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.
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.
This club has wonderful service and as a guest I was treated like royalty. I cannot fathom how some of the reviews criticise the club for this. If reviews concentrated on the design and customer service and not the fact that they hate the thought of the exclusivity then there would be a much fairer rating. The course is Scottish in playability, firm and fast. The service is more American but I don’t think it goes overboard and I found it a breath of fresh air.
This was my first Doak experience and I loved it. The front 9 shows wonderful design skill over relatively flat land. 4, 7 and 9 were my favourite holes due to the incredible green complexes that use sideboards and slopes around the green to allow for true running shots to access the pins. It doesn’t have a pure links feel due to the trees but I rather like them. It makes the place unique as the turf certainly plays hard and fast like next door at Muirfield.
The second 9 is perhaps the more interesting terrain with large elevation changes. The 11th is particularly memorable due to the old ruined wall and gnarled Scots Pine framing a wonderful green site on the side of a dune. Speaking to the pro they have plans for more holes and a Scottish Open maybe in the future. This maybe explains the extreme length off the very back but I found it refreshing to play whatever tees we wanted and ended up mixing and matching. If you can’t handle a tournament course then surely swallow your pride and move forward?
The views are stunning and given the new holes will be down in the dunes it will raise the course up further still. According to the barman the head green keeper used to be at Gullane and his local knowledge must be the reason for the immaculate condition and some of the best bunkering I have ever seen. It is hard to believe the course is so young. This is the best new course I have played in the UK and only just behind a few of the Coore & Crenshaw courses I have played in the US. This course is a real sleeper, I just hope they have an event here or some sort of limited pay and play to get some exposure- good luck to them. I do think there is a place for this sort of club in Scotland. It is certainly up to standard. I’m a golf for all guy but having played more 5 hour rounds on public courses than I care to remember I can understand why people would spend their hard earned to have a place to themselves. Lottery next week?? Adrian W
I was fortunate enough to play the course when it first opened in the middle of April 2008 and I loved it from first hole to last. Having peeped into the site when visiting the nearby Dirleton course less than two years ago, in the middle of tree-felling, I was astounded to see how well the land had been transformed, with newly laid fairways giving a very linksy feel to the round.
As one might expect at an exclusive golf club where membership bonds cost a substantial five-figure sum, the condition of the course was immaculate from start to finish and, surprise, surprise for an American design, it’s been built for walking with not a cart path (or any extraneous water features!) in sight - but then if you know anything about designer Tom Doak then you’d never expect any such blots on the landscape anyway.
The gentle mounding and greenside bunkering is exceptional throughout (though I’d keep them all as they are instead of introducing an intended program of revetting) and the enormous greens, though slow when I played, will be a joy to putt on when fully up to speed.
I really enjoyed several aspects of the Renaissance course: the isolated trees that have occasionally been positioned beside fairways and near greens (like left of the 4th fairway); the wee walls that have been incorporated into some of the holes (especially at the 18th); the feeling of openness – even when playing at holes lined by trees on one or either side of the fairway – and the subtle changes in elevation on the more undulating back nine.
The par four 11th (514-yards from the tiger tee) is a real cracker, played to one of the most wickedly contoured greens I’ve ever putted on. It’s flanked by rough to the left, a lovely bunker front right and a broken stone wall to the back left – expect to see lots of photos of this hole on golf magazine covers and brochures very soon!
Doak’s understated touch is a real joy to behold and it raises the bar of golfing excellence along this coastline yet another notch higher.