James Braid Golf Course

Thorpeness Golf Club joined the Association of James Braid courses in 2014.

The Association of James Braid Golf Courses is a collection of courses in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland with one in New York, which were designed, re-designed or re-bunkered by James Braid.

Thorpeness Golf Club members and members of all of the Clubs in the association can enjoy preferential green fees at these courses. This list is updated each year with new member clubs.

Who is James Braid

Thorpeness Golf Club & Hotel was designed by five-time Open Champion James Braid in 1922.

At that time, Braid (6 February 1870 – 27 November 1950) was at the height of his powers as a golf course architect and creating a legacy of more than 200 golf courses designed across the length and breadth of the British Isles.

Braid was born in Earlsferry, in the East Neuk of Fife, just a few miles from St Andrews “The Home of Golf,” and he spent his early years honing his game on the links at Elie Golf Club.

He started his working life as a carpenter, moving to London to work in the Army and Navy store as a golf clubmaker.

His prowess on the golf course attracted London clubs including Romford Golf Club in Essex, where he became an attached professional, and later Walton Heath, where he served for most of his life as Head Professional.
He went on to win five Open Championships in a decade between 1901 and 1910 at great courses including Muirfield, St Andrews and Prestwick.

Father of Modern Golf Course Design

James Braid is one of the most important figures in the history golf course design and is credited by many as the “inventor” of the modern dogleg hole and a founding father of modern golf course design.

It was a strange quirk of character that led Braid to develop the modern approach of using detailed topographical maps to design his golf courses. He suffered terribly from motion sickness and fear of the sea and preferred to avoid long journeys.

This limited Braid’s desire to design golf courses overseas, unlike many of his contemporaries such as Harry Colt and Alistair Mackenzie, and so he concentrated on courses in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. He designed one golf course in New York but never visited the site.

He is responsible for designing or re-modelling some of the finest golf clubs in Britain, including the Kings and Queens courses at Gleneagles, Open Championship venue Carnoustie and the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club – one of the oldest golf links in the world.

His signature Tweed Cap and Norfolk jacket became an iconic symbol of the personal qualities and standards which Braid embodied and which he believed made golf the greatest sport for its ability to bring people together in mutual respect, friendship and competition.

How Thorpeness stayed true to the spirit of Braid

Thorpeness is proud of its connection to James Braid and has always honoured his beliefs and values in how the golf course should be played and presented.

In recent years, we commissioned Scottish golf course designer Ken Moodie of Creative Golf Design to help renovate Thorpeness to account for the changes in modern equipment and golf ball technology, but without sacrificing the essence of how Braid shaped the course.

3-year renovation program

Our renovation included new bunkering, extended tees, deepening greenside swales and hollows, cultivating heather and seeding bent grass greens.

Advanced Golf - Braid 1902

In his book, Advanced Golf, written in 1902 Braid said this about golf course design:

"It is both necessary and desirable that the holes should be laid out as suggested by the lie of the land, every natural obstacle being taken care of."

"There should be a complete variety of holes…not just length, but in their character – the way in which they are bunkered…the kind of shot that is required…the kind of approach and so forth."

The greens should be well guarded.

"The shorter the hole, the smaller the green, the more closely guarded."

"There should as frequently as possible be (at least) two possible alternative methods of playing the hole – an easy one, a difficult one – and there should be a chance of gaining a stroke when the latter is chosen."

We honoured Braid’s design philosophy by focusing on greenside bunkers, enhancing naturally occurring swales and hollows by greens and placing an emphasis on positional play from the tee and with approach shots.

“Thorpeness is a beautiful golf course but it is not long playing 6,449 yards at its full length. The changes to the bunkering and green aprons and run-off’s has added another level of strategic decision making for golfers hitting approach shots,” said Moodie.

"We have also worked hard to enhance the visual composition and heathland character of the golf course by widening fairways at key points to accommodate new bunkering and by adding additional areas of heather, including on the faces of certain key bunkers. The widening of the fairways offers options for the golfer off the tee and an advantage for one who takes more risk.”

A new tee was built at the 12th hole, extending it from 373 yards to 406 yards, and the ninth hole was extended and upgraded from a par four to a par-five in 2013, increasing the par of the golf course from 69 to 70.

While the course is tougher and longer, the essential challenge set by Braid remains as relevant today as they did in 1922.

To score well around Thorpeness you have to drive into the right position to make your approach shot easier and then avoid a myriad of hazards and bunkering around closely guarded greens.

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