I played the Renaissance Club earlier this year because Tom Doak designed it and I have a great deal of admiration for his work. It must be hard to have your work scrutinised and it’s surely pleasing when the accolades are positive but upsetting when they are not. Doak’s creation at St Andrews Beach competes with most courses on the Mornington Peninsula but falls short when compared to the old classics further north along the Melbourne sand belt. Ballyneal in Holyoke, Colorado, knocks your socks off because as a golf course it stands alone as does his excellent layout at the Rock Creek Cattle Company which opened the same year as the Renaissance. Naturally his Scottish design will be measured against the classics of Muirfield and North Berwick but will also be compared against the courses next door at Archerfield, which are similarly aged. The Renaissance is as least as good, if not better than the Fidra and certainly a better design than the Dirleton.
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.
Date: October 11, 2011