|The scintillating views will always be there for golfers at Braid Hills G.C. to savour, even if their golf game is not. (Courtesy of visitscotland.com)|
EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Braid Hills Golf Course in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a municipal heathland course well worth a visit. Although this course is particularly punishing on the legs as its name would perhaps indicate, this course is definitely a refreshing experience as opposed to a draining one. For the vast majority of the round the golfer will be blissfully unaware of the rather steep terrain in which he finds himself.
If you remain skeptical than take the opportunity to play in this unique setting, nestled below the snow-capped Pentland Hills, while towering above the capital city of Scotland, a formula which offers some inspiring vistas across the sprawling city. Indeed, the backdrop to the city, the Firth of Forth with its immense, shimmering bridges, is a sight to behold in itself.
It is perhaps a measure of the sheer beauty of this scene that many a golfer will comment on how fleetingly a round on this course passes with the walk between each shot being shortened, it feels, due to a preoccupation with the surroundings.
Nevertheless, this course has much more to offer than some attractive scenery. Any golfer who intends to match his game to the heights of his location will need to make some effective and decisive decision-making in his course management, as this undulating landscape is surprisingly punishing.
A prominent feature of the city, which can be identified from this ideal vantage point is the instantly recognisable image of Edinburgh Castle. Those who have seen the castle will often remark at how effective the natural defences around it must have been in repelling any threat of attack.
There are few man-made defences that have been added, and this in many respects, is an analagous state of affairs to the challenge posed by Braid Hills. There is comparatively little bunkering or the infamous wild Scottish rough to be found, nor any intimidating water hazards. However this course's natural defences can provide a test to most club players.
Sloping fairways will funnel a poorly directed tee shot into an unfavourable gully or even send your ball into one of several sporadically placed gorse bushes to be found, or rather observed around the course- if you can keep to the straight and narrow that is.
Moreover, the latter feature will be especially reluctant to release your ball from its barbed branches without a nasty reminder of your transgression!
The opening hole is a clear example of how the course possesses such natural defences. At under 400 yards in length, this hole does not immediately conjure up images of one of the harder opening holes in golf. However, a seemingly innocuous hole is complicated by a steep uphill fairway on several levels, separated by some wide mounds.
Therefore, while height from the tee is desirable from the point of view that there will be very little run, this shot is more often than not played into a stiff prevailing wind.
In playing this course it is essential to play accurate tee shots. With this in mind, many a player will be happy to pull an iron from his bag to ensure maximum control despite the inevitable sacrifice in distance. However, on this course, there are many wide open spaces, which means that this approach will involve a considerable degree of resolve, bearing in mind that many of the holes played into the wind could be left out of reach in two shots if a weak iron is taken from the tee.
Admittedly, many of the fairways are generous in width, but anything straying towards the extremities of the fairways will be punished by the cruel slopes eager to whisk the ball away.
On the other hand, these slopes can be manipulated to the golfer's advantage, such as at the third hole. This par 4 will yield a good birdie opportunity if a straight tee shot can be produced, as this fairway gathers the ball down towards the green, clear of the punishing gorse, lurking in the shadows.
A particularly attractive hole is the par 3 fifth. The green here resembles an upturned saucer with anything wide of the target being swept dismissively into three well-placed bunkers which circle the putting surface. However, what makes this hole especially memorable is the backdrop of Arthur's Seat. This is actually a dormant volcano which dominates the Edinburgh skyline, gaining its name from its resemblance to a sleeping lion, glowing a golden brown in the sunlight.
The best line from the tee is directly towards its peak. Any deviation will probably leave the golfer himself to erupt as one of the three tricky bunkers leads to a blight on his scorecard so early in the round. A common mistake at this hole is to overclub as the backdrop gives the false impression that the hole will play longer than it actually does.
In general terms, the back nine is a more pleasurable golfing experience with the holes being better laid out in that they allow for more challenging teeing areas and involve the small valleys in a more captivating manner.
The highlight of the home stretch is undoubtedly the resplendent par 4 fourteenth. From the tee, the golfer is presented with a choice of shots, an aspect of modern course design that is becoming more prevalent. Perhaps the most straightforward approach in the playing of this hole is to play up the flatter right-hand side of the fairway away from the unpredictable bounce of the slopes on the left.
However, this involves a slightly longer carry over some inhospitable terrain consisting of gorse bushes and the like. Moreover, should you play up the left, and find a favourable lie, then an attractive shot to the awaiting green below, could reap its dividends.
A major benefit of this location is that the greens are always in good condition throughout the year and tend to be very receptive, which in turn offsets some of the difficulties posed by the frequently windy conditions.
The best approach from the city centre is to take the A702 until the courses are signposted. Although Braid Hills does offer a second eighteen hole course, this is predominantly for beginners and younger players, as it is a short par 65 of under five thousand yards, compared to the par 70 main course.
In terms of facilities, this course could only be described as having the basics in terms of what most modern clubs have to offer. A starter's hut, general changing facilities and a practice putting green (needless to say with some considerable slopes), are all that will be found.
However, there is the nearby Braid Hills driving range for a few warm up shots or perhaps some post-round soul- searching. Alternatively if you feel inclined to rest those weary limbs in more comfortable surrounds, then refreshment is to be had in the form of the nearby Braid Hills Hotel.
It is not often that a course within only ten minutes of the city centre can offer such a feeling of isolation and remoteness. This course is definitely worth a visit, as the scintillating views for as far as the eye can see will always be there to savour, even if your golf game is not.
May 6, 2002
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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