Golf

Remembering James Braid - five time Open Golf Champion and golf architect

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This month sees the 65th anniversary of one of golf's greatest players and course designers, James Braid.

The Scot won the Open Golf Championship five times and alongside two other greats, Harry Vardon and JH Taylor, known collectively as the 'Great Triumvirate’, won the event sixteen times between them during the period of 1894 to 1914.

Braid was renowned for always having played wearing a shirt, tie and jacket - a stark contrast to the modern day golfer.

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Born in Earlsferry, Scotland in 1870, Braid was introduced to golf aged eight.

He became a club maker before turning professional in 1896 and, like many of us, his progress in the game was affected by putting problems - something that the acquisition of an aluminium putter in 1900 helped to cure.

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Such was his improvement on the green that in 1901 he won his first Open Golf Championship at the age of 31, and followed it up with four more wins (1905, 1906, 1908, 1910,), four second-placed finishes and two third-placed finishes, all before 1914 and the outbreak of World War I.

Walton Heath, a beautiful heathland course founded in 1903, opened for play in May 1904 and featured a famous match involving the 'Great Triumvirate’. Taking on Taylor and Vardon in two singles match-play games, Braid lost to both.

Aside from his prolific playing and club making, Braid was in much demand as a golf course architect and is associated with the design of, or alteration to, over 200 courses across and outside of the UK.

Amongst his workings are the Kings and Queens courses at Gleneagles, Carnoustie, St Enedoc, Southport & Ainsdale, Perranporth and, one of my personal favourites, Boat of Garten in Inverness-shire.

A visit to St Enedoc in Wadebridge, a course that overlooks the Camel Estuary, would not be complete without viewing a letter recommending changes to the course design requested by the then Committee.

Written in Braid’s own hand, and using various coloured inks, it is a masterpiece. The letter is displayed in a case in the entrance foyer.

Braid’s last commission was to design the course at Stranraer in 1950. Sadly, he died before the work was completed and so he never did get to see his final work.

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