James Braid

James_Braid_(golfer)_1913

Born in Earlsferry, Fife, Scotland in 1870, James Braid became known as part of the Great Triumvirate, which included Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor. These golfers are generally considered Great Britain’s best of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Braid won the British Open five times and became a well-known golf course designer upon his retirement from professional golf.

Braid began to play golf at an early age and entered his first tournament at eight. As he grew older he developed an interest in club making and at 23 took a job in London as a club maker.

In 1896, Braid played in his first tournament as a professional, but while he drove the ball a long distance, his putting failures kept him from winning. So Braid switched to an aluminum-headed putter in 1900—most golfers were using wooden-headed putters at that time. His accuracy improved as did his scoring. Braid won the first of his British Opens in 1901—his others were in 1905, 1906, 1908, and 1910. He finished second in 1897 and 1909. His 1906 victory marked the last successful European defense of the title until Padraig Harrington accomplished the feat in 2008.

Besides his Open championships, Braid won the British PGA Match Play Championship in 1903, 1905, 1907, and 1911, and the 1910 French Open.  He won 17 professional tournaments in his career.

By 1912, Braid began to tire of professional tournaments and took a job as the club professional at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England, where he remained until his death. He also began a new passion—designing golf courses. Braid’s claim to fame was his use of the dogleg in many of his designs. Although such holes existed in some form centuries before Braid, he made them famous by including them in the layout of his courses. Braid designed over 200 courses in Great Britain, but his fear of flying and propensity for sea sickness kept him from overseas designs. Some of his more famous courses include “King’s Course” and “Queen’s Course” at Gleneagles Golf Club in Scotland, Stranraer Golf Club in Scotland, and Wrexham Golf Club in Wales. He also re-designed Carnoustie Golf Links and Royal Troon Golf Club, two of the current British Open venues, and Prestwick Golf Club, a former British Open site.

Braid, a founding member of the British Professional Golfers’ Association in 1901, became a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1976. He died in 1950. Cheers to one of the Great Triumvirates!

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