James Braid

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James Braid is one of the most prolific golf course architects in history. His legacy is unparalleled in the UK.

From Scotland to England

Born in Scotland and raised on the links at Elie. After a brief spell in St. Andrews, he moved to Edinburgh where he, interestingly, played at Braid Hills. Moving to London to accept a club-making position, James Braid ended up as head professional at Romford GC in North East London. After winning the Open Championship in 1901, he undertook several design contracts in Ireland and England. In 1904, Braid became the head professional at Walton Heath where he would remain for the remainder of his days.

Transition From Playing to Designing

After claiming his fifth Open Championship title, James Braid retired from professional golf in 1912 to concentrate on his course design. Due to severe motion sickness, James Braid infrequently travelled over land and water. Although most of his 400 courses grace England, Scotland and Wales there is some Braid influence to be found in the Isle of Man, Ireland and continental Europe. He was also able to understand topographical maps and therefore was able to design courses without a site visit, resulting in commissions in both Singapore and the USA.

A Closer Look

We wish to thank a friend of Evalu18 and collaborator, Keith Cutten, for the material for this short biography. For a more detailed account, you can find his book by clicking here. Also, the book, James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses, provides an excellent overview of his prolific work.

James Braid

See the 1904 classic photograph of James Braid reimagined by clicking here.

Architectural Hallmarks

Very little earth was moved in James Braid 's designs due to technological constraints.

Minimal artificial features present.

Putting greens must be well guarded, often by dykes, directly in front of greens.

Green size is governed by the length of approach.

Alternative tees provided to allow play in all conditions.

Bunkering and layout reward good positional play with alternative routes provided on each hole.

Par 3’s are often surrounded by pot bunkers.

In 1908, James Braid outlined best practice in the form of general features of a good golf course. As found in Advanced Golf, they are as follows:

1 - There should be a complete variety of holes, not only as regards length, but in their character - the way in which they are bunkered, the kind of tee shot that is required at them, the kind of approach, and so forth.

2 - In every case, the putting greens should be well guarded.

3 - The shorter the hole the smaller should be the putting green, and the more closely should it be guarded; so that on this principle when in good playa long shot can reach the green, that green should be fairly large and open in order to give the player the encouragement to which he is entitled.

4 - There should be alternative tees, in order that the course may be easily adapt to varying winds and dry weather, when there is more run on the ball.

5 - The bunkering and general planning of the holes should be carried out with the specific object of making it necessary not only to get a certain length but, more particularly, to gain the desired position. The player who does not gain this position should have his next shot made more difficult for him or should be obliged to take an extra stroke.

6 - There should be as frequently as possible two alternative methods of playing a hole, an easy one and a difficult one, and there should be a chance of gaining a stroke when the latter is chosen and the attempt is successful.