You may have heard of James Braid.
Not only did he win the Open Championship five times – as part of The Great Triumvirate along with Harry Vardon and JH Taylor – there’s a fair chance he also had a say in your course too.
Braid was a prolific designer and renovator in the British Isles, responsible for establishing or revamping more than 400 tracks.
But where did it all begin for this titan of early 20th century golf?
The answer is found in one of the world’s most sought after golfing destinations. Fife.
It’s not St Andrews, though, where he cut his teeth. Instead it was 12 miles away and the wonderful links at Elie where Braid’s golfing odyssey began.
He was born in the next village, Earlsferry, and started hitting shots at an early age. He won his first local tournament over the links at only 8.
In an article in Golf Illustrated in 1905, Braid described himself as merely one of the “average” boys.
He explained: “At Earlsferry and Elie and all about there it is all golf, and everybody must play unless he wishes to be taken for a crank or as somebody with whom there is something constitutionally or mentally wrong.”
It was watching a match at Elie, and befriending then Open Champion Jamie Anderson, where Braid’s passion for the game really took hold.
“At all events, when we were walking side by side on the links, and he had seen me hit a ball or two, he told me very seriously that if I went in thoroughly for golf I should myself one day be the Open Champion. And I was only nine.”
Braid battled not only his game, he was an indifferent putter early on, but his parents to realise his ambitions.
In the event, he would have a massive impact on the game in a playing sense – between 1894 and 1914 he finished out of the Open top 10 only twice – and in his successful design career.
Did he ever leave a mark on his home course? The book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses does not list an Elie credit.
But Braid declared the 13th – a 380-yard par 4 known as Coupie – as his favourite, describing it as “the finest in all the country”.
Elie’s historic links terrain, golf has been played on the site since the 15th century, makes it highly regarded today and well worth a visit.
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