But Now I See Brora No. 25 Lipping Out

But Now I See

Finding an elevated plane in the Scottish Highlands

I’ve never been a big believer. I don’t get God and I’m not a fan of Fortuna. But I may have found something close to religion in the linkslands of Brora Golf Club. 

I came to Scotland in 2022, riding the high end of a 27 handicap and still drunk on my first real deep dive back into golf since discovering it as a convenient excuse to drink and drive (golf carts) in high school. 

Nearly every summer Sunday my last year of high school saw my friends and me loading up on illicit substances and staking claim to the last tee time of the day at my neighborhood track, Sarasota Golf Club. Highs in the 90s ensured we’d have the course to ourselves, and the lady behind the bar would hand us leftover sandwiches and send us off with a knowing grin. Chunking, topping, cursing and laughing my way through the Florida heat will always remain some of my most treasured times. (RIP, Sarasota GC.) 

This most recent trip to Scotland was my fifth (my family has deep Scottish roots), but the first with a primary focus on golf. And as with many Scottish golf pilgrimages, it started with St. Andrews. 

I’d won Monday and Tuesday practice round tickets for the 150th Open Championship (a surprise to my erstwhile partner, who had no idea I had entered the lottery), and the plan was to make a full journey out of it. We’d circle the country counterclockwise, starting on the Inner Hebrides, going north up into the Highlands following the trail of the Jacobites, winding through Speyside, Moray and Aberdeenshire, then down along the coast into Fife. 

With its long history in the game and remote location, Brora was always on my golf bucket list, and this trip gave me a chance to get there. An hour north of Inverness, around the Cromarty Firth and the hulking skeletons of decommissioned oil wells, through endless acres of hayfields and rolling hills, lies the seaside village of Brora. Its local golf club sprouted up in 1891 and remains a testament to the sublime mastery of five-time Open Champion James Braid. He rerouted the course in 1923, and “Braid’s Plan” has since remained virtually unchanged and unchallenged as a nuanced test of golf. There’s little distinction between maintained course features and the wild elements of the dunescape, and the ubiquitous sheep and occasional Highland cow that share grazing rights on the land only add to the pastoral charm. 

And I would experience it alone, without the guidance of a caddie or the company of a playing partner. I didn’t keep score, and to this day I can’t replay every shot. But I will never forget the feeling. I made my way around, half rain-drenched and half dehydrated, delirious from sea spray and too much time squinting through an undersized windshield. As I allowed my eyes and game to adjust, something struck me. Call it an epiphany. 

I set myself free from the everyday self-doubt that hampers my golfing happiness. I swung with easy confidence. Coming in blind to the course left me open and naked—more dependent than ever on the feel of my swing and the impact of the clubface. I did things with a golf club that I haven’t been fully able to explain or recreate since. Shots that usually end in stinging failure—approaches from every lie angle, drives flighted low beneath the wind, even graceful flops over bunkers—all came off successfully. 

I didn’t realize it then, but looking back now I can see the full circle. The salad days of Sarasota remanifested that day on the links of Brora. There was a balance between the haphazard exuberance of youth and the measured hindsight of maturity. And somewhere in the middle, on a fairway in rainy Scotland, was the sweet spot of enlightenment.

Parker Caldwell currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. He’s been a Broken Tee Society member since 2022.