S: JAMES BRAID A Collection of Photos and Articles
BC: JAMES BRAID 1870 - 1950
FC: JAMES BRAID A Collection of Photos and Articles
1: JAMES BRAID A Collection of Photos and Articles
2: (c) Copyright 2009 Julia Braid Special Thanks To: The Society of Hickory Golfers www.hicorygolfers.com
3: James Braid (February 6, 1870 - November 27, 1950) was a Scottish professional golfer, who was one of the "Great Triumvirate" of British golfers in the early 20th century alongside Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor. Braid was born in Earlsferry, Fife, Scotland and played golf from an early age, working as a clubmaker before turnover professional in 1896. Initially his game was hindered by problems with his putting, but he overcame this after switching to an aluminium putter in 1900. He won The Open Championship in 1901, 1905, 1906, 1908 and 1910. In addition Braid won four British PGA championships in 1903, 1905, 1907 and 1911 as well as the 1910 French Open title. He was also runner-up in the British Open in 1897 and 1909. In 1912 Braid retired from tournament golf and became a club professional at Walton Heath. He was also involved in golf course design, and is sometimes regarded as the "inventor" of the dogleg. Among his designs are the "King's Course" and the "Queen's Course" at Gleneagles the 1926 remodelling of the British Open/The Open Championship venue Carnoustie Golf Links. | JAMES BRAID A Man of Character
4: The future golfing historian will doubtless perceive that during the lifetime of James Braid and his distinguished contemporaries the position of the golf professional became an altogether different one, alike in reward and in social status. It is not so certain whether he will appreciate how much that difference was due to their fine example in character and conduct. Unquestionably their chance came with the immense spread of the game in their time but it was by the way they took that chance that they showed themselves the men they were. In their boyhood's days there were very few greens that needed or could afford a professional and so, unless he was one of the few lucky and resolute ones, he never rose far above the status of the caddie from which he had originally emerged, and when hard times or old age overtook him he ended as he had begun. If he was inclined to drink too much, as he often was, he was not greatly to be blamed, for his life produced naturally many idle hours and drink was one obvious way in which to pass them.
5: At the time when James and his contemporaries were emerging from boyhood the professional's opportunities were improving. In the later 'eighties when he was seventeen or eighteen the game was spreading like wildfire over England and the demand for someone who should combine the greenkeeper, the club-maker and the teacher was in consequence rapidly increasing. But even so it did not till a few years later offer a very inviting prospect and it is easy to understand how James's parents thought that a safe steady-going job as a joiner was a wiser investment than a plunge into the wild unknown England, where their lovable but reprehensible relation, Douglas Rolland, had taken sanctuary from the stern edicts of his native land. By the time James had decided to take the plunge the prospects in England were perceptibly brighter, and not only there, for the game was likewise booming in Scotland. There was now a real chance for a steady man to make a decent living and, if he were an outstanding player, something more than that. But the margin of profit was still small and the player's rewards inconsiderable. To win a prize of 10 on the way to the Open championship brought with it the comfortable assurance that at least the expenses of the visit were provided for. To be a good player was by no means enough; the professional must be ready to turn his hand to anything:
6: mending a club one minute; rolling the green or if need be digging a new bunker the next; ruling as caddie master over a herd of boys. It was a hard and busy life and beyond all these multifarious duties the club professional must be ever ready to make himself pleasant to all sorts and conditions of members, most of them ready no doubt to be pleasant themselves, but a few of them exacting and unreasonable to an infuriating degree. All these difficult things James and his great contemporaries achieved in a truly remarkable degree; always dignified and always respectful; steadily raising the whole status of their profession as they raised themselves; models of good and natural manners on and off the course. They set a wonderful example and the good they did will live long after them. Apart from this universal esteem and respect felt for himself and his colleagues, James had a truly remarkable power of inspiring affection. This became more and more noteworthy in his later years, for we have as a nation a deep and genuine feeling for a grand old man in any walk of life and not least a grand old game-player.
7: But throughout his career he had had the gift of making people fond of him. Up to a point it is not difficult for a prominent player of games to inspire personal liking, and it is perhaps easier for golfers than for the heroes of other games, since in the nature of their game they are surrounded and hemmed in by potential admirers, longing to repeat a single word overheard or, still better, to extract one addressed to themselves. To suffer them gladly is one of the tasks to which the Champion must school himself, and he must also learn, if he can, to make some pretence of remembering the man who said 'Well played' at the 10th hole on a course never visited before or since some dozen years ago. A golfer who, like the members of the Triumvirate, [Braid, Taylor and Vardon] plays in the course of years at numberless different places must inevitably be in the position of having met in a flash of lightning thousands of people of whom he has not the faintest recollection. But they remember him vividly, often crediting themselves with a familiarity with the great man which is wholly illusory, and retailing the mildest of small stories of what he said or did. Even as the Duke of Wellington was 'much exposed to authors' so James was much exposed to spectators of this kind and nobody was better qualified to deal with them. His invincible tranquillity made him endure their untimely interruptions and his memory was such that he sometimes did, contrary to all the laws of probability, really remember them.
8: These qualities naturally made for a general liking, but such a popularity as almost any champion can command, is very different from the real, deep affection that not only his friends but thousands who had barely exchanged a word with him felt for James. His was not merely that negative popularity such as is sometimes gained by silent and reserved men. James was beyond all doubt reserved, almost to a point of being secretive; he did not like garrulous people; he said very little and could hardly ever be said to let himself go. He certainly never seemed to go out of his way to seek affection, and if he felt it for others, as I am convinced he did, I doubt if he ever expressed it in words. He might have felt it altogether too gushing and barely decent to do so; yet it was an essentially positive affection that innumerable people felt for him and one that grew ever warmer with the years. James was a monument of two invaluable qualities, common sense and discretion. It is impossible to think of his doing or saying a foolish thing and though he heard much he revealed nothing. If, as has been said, 'philosophy is nothing but discretion', then James was well worthy to be called a philosopher. Moreover he had more than common sense, he had wisdom. I think that on any problem of which he was by experience competent to judge he would have given as sound advice as it was possible to obtain. If he did not feel competent, nothing would have induced him to say a word. 'His virtues walked their narrow round' but within that round there could not have been a more trustworthy counsellor, nor one who would think out a question more thoroughly before giving an opinion on it. It may be said perhaps that the natural bent of his mind was cautious and conservative. He would look more than once before he leaped, and his first inclination was to say, 'I would not do it'. But there was about him this comforting and compensating quality that if his advice was in favour of doing it, whatever it was, it was pretty sure to be the right and wise thing to do. The very last words he spoke at a meeting of the Professional Golfers' Association almost immediately before going into the nursing home for his operation, were extremely characteristic of his restraining wisdom, 'Take care you don't cut your own throats'. He had, as everybody must have, his likes and dislikes among people, but it would have taken an extraordinarily keen observer to guess at them from his calm, dignified, unchanging good manners. As he was a generous man in his everyday life, so he was a generous opponent at golf, and the same high praise must be given to his illustrious adversaries. They were constantly trying to beat one another and for several years the highest honours were very nearly confined to their small group. Each of them wanted with his whole soul to win, for no one can attain to such a position as was theirs without a fierce desire for victory; but they remained magnanimously equal to either fortune. It is not in human nature never to feel some grievance against the Fates in defeat and some envy of the victor, but whatever they felt they gave no sign of their emotions and remained models of good losing as of good winning.
9: In the evening Braid would often go across the road from his house to the social club in Walton, of which he was an original member. Here he would occasionally play darts but his more regular game was billiards. A great player he was not but he drove the balls about the table with much of that 'divine fury' which Horace Hutchinson had attributed to him in golf so many years before, sometimes with results very disconcerting to the opposition. The club never taught him to smoke. He had given it a very brief trial in his youth and decided firmly against it. His life at home remained in many ways as it always had been. Though he made so many journeys he would never have a car, but stuck to a train, not on economic grounds but because he was always prone to car sickness. He also refused to have a telephone and that was probably an example of his natural shrewdness; he knew that he would be given too little peace if he had it.
10: I suppose the thought of retiring must now and then inevitably have occurred to him but only as an ultimate and distant possibility. When the reporters asked him on his eightieth birthday whether he meant to retire he entirely and, I am convinced, genuinely denied it. Why should he retire? He loved his work and the play that was part of it. Whenever there was a competition at Walton Heath he was there to start the players and if need be to help manage the crowd. When the Daily Mail tournament was played there during the last summer of his life I saw him positively run, not very far and not very fast, but still run to shoo away an intrusive onlooker. He would have been lost without his life's work and it ought perhaps to be a cause for thankfulness that he never had to endure life without it. | From James Braid (1952) by Bernard Darwin
11: JAMES BRAID: Divine Fury IT HAS BEEN SAID OF SOME CELEBRATED PERSON -- PERHAPS OF SEVERAL OF THEM -- that nobody could be so wise as so-and-so looks. As regards golfers, I feel inclined to transpose the aphorism and say that nobody could look so wise as James Braid is. There is nobody whose every word and action is so redolent of sagacity. He has a great twinkle of humour, too, humour such as the Scots call "pawky," and many other admirable qualities, but one thinks of him first and foremost as a man of extraordinarily cool, wise judgment.
12: Certainly no man ever played golf with a cooler head, though I have heard him say that he liked to feel just a wee bit nervous before starting. Oddly enough, he combined with this quality a power of hitting at the ball with an almost reckless abandon as if he meant to kill it. He would march along the course with a long, slow, almost sleepy stride, and then, when he came to the ball, he would lash at it with what Mr. Horace Hutchinson well called a "divine fury"; and indeed, though one must write of his triumphs in the past tense, he can still do so. He was a superb iron player, famous especially with the now departed cleek, a master of every kind of running shot, and though not naturally a good putter, he made himself for one period of his career almost a great one. A better player out of difficulties I am sure was never seen, for not only could he by pure strength remove tons of sand and acres of heather, but he was as skilful and resourceful as he was strong. In fact at his best, he was almost impregnably armed at all points, but it was his driving that delighted people when he first appeared, and it is still his driving, more especially against the wind, that they remember best. It was at once so appalling in its ferocity, so rhythmical in its majesty.
13: Braid may almost be said to have inherited long driving, since he was a cousin of Douglas Rolland who came, like him, from Elie in Fife, and was the legendary long driver of the eighties and early nineties. He himself has given to the world the mysterious piece of natural history that he went to bed one night a short driver and woke up next morning a long one. We must take his word for it, but I never heard of anyone who remembered him as a short driver, and he assuredly was a long one, when, with something of the suddenness of a meteor, he flashed upon the golfing world about 1895. Everybody thinks of him now one of the famous three Braid, Vardon and Taylor, who were known as the "triumvirate" and for years almost monopolized the Open Championship. But we are apt to forget that in point of fame though not of age (he was born in 1870), he began a little later than they did. He started life as a joiner, first at Elie, then at St. Andrews and at Edinburgh, and was working at his trade while Vardon and Taylor were already budding professionals. Braid's own desire was always for golf, but his family thought nothing of it as a career and so he worked away as a joiner and played his golf when he had time as an amateur, and a very good amateur, too, at St. Andrews or on the Braid Hills course, near Edinburgh.
14: It was almost at the end of 1893, the year before Taylor won his first championship, that Braid crossed the Rubicon and became a club maker. The manner of his doing so was rather odd. A friend of his, C. R. Smith, was a club maker at the Army and Navy Stores in London. He wanted help and offered Braid the job, and Braid accepted it, though he had never in all his life made a club. His trade had taught him, however, all about the use of tools, and he had golf in his blood, so all was well. Even so, he had very little time for playing, and I well remember, when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, hearing rumours that there was a wonderful golfer (name to me unknown) at the Stores, who would do terrific things if he could only get the chance. The chance was bound to come and it actually came in 1895, in the form of an exhibition match which somebody got up between Braid and Taylor, then reigning champion, on a suburban course. After a great struggle the match was halved, the newcomer's fame was established straight away and he became not only a regular professional, but one of those at the top of the tree. Braid was second in the championship of 1897, beaten by Mr. Hilton by a single stroke, but he did not win till 1901 (at Muirfield), the last year before the coming of the rubber-cored ball. It always seemed strange that of his five championships, Braid won only one with the gutty ball,
15: for there was surely no one better calculated to flog that comparatively unresponsive and stony-hearted ball. I remember that a good many years after the coming of the Haskell there was staged an exhibition between Vardon, Taylor, Braid and Duncan in which one side played with the gutty and one with the rubber core. Braid's play with the gutty that day was something to remember, and one had the impression that if that ball could be restored, there would never be any other champion but he. How, then, was it that he did not really come into his kingdom till the rubber Core was established? I think the answer can he given in a single word - putting. Braid's putting was for several years almost the despair of his supporters. I recollect that the first time I ever saw him was in the late nineties, when I went down with a friend to Romford to match our best ball against his. Up to the green he was overpowering, but I am almost sure we won one round because of those putts, and Braid remarked, more in sorrow than in anger, that he had putted "like an auld sweetie wife." In those days he putted with a cleek and had a great deal of that "knuckling" movement of the knees, as it was called, which then marked the caddie-bred putter. It tended to a movement of the body and a pushing out of the ball and had nothing whatever to recommend it. Braid toiled away at his putting with but varying success, and I think it was when he got to Walton Heath and played with that fine putter, Mr. Herbert Fowler, that he really improved. He took to an aluminum Club, he curbed that "knuckling" and developed a smooth movement with a noticeably slow take-back of the club.
16: Putting never looked as if it came quite naturally and easily to him, but - artificial or no - he undoubtedly became a highly effective putter and, if he remained just a little vulnerable over the short ones, he holed the most inordinate number of middle length and downright long ones. The putts won championships for him, and once he started he did win them with a vengeance. I said he won in 1901. In 1904, for the third time in his career, he had a putt to tie and did not hole it. When at St. Andrews in 1905 he won for the second time, despite some desperate adventures at both the fifteenth and sixteenth holes, where he put his ball on the railway line (not then out of bounds) and had to batter it back to the course from amongst metals and sleepers. Now that he was fairly started he won again in 1906, 1908 and 1911. At the same time he made a not infrequent practice of winning the News of the World, the unofficial match-play championship, and it may be said that from 1905 to 1910 he ruled the roost. Of all his wins that in 1908 at Prestwick was the most impressive. Not only did he hole the four rounds in 291 magnificent scoring and win by eight clear strokes, but in the third round he took eight to the third hole, the dreaded Cardinal.
17: Never shall I forget the ghastly silence that reigned as he tried to get out of the bunker with his mashie and twice in succession the ball glanced off the boarded face and went out of bounds into the burn. Neither shall I forget, when at last he got clear, the utter impassivity alike of countenance and of gait with which he advanced towards the green. Those that awaited him there had not a guess that any thing untoward had happened. It was much argued at the time whether first of all Braid ought to have played short of the big bunker, and second whether he ought to have been content to get out and no more with his niblick. Perhaps he ought, but despite all his coolness and dourness Braid was always a bold player and went out unhesitatingly for the big shot. Sometimes he got into trouble, for he had not quite the machine-like accuracy of Vardon and Taylor and could at rare intervals hit a devastating hook. In a sense one of the greatest compliments I ever heard paid him was by an illustrious contemporary, who said that he ought to have won more than he did and that the hook was responsible. | Well, he won a very great deal and, moreover, there never was such a recoverer. A friend of mine once took a charming lady to Walton Heath to play a foursome with Braid as her partner. At hole after hole she toppled the ball off the tee into heather and Braid with terrific blows of the niblick put her ball far down the course. At last came a lie too much even for him. He removed the greater part of a young tree, but the ball moved only a few yards - nobody else could have moved it at all. Then said the lad, with a sweet smile, "Oh, Mr. Braid, I am glad to see that even you can make a mistake sometimes!"
18: After 1910 Braid won no more championships, partly, I think, because his eyesight troubled him, but he remained a great player not only up to the war but after it. He reached the final of the News of the World Tournament when well on in his fifties, and even to-day, when he accepts the inevitable gliding of the years with entire placidity, he is perfectly capable of a sixty-nine or so in a friendly round at Walton Heath. At that noble course he has now been the professional for some thirty years, and reigns there an undisturbed monarch. If all monarchs had been as sage and suave, as imperturbable and as far-seeing as he is, what a lot of crowned heads there would be in the world to-day! He has done much work as a golfing architect, and, though the kindliest of men, is rather ruthless in the matter of bunkers. His old friend, J.H. Taylor, once got into one of Braid's creations at Prestwick and remarked that the man who made that bunker ought to be buried in it with a niblick through his heart. Alone of our great professionals, Braid has never visited the United States, having, I believe, a well-grounded apprehension of ocean voyages. l am afraid he never will now, and if it is his loss it is also America's. Every American golfer who comes here should make a pilgrimage to Walton Heath to see this monument of a man. | From Playing the Like (1934) by Bernard Darwin