7 Days on Highland Fairways
Photo: Reay Golf Club
James Braid is one of the true legends of Scottish golf. In an illustrious career in the early part of the 20th century he was to win The Open 5 times before retiring from competition to focus on designing and building courses. His legacy lives on in the Highlands where 7 courses he had a hand in constructing have, this month, grouped together to launch the James Braid Highland Golf Trail. These courses epitomise the spirit of the game in Scotland and unlike some of the more well-known historic venues, play is accessible. Visitors are welcome and strict dress codes do not apply. They are like a window to the last century where you can play challenging, traditional, links courses in amazing locations, just like they were ‘back in the day’. The courses are close enough together that all can be visited by car in a week. 7 days, 7 classic rounds of golf, now isn’t that a holiday to look forward to?
Reay Golf Club is the most northerly stop on our tour, founded in 1893 this natural links course nestles in Sandside bay with the Pentland Firth and the North Atlantic Ocean visible from every hole. One of the many benefits of playing golf in Caithness is that there is no need to book a tee time, just turn up and play. Don’t worry about packed courses or 6 hour rounds, more often than not you can have the course to yourself. Off season visitors green fees are as little as £15.
Brora Golf Club remains barely unchanged since James Braid worked his magic here in 1923. Visiting golfers will enjoy the mixture of bent grass and beach sand, burn water and gorse in glorious yellow May bloom. There is even a railway which comes into play from the tenth tee. Five time Open champion Peter Thomson is a regular visitor and has described the course as “the best traditional links course in the world” and he ought to know.
Situated an hour drive North of Inverness, the small highland village of Golspie hosts one of the hidden gems of Highland golf. A beguiling mix of classic links, heath and parkland holes awaits you, along with stunning views from all holes over the Dornoch Firth on one side and the backdrop of Ben Bhraggie on the other. The Club here is 125 years old open and offers a special discount for overseas membership due to the number of people who are enticed back year after year.
Recently crowned as Scottish Golf’s "Club of the Year” Muir of Ord is a heathland and moorland 18 hole course situated fifteen miles north of Inverness. It is set in some stunning Scottish scenery with clear views of Ben Wyvis to the north and the Beauly Firth to the south. The course features tight fairways and one of the finest Par 3's in Scotland. An interesting and challenging feature is the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and Wick railway line which runs through the course. In years gone by there was even a request stop adjacent to the second tee for persons wishing to play. Another unique feature is the regular sighting of Red Kites which can be seen on most days flying high over the fairways.
Officially the 15th oldest club in the world, a round at Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club is also a history lesson. The truly unique setting sees golfers travel almost all the way out to Chanonry point before returning inland towards the village. The exposure to the elements make this a particularly challenging round but the scenery more than compensates, you may even be distracted by some dolphins.
Inverness Golf Club has a splendid parkland course with tree lined fairways and generous well-manicured greens. Established in 1883 the course provides an enjoyable and challenging test for any visiting golfer. After your round you can enjoy a refreshing drink and appetising meal in the comfortable elevated lounge bar which boasts magnificent views over the course and surrounding area.
“The Boat” is the affectionate local name for The Boat of Garten Golf Club. It is set alongside the River Spey in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, only a 10 minute drive from the bustling village of Aviemore. The course which was recently voted The Best Golf Course Under £50 in Scotland is not only renowned as a demanding test of sporting skill but also as a magnificent setting for the game. Braid’s design features 18 completely individual holes, cleverly and sensitively shaped fairways lined by birch trees, heather and broom, maximising the natural landscape and producing a beautiful and challenging day out.
So where should you stay while you embark on your Highland golf odyssey? LHH have properties all over the Highlands to appeal to golf parties of any size. For those heading north Farthingworth is ideally placed for the drive to Reay while Brora, Golspie and the esteemed Royal Dornoch are right on the doorstep. Quarryfield on the Black Isle is the ultimate luxury venue for larger parties of visiting golfers and is a short hop to Muir of Ord and Rosemarkie. It is also convenient for spectators travelling to watch championship golf at Castle Stuart. Mallachie is only a few miles away from Boat of Garten as well as being a short drive to Inverness. In the height of summer you could easily do a round in each in the same day.