United Kingdom golf is in the spotlight this summer with the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club, the Irish Open at Lahinch and the Open Championship at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush. But on Episode 142 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast, we’re reminding you that any U.K golf trip you plan should include a visit to the northern Scottish Highlands, home to one of our favorite courses: Brora Golf Club.
Hosts Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch are joined by club Secretary Tony Gill, a transplanted Englishman who was so taken with Brora during years of visits that he decided, on making a big life change, to call Brora home. You’ll find out how Tony went from his prior life as an accountant to his dream of managing the club at the James Braid-designed golf course and why, years later, Tony is “still in love with the place.”
Tony explains his day-to-day duties at Brora, which include managing the golf club, overseeing the golf shop and food-and-beverage operations. He details why Brora, over the past few years, has become a “must play” on any Highlands golf itinerary, citing increased publicity in the social media realm and visits from such golf luminaries as Peter Thompson and Tom Watson, both of whom consider Brora one of the great experiences in the game.
Mitch briefly details the history of the golf course (first a nine-hole track in 1891, later expanded to 18 holes in 1900) leading up to 1923, when five-time Open Champion James Braid was asked to redesign the 18-hole layout. Tony describes the fascinating process of Braid coming for one day and then providing the club, through plans and a letter (Tony secured the original plans and a copy of the letter) with a detailed renovation of green complexes and teeing grounds, all for the sum of just 25 pounds. According to Tony, those original plans, other than a slight recent lengthening of yardage from some of the tees, are exactly the blueprints for the course as we play it today — and a great deal of what makes Brora such a special place.
In addition to the historic nature of the course, there are many other elements that add to the joy of playing rounds at Brora. As someone who spends every day there, Tony provides a unique perspective, recounting the reactions of first-time visitors (who are increasing in numbers), many of whom are surprised at the terrific conditioning of the course, even while it retains a true old-world charm (sheep and cows watching as you play). Darin shares an important tip for first-time visitors, advising them to make sure they allocate enough time to play multiple rounds at Brora so that the true nature, challenge and beauty of the course can reveal itself. One play is simply not enough, as we found out on our first visit to the Highlands.
Finally, Tony shares a fantastic way to include Brora on a summer Scotland golf trip: The “Five-Day Open Tournament” held each July-August, which is an extremely cost-effective way to enjoy one of the great golf course experiences anywhere on the planet.
After listening to Tony Gill, we’re sure you’ll understand why he — and everyone on the Golf Trip Experts team — has such a fondness for Brora Golf Club. And we believe you’ll see the wisdom of making sure your next Scottish golf getaway includes a few days at this most magical golf course.
—Words by Mitch Laurance