can take your ball to the right of the mound of rough, you’re probably going to find trouble.
When it comes to the second shot here, it's probably going to require a right-to-left ball flight, with your ball running onto the front of the green. Once you reach the green, things don't get much easier, with a sheer slope in the front half of the putting surface. This hole wouldn't be out of place at any championship links course.
Did you know?
Five time Open champion Peter Thomson was a big fan of Brora, going as far to say it was one of his favourite links courses in the world. Such is the club's appreciation for Thomson, in their 125th anniversary year, they named a room in the clubhouse after him.
And another thing...
The club have a pretty hand team of golfers too. Brora's team of four won the 2021 Northern Counties Cup in Peterhead for the first time since 1985.
For UK residents in the summer months, Brora will cost you £95 per round. There's also the option to get a day ticket, which will cost you £120, and will get you 36-holes in the same day.
Looking for an extended stay? Head over to bunkered Golf Breaks, where you'll get great value, and the chance to pair Brora up with some of its excellent neighbours.
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T: 01408 621417