The golf club that has five times as many visitors as there are local residents

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire February 26, 2019 06:57

Last year Brora Golf Club in the Highlands saw its membership grow across all categories and it now employs nearly two per cent of the local village’s population.

Some golf clubs play an important role in their local community – but few to the extent that Brora Golf Club does.

The Highland links is the most northerly golf memorial to prolific designer James Braid in his native Scotland and it continues to thrive through record visitor numbers from across the globe and a growing membership.

Last year more than 6,500 visitors flocked to the venue, coming from as far afield as Australia, South Africa, the Bahamas, the US and European countries. Crucially for the club’s local community, many visitors stay and eat and drink in the east of Sutherland village, providing significant economic impact to a population of only 1,200 inhabitants.

Club president Andy Stewart said: “Brora Golf Club is a very special place and I believe the impact the golf course has on the local area has grown significantly in the last few years. We are attracting record numbers of visitors. These visitors are spending money on food, beverage and accommodation which brings much needed money into the local economy and supports businesses and jobs. Many of these businesses in Brora reciprocate through sponsorship within the golf club.”

The club, established in 1891, now employs over 20 members of staff and is one of the largest employers in the village behind Clynelish Distillery.

Bucking national trends, membership at Brora is also up by nine per cent across all categories over the last 12 months – reflecting the local appetite for the course and the international market. Boasting a total membership of 583 individuals, international membership has grown to 82 as the club continues to help put the Highlands on the world map. Over 40 golfers have also taken up Highland membership, which offers the chance for a member of any other Highland golf club to be a member at Brora for a reduced fee.

“It is fair to say that there are limited opportunities for young people in the area,” added Andy. “The golf club has grown to be one of the larger employers in the region and is committed to providing staff with a great place to work, so we are grateful to have the dedicated staff we have.

“The village support the club strongly through membership numbers, but we are always trying to increase our international appeal. Our ‘Golf Week’, which runs from the end of May each year, also proves very popular with members and visitors and we hope to continue to build on our success.”

The club’s marketing has led to it being part of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ golf clubs that form The James Braid Highland Golf Trail, while it also part of the Dornoch Firth Golf Pass with Royal Dornoch, Tain and Golspie.

At the end of last year Brora awarded legendary golfer Tom Watson honorary membership after he visited the club in 2017.

From left to right: Tom Watson’s brother, Ridge Watson, Tom Watson, and friends Janine and Tuck Clagett (the former general manager of St Enodoc Golf Club in Cornwall)

Prior to the Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl in Wales that year, the American flew into Scotland to tune up his game and enjoy a links experience with family and friends. Watson, who won four of his five Open crowns in Scotland, savoured his experience, with then Brora senior champion Ronnie Sim acting as caddy for his round at Brora.

Last year club officials made contact with Watson and have now added him to their honorary status given his love for the links at Brora.

Watson, the USA Ryder Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2014, said: “I’m delighted to be awarded honorary membership at Brora, joining my fellow five-time Open champions James Braid and Peter Thomson. Last year, we flew to Inverness, went up to the north and just had a marvellous time. Brora was a wonderful links golf course.

“Playing the incoming nine downwind was really tough for me. I couldn’t keep the ball on the greens. I think I hit one green in regulation coming in and shot 76. It was a very good course. I’d like to challenge it again and look forward to coming back one day.”

Andy Stewart added: “We’re privileged Tom Watson has accepted honorary membership of the club. Ever since Mr Watson was here and spoke so highly of Brora, we had this in our plans and are now delighted to make it official.

“In July 2017 Mr Watson was greeted by a small band of fans and well-wishers. He graciously signed autographs and posed for photos. After his round, he visited the Peter Thomson room and signed a flag for the club. My only regret was that I wasn’t able to be there to greet Mr Watson personally.

“We look forward to welcoming Mr Watson back to the club one day soon.”

 

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire February 26, 2019 06:57
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3 Comments

  1. Wayne February 25, 06:44

    Brora is a terrific links course Alistair and should be played with Royal Dornoch. I am hosting a tour of 15 Canadians and Americans to Scotland in May and Brora is on the list. Thanks for sharing this piece.

    Reply to this comment
    • Ian February 25, 09:12

      I played Brora as a spur of the moment add-on while up there in September. It was an amazing golfing experience with howling winds, sheep and cows, electric wires protecting the greens and as wild and woolly a golf course as you could ever hope to play. To quote Arnold, “I’ll be back!”

      Reply to this comment
  2. Peter February 25, 12:23

    Over 500 members with a local population of 1,200, that’s understanding of the primary market !

    Reply to this comment
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