Friday, April 27, 2012

Renaissance Club

While sitting on the train to North Berwick on my way to Renaissance Club, I fully expected to compare every aspect of Renaissance Club to its neighbor, Archerfield. On the train back to St Andrews post-round, I had come to realize that the golf at Renaissance Club offers something different to the club just down the coast. Archerfield’s two courses are there for the entertainment of the members, but at Renaissance, Tom Doak created a challenging world-class course, worthy of fighting its way into the upper half of the UK's top 100 courses.

Renaissance Club opened up in 2008 with a similar ethos to Loch Lomond. Different from most Scottish courses, a largely international membership base is able to fly in and relax in a golfing haven, hidden from society, while being provided with anything of which a golfer could dream. To exemplify this, we overheard the chef asking a member, “What would you like for dinner tomorrow?” to which the member replied, “Lobster would be good...” The chef answered, “I’ll have one brought in.”
The temporary clubhouse would make most permanent clubhouses jealous. Marble floors, sinks, and showers in the locker room make me wonder what the permanent locker room will be like. (Could we see a PowerShower rating of 10??) I could go on about the club’s offerings and treatment of the exclusive membership, but what really stood out was the golf course. (Click on the pictures to see full, large detail.)
The hole in the above picture is the 4th. After a strong first three holes, this fourth sets the tone for the round. The fairway has plenty of room to the left, but the left tree forces the golfer to favor the right side of the fairway. The green complex is something of genius with bunkers short right, and a massive backstop on the left side of the green, again encouraging the right side of the fairway for an optimal angle into the backstop. 
The 7th hole is a dogleg right with the picture above being taken right at the bend of the dogleg. The green was extremely large with a tree guarding far left pins, slopes guarding the front, and bunkers guarding the right side. 
The 8th hole (green above) is a drivable par 4. It is also the first place that the original stone walls surrounding the course come into play. The green, like many others on the course, is massive and very undulating. None of these pictures do the slopes justice. The unfinished clubhouse can be seen in the background... It will be extremely impressive. 

At the turn, a member of staff came out to offer us tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and snacks.

There wasn't a single weak hole on the back nine. The 10th, pictured above, is a long dogleg right requiring a carefully placed drive on the left side of the fairway. In another stroke of designing skill, Doak placed the last bunker on the hole at 185 yards out. How many par 5s have you seen without a single bunker around the green? Instead of bunkers, large slopes guard the green. 
The 11th hole was my favorite hole on the golf course. It was an extremely strong hole, which carefully straddled the balance between too difficult and enjoyable. The picture above is taken from the tee, while the picture below is taken looking backwards from the green. The pictures don't do the massive scale of the hole justice. 
Another massive green is found at the 11th with bunkers forty yards out, thick grass and dunes left, and slopes filtering towards the ancient walls to the right. A common theme seen at the course is open, harmless entries to the greens, but miss left or right, and you're in trouble. 
The 14th hole puts a premium on accurate driving. I know this personally, as I was stuck in a deep fairway bunkers on the right side of the fairway (look carefully in the picture). A "figure 8" style bunker guards the dead center, but a natural chute on the left side of the fairway will slingshot a good drive past it. 
The 18th hole was playing downwind during our round and I took full advantage with a high flighted "North Carolina" style drive. The wall running across the fairway makes for a distinctive last hole that will not soon be forgotten. A shelf on the back left portion of the green makes for an interesting pin in a "make or break" situation. 

As you can tell from this writeup, I can only say good things about Renaissance Club. I was treated extremely well and everyone was extremely friendly. The course was in perfect condition, although the greens were slow. I can't wait to go play again when the greens are running fast on a less windy day. I found myself wanting to write about every single hole on the course.
Looking over the 14th, 13th, and 11th holes on the course.
After reading about the course and hearing me sing its praises, you may ask yourself, why isn’t Renaissance higher in the Top 100 in the UK? The main reason is that, due to its young age and high level of exclusivity, much of the golfing world has not seen Renaissance Club. That is how the membership likes it. Another reason would be the lack of seaside views, like those found at Kingsbarns or Castle Stuart. According to my host, once the new seaside holes are finished, they will welcome the ranking panelists. At that point, I would be shocked if Renaissance doesn’t place solidly within the top 100. 

There are a number of new holes in the process of creation at the course. They will change the routing fairly drastically. I am going to focus on one hole in particular that will likely be the signature hole. It is a par four with the sea down the entire left side. I was told by my host that the range of tee boxes will allow the hole to be made barely driveable if hosting a Scottish Open or other event. I cannot wait to play the course again once these holes are complete. 
Tee box set within the dunes
New fairway being shaped right beside the beach
New green with grass growing immediately ocean-side


  1. What a luscious jewel. The new holes will be stunning. Looking forward to reading and hearing more about Renaissance Club.

  2. Thank you for the review.

    The course looks amazing as it is - but I am sure that the addition of the new holes will make The Renaissance Club even more special.

  3. Steffan and Sheena, Thank you guys for the positive comments! The course was amazing and will only get better with the new holes and routing changes... Can't wait to get down to play it post-changes.

  4. While I think that the Renaissance Club is a fantastic golf course, As someone who has played golf in Scotland I can say that the "Members and Guests" only policy is not very popular in the UK. Here, golf is for the people, not for people who can afford an expensive membership. How hard would it be to allow visitors to play during the week? I think the Renaissance Club does not represent what golf in Scotland is about.

  5. Renaissance Club membership is based on the same membership model as Loch Lomond and Archerfield Links - a very American model. Growing up in the States and living in Scotland, I can see the merit of both styles of golf club, but agree that Renaissance does not represent the majority of Scottish golf clubs or the model established by the classic clubs of Scotland.