Polly played this excellent 18 hole moorland course on 11 July 2010 in the club's Mixed Greensomes Open on a cool and increasingly windy and wet day. At only 4935 yards par 64 off the men's Medal tees, this is an extremely short, flat and easy walking course. Being so short and compact, a round here should take well under 3 hours and as a holiday course, it sees a lot of visitors during the summer and is a strong focal point for the local village community. Winters in Braemar can be severe, even by Scottish standards, so I congratulate the local members and staff for keeping the course going and presenting it in such great condition. However, Braemar is no pushover, as water hazards have to be crossed 14 times during the round and come into play on various other holes. The 1st provides a gentle start, but with a river right behind the green to swallow anything overhit, extreme care is needed. The 2nd hole is by far the most difficult on the course, though only Stroke Index 2. Anything remotely sliced goes into the River Clunie and the second shot has to be long and straight to a small green perched on top of a hill. Anything right ends up in the aqua or trees, anything left is lost in gorse and heather. This is the view from the back of the 2nd green down to the tee. We had a double bogey here, and also made a mess of the 3rd, a 144 yard par 3 played to a small green perched on the side of a hill. We steadied a bit to play holes 5-9 in 2 over and got to the turn in 42 (against the par of 32). Here's the 6th, a 103 yard par 3, a good example of a short hole at Braemar that requires absolute accuracy off the tee. Accuracy and patience is needed to play here. Don't get suckered into blasting the ball off the tee. Just find the fairway, avoid the aqua and fiddle your way round quietly, enjoying the fantastic views up and down the valley and across the mountains and hills on either side. Take in the wildlife and have fun, because this is "just" a fun holiday course. And some further advice. Leave enough time to go round again. It won't take long and you'll enjoy it even more, once you know where you're going and where the trouble is most severe.
The weather took a turn for the worse on the back 9, with squally showers and gusting winds. One such gust lifted a park bench and tossed it aside and for 5 minutes, we were back in the storm at Fraserburgh. 5 minutes later, dazzling sun and flat calm. This is the 15th, where finally came to grief. The 15th is a 421 yard par 4, Stroke Index 1 and is simple enough until a bottleneck in front of the green, where a stream cuts across the fairway. We had avoided all of the other water hazards on the course but found this stream easily enough andended up with an 8. We'd also bogeyed the last, a 122 yard par 3 that plays longer than it looks, since the green is well above the tee. There's also a hidden gully at the back of the green, so be warned. We ended up with a gross 89, a poor score on such a short course.
If you ever play at Braemar, I'd be interested to have your comments on the layout. The current 18th finishes beside the greenkeeper's shed, out of view of the clubhouse. I'd prefer to see the course starting from the 9th tee and ending with the 8th, a good short par 4 of 253 yards that finishes in front of the clubhouse windows. This hole is actually quite tricky, as the river runs right in front of the tee and there's a smaller stream in front of the green itself. I prefer final holes that have some element of theatre to them and I think there's scope here for some re-ordering. Having said that, I'd still recommend this course as well worth playing.