The beautiful South

Rob Jones of Neath Golf Club tells us about the new South Wales James Braid Trail – and why the Year of Legends is the perfect time to unveil it.


The idea for a James Braid Trail isn’t necessarily a new one. We were aware that there was a trail in North Wales and that there were several more over in Scotland, but that there was nothing like it in South Wales. Seeing as there are several clubs with Braid connections in our area, it made sense that we should try to set up something similar. 

I started looking into which clubs in South Wales had been either designed or amended by James Braid. He wasn’t just a course designer, but also did a lot of work making changes and improvements to courses. I discovered that there were 11 clubs in the South Wales area that were already members of the nationwide Braid Association, so it was then a question of contacting the secretaries of the clubs to see if they were interested in forming a South Wales Braid Trail.

We also got in touch with the people in North Wales who had been instrumental in setting up their trail, Mike Bryant and Ginny James, who were very helpful in giving some pointers on how to go about setting up a trail in South Wales. It quickly became apparent that it needed to be web-based, so in November 2015 we registered the domain name www.braidgolftrail.co.uk and then set about developing the website.

Langland Bay Golf Club

Langland Bay Golf Club

In late May 2016 I invited the clubs to come along and see what progress we’d made. Of the 11 South Wales Braid clubs, Langland Bay, Maesteg, Morlais Castle, Pennard, Tenby and Wenvoe Castle joined Neath in getting on board and committing funds to help develop the trail. We also found out from Visit Wales that there was a thing called the Tourism Product Innovation Fund from which we might be able to get some grant money. When I looked into it, I discovered that the deadline for applications was 3 June, which didn’t leave us much time. We managed to complete and submit the application by about 11.40 on the evening of the deadline day and after some negotiating, eventually got the grant offer on 26 September 2016. 

After all the hard work, we launch the South Wales James Braid Trail on 30 March 2017. We’ve got Welsh Assembly Government’s Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure Ken Skates coming along. Not only is he a keen golfer, but he’s also a member of Wrexham Golf Club, which is part of the North Wales James Braid Trail. We’re also hoping to welcome Stephen Toon, who is a founder member and Secretary of the Braid Society, and Brian Huggett, a golfing superstar and past president of our club. 

Launching the Trail now seems appropriate because 2017 is the Year of Legends here in Wales, and there are few in the golfing world who deserve to be thought of as a legend more than James Braid. He’s one of the founding fathers of golf course design and his ideas still influence the way courses are laid out today. 

Braid recognised that the natural topography offered opportunity, but wasn’t afraid to move earth to make a hole more interesting. He believed that a golf course should challenge a golfer to think about how to play it and that there should always be different options open to the player. He’s also a legend as a player. Apart from Padraig Harrington, Braid is the only Open winner to successfully defend his title in the 100-years-plus history of the competition. We hope that some of Braid’s success rubs off on the trail, so that more people can sample the great golf that South Wales has to offer.