When in East Lothian the golf courses trip off the tongue: Muirfield, Gullane, North Berwick, Luffness, Kilspindie Archerfield, Dunbar, Musselburgh – and now Renaissance. No wonder East Lothian calls itself Scotland’s Golf Coast. Home to 19 distinctive and different layouts, this stretch of land extending away from the east of Edinburgh may have more great courses per mile than anywhere else in Britain.
Top of the list, of course, must be Muirfield – the host of 16 Opens – but these days any decent East Lothian trip should include a round at Renaissance, the work of celebrated architect Tom Doak.
The Renaissance Club is Tom Doak’s first – and to date only – UK design from scratch. Doak is a student of the Golden Age of golf course architecture, a particular admirer of Alister MacKenzie’s, and many of his designs are derived from the good doctor’s catalogue of architectural twirls.
Doak is responsible for some of the most stunning layouts in the world. Think of the photos you have seen of Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, Barnbougle in Tasmania and Pacific Dunes in Oregon. He has worked with some amazing pieces of land.
Here at Renaissance, his design was minimalist – embracing the original linksland near the sea and incorporating its contours into a course that was also moulded from 300 acres of pine forest. The trees may be sparser now, but a number stayed in place – guarding fairways and greens and adding depth to the landscape.
The land and layout at Renaissance is so good that shortly after its opening the original opening three holes were replaced. These holes arguably showed Doak at his very best and most expressive – with their vast, often hidden fairways, huge bunkers and expansive greens deceiving the golfer as they wound through woodland.
It is a measure of the quality of the course that they are no more. They have been replaced by a series of holes with real ‘wow’ factor. The 9th and 10th are now very much Renaissance’s crown jewels.
An infinity green par 3 is followed by a spectacular risk-and-reward short, cape par 4 that moves around the coastline offering views of the Firth of Forth. Both are delicious. You can taste the salt from the ocean.
The course at Renaissance is not resort golf by any stretch. The closing five holes ask you to cover to almost 2,000 yards to par of 19. That is more than enough for anyone.
From the tips, Renaissance can stretch to over 7,300 yards.
It is no surprise then that the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open have both come to town.
At all other times, those lucky enough to play here will have the course to themselves. They will be able to enjoy Doak’s minimalist masterpiece with only their playing partners, the caddies and the birds for company.