I have played golf for as long as I can remember and always thought that I had a pretty good idea of what the game was all about. One trip to Brora was enough to turn all of my illusions well and truly on their head.
We arrived at Brora at the beginning of autumn 2018. It was one of the final destinations of a whirlwind two week trip of a lifetime in which we were lucky to sample some of the very best golf that Scotland, and indeed the world, had to offer.
Brora is nestled along the coast of Northern Scotland. A fair old trek from Glasgow where we had started the trip, but a venture worth taking and one that I dream of taking again. I’d heard a little bit about the course but I’m not sure that I was quite prepared (or even at all prepared) for just how special the place would be, and how much of a lasting impression it would etch in my memories.
Brora is unassuming. It’s a course like no other I have visited. There is a certain romance from the roaming of livestock - cows and sheep strole the fairways as electric fences surrounding the greens keep them out - to the landscape, the views and the incredible collection of par 3’s which all face in different directions so you will always have differing wind conditions to navigate.
Brora is nothing short of spectacular and has its own unique charm that cannot be replicated. That charm was my first impression, from pulling into the small car park and just as quaint pro shop, to its modest putting green. It isn’t trying to be anything that it’s not. There is no pretension or fanfare, the beauty of the landscape, the natural terrain of the course and magic of its old-as-time ground and time surroundings are all it needs to hold its own.
The mystery of Brora takes your breath away. Walking onto the first tee I was instantly overwhelmed, not just by the view - which is truly breathtaking - but with a feeling like I had been transported back in time. Brora feels like it has been untouched for a 100 years and yet it is not out of touch. There is an overwhelming presence that simply cannot be described. It’s a slice of old-worldly golfing heaven.
One of my favourite features of the course itself is that it’s incredibly playable. It doesn’t try to beat you up with outrageously thick gorse or a ridiculous number of pot bunkers. It is a good old fashioned “out and back” links course and the test is fair. Peter Thomson once described it as “the most natural links course in the world.” I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it myself.
The golf course meanders its way through the rolling links land and seems to welcome you over every dune, past every heard of sheep and cattle, and across every narrow bridge with a warm embrace.
I had packed my kilt for the trip, mainly for the amusement of the American boys, and I knew that I would wear it at some point on the links, I just wasn’t quite sure as to which course would have the pleasure of seeing my pastel white pins. For whatever reason, Brora got the ticket and it was like it was meant to be. I felt so at home. I would highly recommend it!
I was worried to read last year that the pandemic had caused financial issues for Brora. The lack of golfing pilgrims like myself had dented their coffers. What happened as a result made it clear to me that I definitely wasn’t the only one who had fallen for the club. Orders for merchandise flooded in from across the globe, advanced tee sheet bookings were made and devoted fans paid for membership.
This is what Brora means to anyone who has played it, it just stays with you. It‘s like an old friend that just cheers you up whenever you think of the good times spent together. When you hear a friend is in trouble, you do what you can to help and clearly the golfing world wanted to help its dear friend.
Whenever I meet someone who is dreaming of a trip to Scotland - where golf began, I always make sure that they add Brora to the itinerary. Brora is the perfect example of what I believe golf should be and can’t recommend enough adding it to your bucket list of courses to play.
It wasn’t just a round that left a lasting impression on my heart and in my mind, it’s Brora‘s magic, charm and beauty. I’m counting the days I can visit again someday to reassure myself that it wasn’t all just a beautiful dream.
Words & Photography - Stuart Kerr