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James Braid was many things, but keen traveller he was not. Braid, born in the village of Elie, near St Andrews, did not like flying and was particularly unsure about ocean travel. Indeed, he designed just one golf course in the United States but he did so on paper and never once visited the site.

His golf courses have left a massive dent in the way golf in Scotland – and around the world – is viewed. Playing his golf courses are hugely rewarding and offers a remarkable understanding of just how prolific the man was in his pomp.

While his dislike of long distance travel was a hindrance to his career as golf course designer, it was nothing less than a significant gain for the rest of us.

Braid, you see, travelled the length and breadth of Scotland constructing golf courses after his playing career began to subside. He created over 250 courses in the United Kingdom, the best of them in his homeland.

He was a pioneer in his field and, according to some golfing historians, is credited with the invention of the dog-leg, primarily in his inland designs, and the pot bunker.

Indeed, with his vast experience of tournament play, his keen eye and understanding of design and construction, Braid set the standard in golf course design that the rest of the world had to follow.

Braid created over 250 courses in the United Kingdom, the best of them in his homeland.

Because he was so productive it is hard to think where to start. In sensing that there was considerable demand from golfers eager to play a selection of his designs, VisitScotland, the national tourist board, launched a guide a few years ago incorporating no fewer than six James Braid Trails.

The trails were established as a tribute to the man’s immense contribution to the game as both a champion golfer and a golf course pioneer – and they allow you the experience some of the oldest and most historic golf courses in the world. If you’re out for a best experience, this a James Braid trail is the perfect starting point.

The West Coast Trail takes in the likes of Ayr Belleisle, arguably one of the UK’s finest public links, West Kilbride and Stranraer, the latter his last ever design. The Lothian Trail is centred around the capital, Edinburgh, and allows for golf over the timeless gem that is Royal Musselburgh, below, while also taking in the delightful East Course at Dalmahoy, top image.

royal musselburgh

And golfers who like their golfing romance will find solace in the Perthshire hills in the shape of Gleneagles, Braid’s most famous design and what many believe is his best work. The Gleneagles Trail also involves the likes of Crieff and Taymouth Castle, a beautiful inland layout beside the River Tay. The Gleneagles Hotel landed third place in our Top 20 Best Experiences last year.

Northwards to the Highlands and Scottish golfing luminaries such as Golspie, Boat of Garten, Nairn and Brora await as part of the Highland Trail while the Angus equivalent will grant play on the ever popular Downfield and Blairgowrie, its Rosemount course among the finest inland tracts in the country. Blairgowrie were voted by bunkered readers as one of the Top-20 Best Experiences in our previous poll.

The last of the six trails, however, is the Links Trail, where the likes of Carnoustie, Elie and Panmure await the attention of golfers. Carnoustie, venue for the Open in 2007, is one of the finest examples of Braid’s majesty; dotted with bunkers, unyielding in its challenge and a delight on the eye.

To fully understand why James Braid is considered one of the finest golf course designers of all time, you simply have to see his work for yourself. Only then will you realise why his designs, and legend, have stood the test of time.

Vote for your best experience at and you will have three chances at winning some great prizes.

All you need to do is vote on your overall experience at a Scottish golf club and your name will go into a hat to win one of the following:

–       a slot in the pro-am at the Scottish Hydro Challenge in 2014

–       a slot in the pro-am at the Ladies Scottish Open in 2014

–       season tickets for four to the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen in 2014


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Bryce Ritchie is the Editor of bunkered and, in addition to leading on content and strategy, oversees all aspects of the brand. The first full-time journalist employed by bunkered, he joined the company in 2001 and has been editor since 2009. A member of Balfron Golfing Society, he currently plays off nine and once got a lesson from Justin Thomas’ dad.

Editor of bunkered

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