James Braid, the Open's First 5-Time Champ

Bio of the turn-of-the-century golfer who was part of the Great Triumvirate

James Braid portrait
Golfer James Braid, photographed in 1927. Evening Standard/Getty Images

Among the members of Britain's "Great Triumvirate," James Braid was the one who reached five wins in the Open Championship first.

Date of birth: February 6, 1870
Place of birth: Earlsferry, Fife, Scotland
Date of death: November 27, 1950

Major Championship Wins

5

  • 1901 British Open
  • 1905 British Open
  • 1906 British Open
  • 1908 British Open
  • 1910 British Open

Awards and Honors

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame

James Braid Trivia

  • Braid was the first golfer to shoot below 70 in an 18-hole round in the Open Championship. It happened at the 1904 Open with a 69 in the third round.
  • At the 1908 Open, Braid became just the second golfer to break 300 over 72 holes in the tournament. And in the 1910 Open, he became the first golfer to break 300 in a 72-hole Open played at St. Andrews.
  • There is one British Open record that Braid still shares today: largest margin of victory, post-1900. Braid won by eight strokes in 1908, and is one of several golfers to share that record.

Quote, Unquote

  • James Braid: "Keep on hitting it straight until the wee ball goes in the hole."
  • Braid: "For practice to have full value, make each swing with the care of a stroke from a tee on medal day."

James Braid Biography

James Braid, along with Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor, formed Britain's "Great Triumvirate" of early 20th-century golfers. Vardon won six Open Championships and Braid and Taylor five each.

Braid took up the game as a young child and won his first local tournament at age 8. His game developed along with an interest in clubmaking, and in 1893 he took a position as clubmaker in London.

Braid began playing golf as a professional in 1896. His play, prior to the turn of the century, was marked by long driving but inconsistent putting. While Vardon and Taylor were already winning Opens, Braid's putting kept him from breaking through.

He switched to an aluminum-headed putting cleek in 1900 (from a wooden-headed model) and his putting improved.

In 1901, he won his first British Open, and he won four more by 1910 - reaching five Open titles before either Vardon or Taylor. (Putting continued to be an issue, however, and by the 1905 Open Braid had switched from the putting cleek to a modern putter.)

Braid did something else before either Vardon or Taylor, too: He broke 70 in an 18-hole round in the Open. In fact, with a third-round 69 in 1904, Braid was the first golfer to break 70 at the British Open. But his record only stood for one day until Taylor shot 68 in the final round. Neither of them won the tournament, though - the champ was Jack White, with Braid and Taylor tying for second.

That was one of four times that Braid - in addition to his five victories - was runner-up in the Open. He had 19 Top 10s total, including every one he played from 1894 through 1912 (he skipped the 1895 Open).

Through 1911, Braid also won the British Professional Match Play four times and the French Open once. He mostly retired from competitive golf in 1912, although he played the Open off and on for years, last competing in 1938.

In 1912, Braid joined Walton Heath as its club professional. He remained at Walton Heath until his death in 1950.

Braid's great passion after his retirement was golf course design.

It it estimated that he designed or re-designed more than 200 courses around Great Britain (fear of flying and motion sickness on boat rides prevented him from ever working in the United States). Among the courses he helped remodel are Carnoustie, Troon, Prestwick and Ballybunion.

Many of Braid's best courses were inland parkland tracks (as opposed to seaside links), and some of these courses contain great uses of the dogleg. Although dogleg holes existed before Braid began designing courses, he was a popularizer of that type of hole.

Braid was a founding member of the British PGA and authored multiple instructional books, including Advanced Golf (buy it on Amazon) and How to Play Golf (buy it on Amazon).