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.
The Renaissance Club hosted the 25th edition of the Scottish Senior Open in 2017 (won by Paul Broadhurst). The club also hosted 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.
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.
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.
One of the more recent additions to an already amazingly strong list of local clubs in East Lothian The Renaissance Club is characterized by a very strong routing that follows the natural lay of the land, which is by all means excellent but fairly subtle golf land neighboring Muirfield. In my opinion the strongest aspect of this course are the excellent green complexes and surrounds which seamlessly integrate in the natural landscape. Most seem as though the team just simply found ideal shapes for the greens and put up flags for play. Mission accomplished and definitely in character with what Doak and Renaissance Golf stand for.
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.