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 brilliant 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.
It was announced in January 2017 that the Renaissance Club will host the 25th edition of the Scottish Senior Open in August 2017.
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.
Fortunate enough to play here at the weekend on a recent trip and we were absolutely blown away with the quality of the course and the hospitality we received from the members and staff. We had a very good caddy named Gary and well worth it as the greens are very undulating. The new holes on the coast line are absolutely brilliant with the short par 4 10th the pick of the bunch. The food and drink in the clubhouse is first class and we were welcomed by a group of very friendly members. Golf experiences do not get much better than this and if you get the chance to play here, grab the invitation immediately. The all round experience and course is far better than Trump International for me.
I played the Renaissance last year. While it is a fine course I can't but help comment that I came away depressed by the whole experience. It appeared to be an exercise in exclusivity and little else. Hardly anyone seemed to play the course and the staff while excellent they were bored rigid as there was no one there. To me it represents everything that is wrong with modern golf developments. If golf is to thrive it must be accessible to one and all.
Agree with your sentiment Tom, but ultimately there are always enough ultra-wealthy people to support a few exclusive Golf clubs like this - regardless of adverse economic conditions or the general state of the game. Fortunately, private clubs like Renaissance & Queenwood are also so rare in the UK I don’t think they affect the general vitality of Golf either way and so we shouldn’t worry too much about them (even if it is a shame we can’t play them)!
I think what could be important to the general health of the game though is that high profile tournaments (like The Scottish Open) should not be awarded to such clubs (as well as those that don’t admit female members, etc), because perhaps that could send the wrong message to the current & potential Golfing public about how accessible the game is
Responding to Tom Sampson, where the Renaissance differs from Queenwood and Loch Lomond is that they have the One Time offer that allows you to visit once. We did this a couple of years ago and it was an outstanding experience staying in the Clubhouse suites in shoulder season. It was reasonable value, and in retrospect we wish we had stayed longer. One visit is probably enough at high end courses for those of us with limited time and means, and I'd much rather revisit Renaissance if i could than a certain overpriced and unwelcoming "meadow" down the road.
I probably lack the savoir faire that The Renaissance Club expects from a golfer but regardless of this I recently seized an opportunity to peg it up behind the closed gates and allowed myself to be indulged for a day.
In fact the gates are slightly ajar nowadays as they do allow limited visitor play (enquire within) for those wishing to sample this exclusive East Lothian links.
The meet and greet in the car park, the pyramids of complimentary practice Pro V1’s on the driving range and a taster trio of sausages brought out to you by a waiter after departing the fifth green is not really my scene, but I’ll run with it.
Renaissance is geared towards a niche clientele, one that moves in entirely different circles to me, but the welcome is warm and there is a lovely relaxed feel inside the luxurious clubhouse. You are undeniably made to feel like a member during your time on the estate.
Sandwiched between Muirfield and the two courses at Archerfield this is a modern coastal course that comes alive as you near the exceptional and perpetually entertaining green complexes. If, like me, you enjoy playing all different sorts of creative shorts into and around the greens you are going to have a blast here – pleasingly the ball will not stop anywhere close to where it initially lands!
If the greens are running as quickly, and are as glazed, as they were on my visit you will also have plenty of three-putts… but you’ll certainly have a fun time racking them up. Add in some wind, alongside the firm conditions, and you’re going to have to make sure you can play the ground game competently, approach from the correct angle and use the many contours to your advantage. Get it wrong and you could be made to look quite silly.
At Renaissance you must often think outside the box when attempting to get your ball as close to the hole as possible and at times the best shot is not one that tracks the flag. Missing in the right place is essential. Missing in the wrong spot will be seriously detrimental to your score. If the course isn’t as strong from the tee as other links of similar ilk it more than makes up for it when playing into and around the greens.
The course isn’t overly wide from the tee, nor is it particularly tight. That said, the rough was beautifully managed on my visit; thin and wispy. A ball was findable and playable but the loss of control meant that there was a premium for staying on the short grass. The rough added extra width and I can only imagine the problems it could cause if it becomes thick and juicy during a hot, wet summer.
The old stonewalls can come into play on a number of holes, they are used interestingly at the fifth and 18th where it’s not impossible to end up right behind them and possibly have to chip out sideways to get back into position.
In my opinion the main thing that will hold Renaissance back from being talked about amongst the real greats (for now anyway) is the newness of the course. It was immaculately presented, fast and running, but you can’t buy or create aged turf that has been golfed on for centuries – a factor that elevates a golf course to an entirely different level for me.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Three of us stayed and played two days ago on the One Time arrangement, staying in the beautiful club house suites then playing our round the next day.
Our ex pro fore caddy Laurence was super useful and brilliant fun, which chimed with a team that I can only compare with Castle Stuart for quality and friendliness.
The golf is a great experience starting with a superb range, then playing the old opening three holes as a warm up.
The course then starts in what feels a fairly typical new course up and down manner but always with real interest to the holes.
The course really stepped up at the tough but fair par 3 6th, followed by the first stand out hole, a par 5 running to the left boundary with a semi blind approach to a raised green.
Stroke 1 par 4 follows, excellent par 4 requiring a good drive and long iron to reach the tricky green with characteristic run offs short and right.
The course then opens up to the new seaside holes which are the jewels in the crown, including the best halfway house views I've yet experienced.
From then its a succession of excellent holes with lovely views and some feature trees...really !
The picturesque old estate walls come into play on a few holes, including the last where a friendly bounce left of the green helped me close out the match.
This is a truly exceptional facility, and I would like to thank Jerry, the very welcoming and interested owner, for allowing visitors to share this very special experience, even if only once...sigh.
I would commend such an enlightened approach to some of the other courses in the Top 100 !
Played the Renaissance Club as a "one time experience" at the end of May. The start is very solid through 1 to 5 but in my view the course comes alive from 6 onwards. 6 is a gorgeous short par 3, with 7 and 8 being as good as a set of consecutive holes that Ive played (Played 85 of the Top 100 GB&I). The 3 new holes are typically Doak (gorgeous, stark, memorable). The 10th has a feel of the iconic 13th at Pacific Dunes. The 12th is just a great hole (long par 4). 17 and particularly 18 are absolutely stunning golf holes. Overall a brilliant golf course. Also lucky enough to play behind the Scottish PGA pros who were playing a tournament so watched some great golf and enjoyed the course conditioning.
The whole experience is memorable. If any non members are interested in the once time experience the I would urge you to take up the offer. I would also urge you to stay onsite in the Lodge overlooking the 6th hole. I should also mention the forecaddie Ross. He was knowledgeable, fun, supportive and patient. Just a great 24 hours in a golfing life.
Recently the club purchased a new piece of sea front property and changed the routing slightly with the addition of the new par 4 13th hole which is an excellent addition but does require a little extra walking from green to tee and vice versa. This is however, the only constructive criticism I can make. It’s certainly worth the walk. It just doesn’t quite enjoy the supple continuity of the walk from green to tee of the rest of the course.
That being said given the “wow” factor of playing the hole and aesthetic beauty it’s also difficult to play a round without this hole being one of your favorites. It’s also clear that the Renaissance Club has been designed to be able to accommodate major tournaments as the course can stretch to super human lengths only realistic for pros and the very longest of top amateur hitters. If you get a chance to play here, make sure you jump on it. Even given the strength of the local offering it’s a must and a wonderful members club if you are in a position to afford yourself this luxury.
A couple of days ago, seven years after I first played here, I stepped back onto the 1st tee at Renaissance Club. Back then, in 2008, there was no clubhouse or other accommodation buildings, just a draughty portakabin situated close to the first tee, containing a few chairs and a coffee table. All that has changed as the club has developed, with facilities that now match or even better the best of those that you’ll find anywhere else in the country.
On the course, there has also been plenty of progress made. In particular, several new holes have been introduced along the shoreline of the Firth of Forth and sections of wooded areas further inland have been removed, further enhancing the course’s links credentials.
A round now begins on the old 4th hole, as the former opening three holes are now only used for practice. The fairway on the opening hole sets the standard for the other seventeen holes; generously wide and beautifully crisp and dry, allowing firm and fast conditions to prosper all the way from tee to green.
Many of the greens are FAR more heavily contoured than I could remember and some of the pin positions close to the more pronounced swales were such that even slightly misaligned or under hit putts were thrown way off to their intended target -- making me look rather foolish on more than one occasion during my round!
Putting surfaces may be pretty funky, but they’re certainly not as outrageous as others I’ve encountered in similar new build projects in recent years. What they do require is a certain “game within a game” mentality where you really need to concentrate hard in order not to run up a big score from close to the pin.
Hole number 8 (the former number 11, pictured) remains my favourite because everything about it is so appealing: the two beautiful big trees to the right of the fairway, the terrifically sculpted bunker short and right of the green, the heavily undulating putting surface and the wonderful broken dyke wall that runs diagonally behind the hole -- it’s easily one of my all-time favourite spots in Scottish golf (and that’s even without playing the hole from the offset white tees which add another 55 yards to the length).
The new holes overlooking the Firth that follow at 9 to 11 add an extra dimension to the course now, especially at the short par four 10th, where a sliver of fairway somehow connects the tee to the green along the edge of the cliff top. It’s a spectacular hole on a very special portion of property that was apparently traded for another parcel of land with the neighbours at Muirfield next door and I think I know who scored best in that particular deal.
Renaissance Club now offers a “one-time experience,” albeit for a hefty green fee, but if you’re serious about sampling world class links golf then you really have to pull out all the financial stops to play here.
I particularly like the Renaissance’s back nine, which is topographically more interesting than the front with greater rise and fall in elevation. In fact, I felt the course started too quietly except for some stellar green complexes but came alive as a course at the 8th, a lovely old-fashioned short par four that turns slightly to the left and, as the previous review commented, it really does have an interesting green. You then get your first view of the sea at the par three 9th and then, at the turn, the course changes character as takes in the elevation, pines and sea views.
It’s actually wrong to criticise the Renaissance because it’s a good course and it might be compared to Kingsbarns and considered great in the future but that will only happen if more golfers can access these fairways. The new clubhouse will no doubt help to attract further wealthy members and their guests but I think that’s missing the essence of what people expect from the Home of Golf. In Scotland golf is for the people and if Muirfield can open its door to visitors on Tuesdays and Thursdays then surely this new kid on the block can too. Who knows, golfers might get to love the Renaissance more than Muirfield at some future point, especially if the Renaissance can secure a noteworthy tournament.