Thursday, 11 October 2012

Brahan GC - Course no 548

Craig, Stu and I played here on 9 October 2012 after our round at the excellent Skibo course.  Brahan is possibly the newest course in Scotland and is certainly a labour of love by its owners, Claudia and Jon Wiggett.  They'd planned to open the course for play next year, but it actually opened on 1 June last year as a 9 hole course.  Since then the course has been extended to 18 holes by the addition of another 9 tees.  So, Brahan is now an 18 hole heathland type course with 18 sets of tees and 9 shared greens, measuring 6213 Yards Par 72 from the Yellow Tees and a pretty meaty 6656 Yards from the White Medal Tees. 
The Wiggett's overall concept was to create a pay as you play course that is as close to self-sustainable as possible based on an organic philosophy, using no fungicides and minimum herbicide use.  Only organic fertilisers created will be used once the course has fully established itself and there will be no irrigation.  The course has been created with the minimum amount of earth movement and 99% of the work has been done by Claudia and Jon, a staggering effort when you consider that the land is quite hilly and boggy in parts.  I can only imagine the long and exhausting hours involved in creating this course.  When you consider that this couple also run an on-site guest house, the effort to build and maintain the course almost single-handed borders on the unimaginable.  OK, the condition of the course is still quite rough and it will take more time to mature, but given time and yet more hard work an interesting and uniquely self-sustaining course can emerge.   We really admire what they've done so far to establish the Brahan course and wish them well in their efforts to establish the course more fully.
I hope that it's fair to describe Brahan as work in progress.  Recent wet weather had made it impossible to cut and maintain the the definition of fairways, so anything struck offline was at risk of being lost.  Although the greens were already pretty slick, they've been established simply by cutting the land as it lay.  Undulating doesn't begin to describe them adequately, so be prepared for all sorts of humps and hollows adding to the enjoyment.  For example, this is the 1st/10th green.  Getting on the wrong side of the hump in this green will test your putting skills to the full.
Equally, you'll need to avoid a hook when playing from the 5th and 14th Tees, as OOB and a lateral water hazard awaits, as shown here.  The 6th and 15th stretch into the distance beyond the 5th/14th green and at 496 Yards uphill, the 6th is a tough hole.  We were all tight on time so we had decided to play the Front and Back 9s in parallel e.g. playing a ball off the 1st and 10th tees to their shared green.  This certainly saved on time but as on previous occasions when we've adopted that ploy on courses with 18 tees and 9 greens, it's difficult to remember which balls was played from which tee and where the first ball went!
It had been a long day, especially for Stu and Craig, and we were all glad to finish.  Craig had opted to play off the White tees, making his 9th a whopping 630 Yard Par 5.  Stu and I were happy enough to play the 9th as a 597 Yarder over hills and sideways sloping fairway, avoiding trees and water hazards en route.  The 18th is a mere 525 Yards (but 550 off the White Tee!)  This is Polly and Jon patiently awaiting my weary return.  I'd gone round Brahan in a remarkable 98 strokes with 5 lost balls and 35 putts, so that gave me a net 15 over par score.  Hardly impressive but a very enjoyable round nevertheless on a course that I'm sure will improve by leaps and bounds as it matures.  Jon advised me that he had designed the course to be reversible so that'll require a different layout and a different scorecard.  I think the only other courses that are also played in reverse  are Asta on Shetland and Innellan (but please correct me if that's wrong).  We'd obviously need to return to Brahan if and when the course is played in reverse. 
In the meantime, I recommend you give Brahan a try.  It's far from the finished article at present, but Claudia and Jon deserve every support for their efforts to establish another new Scottish course.  Like me, you might be amazed by the efforts that have already been made to create such a large course almost single-handed.

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