The East Renfrewshire Golf Club, or ‘East Ren’ as it is known was established in 1922 and the great James Braid designed the course. Not much has changed since, with the exception of slight lengthening to the current 6,100-yard par 70 challenge.
Braid was unable to supervise the course being built because of his golf club duties at Walton Heath so Tom Dobson, the first greenkeeper and professional at East Ren, ensured that Braid’s plans were adhered to by the construction crew.
The usual Braid traits are evident, high tees, rolling fairways and greens set upon plateaux. All the holes are refreshingly different and this is a delightful example of moorland golf at the top end of the category.
There are some stunning views across to Glasgow and the Clyde and, with the course perched at 500 feet above sea level, the wind is a huge factor with club selection. If you play East Renfrewshire every day for one week, expect to use a different club for the same length of shot each day.
Many holes are worthy of a mention but our favourite is the 18th – a long tree-lined par four with a burn to the left and splitting the fairway. Bunkers and another burn protect the green, which is set next to the clubhouse. East Renfrewshire is certainly tough, but it's also fair.
Played East Ren on 7th August 2018. I had heard great things about the course and was keen to get a game. The course is hugely playable and very enjoyable. You are also just far enough out of the city to feel away from it all, in the countryside, which really enables the escapism that many people specifically play golf for. At the time we played it, the course was in excellent condition all round.
The course varies with having long and short holes however I didn’t find the long holes a particular drag and most of the short holes still require a tactical approach. The layout is also nice and wide open, massively aiding to the playability for the handicap golfer.
My favourite holes in the front 9 were the 2nd (a short par 4) requiring a risk / reward tee shot avoiding the burn meandering down the right hand side. The safer your tee shot, the further your approach (and more of an angle you have to play at from the left).
Also worth mentioning 6 (again a short par 4, this time playing downhill). A tactical tee shot required to a tight dogleg left. This is a big landing area, but the further left you go, the shorter your approach, with your shot then becoming blind. Centre right very much the play leaving maybe 130 yards downhill to one of the smaller greens. With both of these holes longer hitters may take them on, but for the most part, length is not an advantage at these holes.
On the back 9, the long par 3 11th was very enjoyable. It was playing 211 up a serious hill. The shot is very much to play left of the green, with the right club leaving you potentially pin high. A very accurate fade could roll onto the putting surface, but in reality, a straightforward chip and a putt is required for par with the conservative approach leading to no worse than 4. Discipline required, as it would be very easy to get sucked into going for the pin and ending up short right down a very steep bank. Of course, par is just a number and you have to remember that this hole will likely play well over par in competitions.
14 is a short par 5, but with a burn very much in play on the layup, it may cause some problems. 15 also worthy of note (340y par 4). Less than driver required to a plateau landing area. From there you have a clear view of the green with bunkers either side, so being central off the tee very much an advantage. I also enjoyed 18. On the card, this looks a brutal finishing hole at 439 off the yellows. When we got up there, there is an elevated tee and the wind at your back to really send your best drive down a wide fairway. There is a burn running straight across the fairway around 150 yards short of the green. This will certainly be in play for longer hitters who will have a decision to make. For me, my best drive of the day was still 20 yards short with a long approach required to a large green.
A couple of weaker holes for me were the par 3 7th (200 yards) which I didn’t enjoy much, albeit there’s nothing tricky about it and it does have a large target. Also the par 4 15th. This measured 337 up the hill, but it’s pretty much a blind shot to the green unless you are an absolute bomber. Really, I’m being hyper critical as the holes are still fair and playable, but they are keeping good company around an excellent layout.
The course flows very well and pace of play for us was excellent with very little time spent looking for balls. There are a lot of trees and I have heard that there is a tree removal programme in place. For me this would only improve the feel of the place with gorse and heather replacing the fir trees and adding to the moorland feel.
For those of us who used to take the old main road out of Glasgow to Ayrshire to play links golf on the west coast, the entrance to East Ren on the outskirts of Glasgow was passed with hardly a second glance. And now that the motorway has been built to bypass the course, there is even less chance of the club picking up casual “passing trade” – which is a real pity as this Braid gem deserves to be played by more than just the membership.
When I played today, the course was in immaculate order with pristine tee boxes, surprisingly well drained fairways and well paced, smooth putting surfaces. The course routing was exceptional – as might be expected of a Braid creation – and holes flowed beautifully from one to the next with wonderful use of the changes in undulation high up on the moor.
A particularly pleasing trio of holes came at the start of the back nine, beginning with “Clouthie’s Howe,” the visually stunning short par four 10th which was followed by a beast of an uphill, 214 yard par three called “Brae Shouther” before playing the difficult (stroke index 2) 12th hole.
Elevated tees, raised greens, burns and blind shots – East Ren has them all to add interest throughout your round. It is a much under rated moorland course with a fine modernised clubhouse which obviously caters for the more discerning golfer on the south side of the city.