Brora, Scotland | The James Braid layout in the town Brora, just up the coast from Dornoch, is reason enough to visit this North Sea links, with its classic out-and-back routing and holes built among the gnarly dunes. Its locale is an attraction, too, especially when the sun shines brightly across the choppy water and lobster boats chug up and down the coast. But the livestock that roam the course are what give Brora such an unusual aura as well as some very interesting playing features, and make it as much a sporting curiosity as it is a terrific place to tee it up.
I realize this as soon as I arrive, when I espy a quartet of cows sitting by the practice green. I have to head across a cattle guard to get to the first tee, and a rules alert on the scorecard states: Please Do Not Stand On Electric Fences.
Electric fences? I have never seen such things on a golf course before. But then again, I have never played a place where the superintendent truly has to fret about farm animals wandering across his greens. Which, by the way, is where the fences are located, calf-high and fully charged.
As I stride to my ball on the first green, I feel sure it is only a matter of time before I inadvertently back into one of the barriers and give myself a shock. My playing partner is even more concerned about what might happen if he does such a thing, as a recent surgery has left his insides full of titanium staples, nuts and bolts, and he feels sure he would spark like a piece of metal in a microwave.
I discover that other species also graze on this common ground when another playing partner points out the line off a tee by saying: “Just aim at those sheep.”
Several of them “baa” as we walk by, lifting their heads from the turf to check us out before returning to their eating.
The beauty of this bonnie golf course is hard to beat. So is the novelty of playing among the beasts.