The acclaimed American course architect Tom Doak has been associated with some fantastic contemporary course designs around the world in recent years – think Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, Barnbougle Dunes in Australia, Pacific Dunes in America – all of them very highly ranked in our World Top 100 rankings.
Now, with his first course design at the Home of Golf in East Lothian’s Archerfield Estate, next door to Muirfield, Doak has added another layout to an already outstanding portfolio with the opening of the Renaissance Club course in April 2008.
The 18 holes were carved out of around 300 acres of pine forest – developer Jerry Sarvadi told us there were over 8,500 tonnes of wood cleared – but the design retained a number of these trees in strategic fairway and greenside positions, adding both definition and a very pleasing aesthetic quality to the landscape.
Five years after the course opened, land acquired from the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in a land swap arrangement was used to fashion three new holes along the coastline. The opening three holes were dropped from the old 18-hole layout – though they're still maintained and used for practice – then the former holes at 12 and 13 were combined to fashion the current 12th hole and a new par three was installed at the 15th.
The new holes at 9 to 11 are really important to the club, connecting the course to the coastline in a way that it wasn't before. Starting and ending with par three holes, this little stretch, along with the preceding 8th hole, is the crowning glory of a round at Renaissance Club. The new par four 10th , in particular, is a dramatic addition, its thin ribbon of fairway and fiercely tilted green sitting tight along the edge of the cliffs, high above the Firth of Forth.
The Renaissance Club hosted the 25th edition of the Scottish Senior Open in 2017 (won by Paul Broadhurst). The club also staged the 2019 Scottish Open which Austria's Bernd Wiesberger claimed after beating Frenchman Benjamin Hebert in a play-off. Both men finished on 22 under, the lowest score to par in the tournament's history. England’s Aaron Rai beat compatriot Tommy Fleetwood at the first play-off hole to win the 2020 title after both men finished on 11 under. In 2021, Min Woo Lee from Australia won a three-man play-off to capture his second European Tour title.
I love Tom Doak as an architect and was super excited to finally get to play one of his courses, and this really did not disappoint. We played this course as part of the ‘One Time Experience’ that the club offers two weeks before the Scottish Open
The day we played the conditions were ideal - a little bit of wind, and warm, but not hot. We were greeted by the compulsory Fore-Caddie (Dougie) outside the club house and went over to the range. I had heard mixed reviews about the Caddies here, however, he was absolutely brilliant and enhanced rather detracted from the experience.
The first five holes are played in front of the club house/drive, and then the remaining 13 holes play out along the coast and back. The last 13 really are brilliant, and especially the 8th, 9th and 10th. Doak has done a brilliant job blending the course into the surrounding space, and making use of certain features that he found during construction, such as the old stone walls and the few scary looking trees that are left untouched. Dougie told us that the walls were completely covered with trees and unknown prior to starting construction and are thought to be 400+ years old!
After 10 holes we stopped in the half way house, which was really nice. The course resumes with an attractive downhill par 3 after a little walk up the hill. The next hole which really sticks in my mind is the par 5 13th - huge houses to the left and a risk reward tee shot depending how much of the corner / bunkers that you choose to take on, before taking aim at a large and undulating green.
The final holes to note are 17 and 18 - 17 was a mid length par 3 with a funnel pin, which will be a great finishing hole for the pros before the quirky 18th with the old wall jutting across the fairway where a very well struck drive would be.
We went back out again in the afternoon and played the last 13 holes again.
If I had one complaint it was the pin placements on the day - they were clearly protecting the course for the Scottish open and the pins on some holes were bordering on silly.
I’ve played 12 other courses along the Lothian coast and this would rank up there with the very best.
A final word about the lodges - I’ve stayed at Loch Lomond and Archerfields in the past and this would be at least as good as both of those.
If you get the chance to play - take it!
Unlike Dumbarnie, which exceeded my expectations, The Renaissance Club unfortunately didn’t. The weather can’t be blamed – it was pretty much identical (sunny intervals) for both courses last week.
I was so looking forward to playing a Tom Doak design for the first time, but I found the tee box visuals uninspiring and really struggled to find a focal point to aim at, which became frustrating. If this is what minimalism is all about, it’s not my cup of tea.
I won’t mention the clubhouse experience but I will touch on the rather mediocre conditioning on the day. It was a surprise to find lack lustre maintenance at an exclusive facility. TRC felt rather unloved in places with spiky stands of marram grass growing through the grassy pathways and the lovely old stonewalls seemed in need of urgent repair before unkindly Nature reclaims them. On the other hand, the tee boxes must have been running at 8 on my imaginary stimp.
Of course the signature 8th is a very good hole and I loved the infinity green at the par three 9th. Only the youngster in our group chose to walk the 250-yard round trip to the back tees at the 10th. Undeniably it’s a pretty coastal hole, but it didn’t flow and felt shoehorned into the routing. The scramble up the hill from #10 is less than ideal, especially if you take the wrong pathway to the left of the halfway cabin as we did, ending up exhausted at the 12th green (maybe we missed the sign). After the climb we were sorely tempted to skip #11 and #12 but we soldiered on stoically, which kind of summed up the general feeling on the day.
I haven’t yet played the Castle course, but surely the lambasted greens on the opposite side of the Firth of Forth can’t be funkier than TRC’s? I would have liked the greens a tad faster, but they are certainly pure fun and in my opinion the facility’s saving grace.
TRC is a challenging course, but it didn’t suit my eye. It came up short on joie de vivre, and on more than one occasion felt like hard work. I genuinely wanted to love the course but sadly I didn’t. The juxtaposition between on course minimalism and off course maximalism left me cold.
Wow wow wow, simply amazing. From tee box to green just perfection, amazing club house and great facilities. Some great holes and amazing views. If you ever get the chance, drop everything to play,
Was fortunate enough to play Renaissance about a month before the Scottish Open in 2020. It’s got a bit of a mystique about it and has been looking forward to playing it for ages. The off course facilities were great. Any club that has a swimming pool in the locker room gets a thumbs up for me!
The thing I loved about the course was the greens. As someone who is a member at a traditional links course with fairly flat greens, I always enjoy coming to a more modern links course as it allows you to be very creative around the greens. I think they got the balance just right here. Not too severe like the Castle course, but enough to give you options on how to play them. You could spend all day playing about on greens like 1, 5 and 17. Great fun!
The facilities at Renaissance are second to none, the clubhouse and practice facilities are absolutely first class and when I went along it was a quiet day so I enjoyed it all to myself.
I had a caddie on my visit, I think this is required for all visitors. He definitely made the round more of occasion and filled the walks between shots with some great stories.
The course was in great condition, ahead of the Scottish Open coming. There were a few real stand out holes, Tom Doak and his team seemed to have managed to create a modern links but hang on to many of the Lothian course features, for example the wall that runs through the course, the rubble of which was found in the gorse. I wouldn't class the course as a true links but it takes full advantage of pot hole bunkers and is creative with undulations. The greens are large and offer multiple challenges with varied pins. They also offer up a mixed scorecard, depending on wind direction which I think is a great thing, to be used at more courses, front tees into the wind, and back tees down wind. The course is surrounded by the more traditional courses around the town of Gullane and I would certainly play these first.
You have to have at least a fore caddie per group.
The Renaissance Club is sited adjacent to Muirfield on the coast in East Lothian, Scotland. With Muirfield over the fence, and North Berwick 5 minutes down the road, The Renaissance Club had to be outstanding to hold its own in such esteemed company. And it is. This is a real championship course, worthy of hosting a major championship.
American Jerry Savardi is the man who has made it happen, and Tom Doak and his team at Renaissance Golf designed and built the course- it is no accident that the name of the course and the design team are the same- Savardi sought permission from Doak to do so- perhaps the ultimate compliment.
I first saw the course before it was grassed in 2006, and was struck by how the site differed from those around it.
While blessed with the same undulating sand based terrain as it's illustrious neighbor, TRC has areas that were heavily treed and this gives the course a completely different feel as it moves through some almost heathland like territory and then cuts through the forest, down to coastal dunes and back to forest and heath.
I first played the course 2 or 3 times in Tom Doak's Renaissance Cup in 2009, and was impressed with the course. The routing was strong, with the holes going off constantly in different directions, providing a variety of wind conditions for different holes, with no two holes alike.
Things have changed however in the last 5 years, as the club traded some land with Muirfield, gaining some prime coastal duneland as a result... Tom Doak was brought back and new holes were produced.
Three lovely introductory holes were banished, and the new coastal holes replaced them with a few other changes also necessary to bring the new routing together.
The first 3 holes are now practice holes, and good as they were the introduction of the coastal holes has strengthened the course considerably.
Fast forward to 2014, and I was fortunate enough to return for 3 days of golf at TRC again, and what a difference that 5 years has made! As well as the new holes and changes to the routing, the course has matured dramatically.
Yes, the playing surfaces were magnificent- firm and fast, but the rough has also matured and long wavy rough interspersed with a rainbow of flowers in purple and yellow, combined with pink fescues framed the course majestically. Strands of mature pines, the occasional oak, and then the coastal grasses added to the picture perfect backdrop.
And Jerry Savardi had plans. He knew he had a magnificent facility, and wanted to show it off. He wanted to host a major tournament and had made it known he would host the Scottish Open. His dream came true in 2019 when The Renaissance Club successfully hosted the Scottish Open. No surprise there- after all this is a true championship course!
When we played he had it set up as if for the Championship itself. The long fescue rough was grown right in, making driving very tight, and any misses were a real challenge to get back on the fairway. It was hard!
But no one complained- we had all been privileged to play on a true championship course in absolutely prime condition.
It is a stern test of golf for sure, one you must play off an appropriate tee....you need to drive straight...you need to keep your ball in play....you need to hit greens or your short game needs to be sharp...and you need to putt well... the greens were firm and have enough movement to test anyone's putting prowess... Hard but fair... A real championship course!
With so many good holes, I opt to mention holes 4, 8 & 10 as the standout holes.
Hole 4 is just a beautiful mid length dogleg par 4 with a cluster of bunkers well framed by fescue on the inside of the dogleg, and then an elevated green framed by tree and bunkers.
Hole 8 is unique with the combination of a good strong golf hole, a broken wall, tree and revetted bunkers all contributing to the look- a picture paints a thousand words....
And the short par 4 10th curves along the coast in the dunes proper...awesome!
TRC is an exclusive, expensive, private club with 6 star facilities off course- but if you venture to East Lothian to play some golf, do yourself a favour, and try and get a game... You won't regret it
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
I had visited the Club back in 2012 when the original design was being slightly modified and came back one month ago to play it two days after the Ladies Scottish Open was played, you could still see the tubular tribunes and the course was in great shape.
The visit started with a Tour to the Fantastic Lodge on the left side of the Club House and I have to say if you wish some luxury accommodation this is THE place! Then the Club house, with the aura of a private course is just perfect, modern but good tast in every corner.
Immediately after that my third round of the day after Musselburgh and Kilspindie began, alone just with my caddie. I played some of the best golf of the year and putted the worst in a decade, some fault to physical demand and some to the great very challenging greens Mr Doak has built, tough to identify breaks and slopes, sometimes you feel to be up the hill and it is the other way … missed some putts by ridiculous margins, it was just a KO for the course against me. But I liked it and feel it is a very good piece of architecture and some views (Holes 8-12) are perfect with woods on one side and ocean on the other.
Is it a must play? Mmm, maybe not. There are a lot of courses with history in the area and in other spots of Scotland, but the chance of this lodging makes it worth.
My only point against this course is you come to play links course and it is not, piece of land is more like the one for Duke’s Course in St Andrews with 4 holes on the ocean, also like hole 11th at Kingsbarns. The greens are challenging, the course is fun and if you go back on the tee boxes you will need to play very well.
There are many courses in Scotland to play even more than once and to do them every trip, this one would not be those ones. It is worth to play, it is nice and fun, it is challenging but many will not find it that special.
The Renaissance Club has it all, short par 4's, long par 4's, short par 5's and long par 5's, and short to medium length par 3's. The routing moves all around so sometimes one will get the benefit of the wind and sometimes one will face the teeth of the wind.
There are four greens that seem either too big and too contoured such as 2, 5, 8, and 12.
I do think this is a very good golf course, one that continues to improve due to tree removal and thinning of the grasses. The short sixth, the par four eighth, the tenth along the water's edge, the uphill fourteen and the splendid finishing par 3 17th and par 4 18th are the truly memorable holes.
There is talk of building 4-5 holes on the land the club owns that goes out to the firth. If that were to happen, the entire club would be transformed into a 27 hole complex but with 7-8 holes on the water. But even if that never happens this is a golf course that requires a lot of strategy on some holes for the tee shot, but mainly as to how you approach the green with your second shot, or tee shot on the par threes. The bunkers surrounding the greens can be very penal. It is rare that a sand shot can place one within six feet of the pin given the depth and placement of those bunkers. The course is very well maintained and the greens, while tricky, do roll true.
East Lothian has so many good golf courses, so building a new one that can fit in with the pedigree of the others must have been a real challenge, but Tom Doak succeeded at The Renaissance Club.
With regards to the 2019 Scottish Open, I would note the 22 under score and low rounds of 61 were on a golf course that was wet and so it was very soft for the pros. In normal conditions, I would have expected a winning score of 15 to 16 under.
Big money and deep overseas pockets immediately make this feel like nothing else in Scotland, and it’s a far cry from the historical experience you’ll get at any of its neighbours. Lavish luxury and modern facilities certainly has its own target market, and feels somewhat out of place in this neck of the woods.
The golf course is in the final stages of preparation for the 2019 Scottish Open. The playing conditions are superb, and while the topography is relatively flat, many of the greens are outrageously contoured, especially the first green. The rough is high and lines the fairways so beautifully with great colours, but in its current state, many of the holes on the opening half felt the same from each of the tee boxes given how they are presented for the competition. High rough and narrow landing areas are a common theme before getting to the voluptuous greens.
In my humble opinion, the holes at Renaissance don’t really tie into the tree lines, and it almost looks like a prairie-land course in places with all the deep dark rough, despite its proximity to the sea. With several changes to the initial routing, who knows if Doak’s original ideas were ever achieved?
I was lucky enough to play twice here at the end of September and in short, the course is staggeringly good. I cannot find fault with it and despite playing in incredibly tough conditions (30mph winds) thought it sensational and I can't wait to try again. The whole team who run the course are incredibly welcoming, caddies great and the club house delivers a great all round experience. As time passes and more people play this course (particularly with the Scottish Open around the corner) I have no doubt this will be on everyone's golfing bucket list.