- Neil White
“Go on, go on, go on!” I shouted and realised that, to non-golfers, I must have sounded like a cross between Mrs Doyle from Father Ted and a contestant in One Man And His Dog.
In fact, I was encouraging my ball which I had launched over three grazing sheep and a pot bunker to land on the green of the par-three 13th at Brora Golf Club.
Sheep and cows are in such abundance at Brora that electric wires surround each of its greens.
It was ironic, therefore, that I should show so little spark on the putting surfaces which seem benign to the naked eye but I found very hard to read.
Indeed, on a calm day in the sunshine, Brora was, in theory, a course which we should have conquered.
It is shorter than many top 100 tracks and its rough, thanks to the aforementioned farm animals, is not as thick as some.
But this is a great test of a golfer’s approach play with hidden brooks, fiendish bunkers and green run-offs which mean only deadly accuracy will yield results.
The folk at Brora ran a highly successful campaign to stay in business when the pandemic lockdown hit hard last year.
It is a rare, raw Scottish links and its demise would have been a tragedy.
The outward nine is played next to the North Sea and the only sounds early in our round were the lapping waves and the singing of birds (I am not an ornithologist but the Arctic tern is on the club’s flag).
The first and second holes are both short par fours and gentle introductions to the course but the 447-yard third (par four for men, five for women) is a hint of greater difficulties to come with a grassy canal splitting the hole and demanding strategic thinking.
The jolly chap who served drinks and food in the clubhouse after our round was keen to know what I made of the sixth which he reckoned was the best par-three in the Highlands
It has a sloping green from back to front and is protected by three devilish pot bunkers. I found one but, thankfully, our Scottish tour has honed my extraction technique so I had the pleasure of landing within 12 feet. Inevitably, I missed my putt.
Being a fan of the quirky meant holes 11 to 18, played around a working farmhouse, grabbed my heart.
The par-five 11th sets the tone – with an expected hollow as well as bunkers impeding hopes of hitting the green in two.
Meanwhile, the 12th is where the undulations of links golf really come into play. While balls will likely be found, they will not necessarily be visible until the golfer is on top of them and helpful lies are not guaranteed.
The 13th was the hole which will linger longest in my mind – it only demands a pitch from the tee but I can imagine many are put off by the sheep feeding in the grassy burn and the deep trap in front of the putting surface.
I have never been so pleased to carry a mere 100 yards!
The home run at Brora is one of the most memorable I have played.
The 16th has another fairway of ups and downs before a steep dog-leg rise to its highly perched green and I received a hearty clubhouse congratulation for parring both the 17th and 18th.
The 17th is a long par four and considered a classic James Braid hole with grassy hillocks on the fairway and a tight entrance to a lofted target. The 18th is a par three with an upwards sloping green.
I admit I hit neither in regulation but chipped to flagside and nailed eight-footers. I had read the greens at last!
Thereafter, our lunch was delivered by friendly staff we enjoyed a view which was so good, we were thrilled we had rented one of the neighbouring Links apartments for a few days.
Brora provided an oasis of rest and relaxation.