New golf course sneak peek: Tom Doak's Renaissance Club near Muirfield, Gullane in Scotland
GULLANE, SCOTLAND – Of all the recent golf course projects in Scotland, from the St. Andrews Castle Course to Machrihanish Dunes, Castle Stuart and of course, Donald Trump’s Aberdeen resort, there is one project that’s flown a bit under the radar, but it won’t for long:
The Renaissance Club outside Gullane, just down the road from Gullane Golf Club and Muirfield, with North Berwick just a few miles to the east.
It’s been open for play about a year now, and when I scheduled my trip to East Lothian, I was anxious to see how this has come along.
Having just walked off the course, it’s an absolute delight. It’s typical Doak in that there was little earth shaping at all (though a good deal of trees were cleared). The property is like nothing I’ve seen in Scotland yet, set high above the Firth of Forth, right next to Muirfield (from the 12th tee, you can see a Muirfield tee box just a par 4 or so away). I wouldn’t call Renaissance a “links", but the soil is firm, rolling and sandy, and was sodded with wall-to-wall fescue. Some of the greens, like No. 4 and No. 11, are my favorite because they’re large, very undulating, yet fit the landscape wonderfully. I know we’re in links country, where “parkland” and “heathland” can be dirty words to some, but I actually like many of the course’s tree-lined holes more so than some of the more open, links-type holes on the back.
The members haven’t decided on a “signature hole” quite yet, but I cast my vote for No. 11.
There is even the possibility they could add three new holes, even closer to the sea, on what could be the area’s most striking terrain, certainly adding to the “wow” factor. Whether those holes ever get built or not, it should still become one of the U.K.’s best new generation courses.
I have a hard time comparing modern designs like this one to historic links like North Berwick, Muirfield or Gullane, but rather to new throwback links types I’ve played like Kingbarns, Doak’s Pacific Dunes or McKlay Kidd’s Tetherow Golf Club in Oregon. I’ll also be playing the Castle Course on Tuesday and getting a look at the design changes done over the winter in response to some player complaints.
While Pacific Dunes and Kingsbarns have the jaw-dropping coastal scenery at every turn, Renaissance Club may very well be a more complete golf course, especially for low-handicappers. It has a wonderful mix of holes, from lightly forested to wide open and set on high ground where the wind can really blow. There are rumblings the course could possibly be an Open Qualifier the next time the Open comes to Muirfield next, most likely in 2013. The course certainly feels like a place that could host a big event if it had to, since it’s very easy to walk and the back tees are around 7,400.
Until then, the club should become a little more well-known throughout Scotland and abroad. Interestingly enough, Doak’s name in Scotland doesn’t have the cache it does in the United States. In America, many golfers who appreciate links golf adore a Doak design for naturally moving fairways and greens that are more laid out than built. Despite Doak’s time spent in the U.K. early in his career as a caddie in St. Andrews, it appears he still hasn’t earned a great deal of street cred here. I would imagine as the word gets out about Renaissance Club, that should change, and his firm could even score a little more work in the U.K.
The Renaissance Club is private club at the moment (which I’m personally hoping they eventually resort to my “Daily Limited Public Tee Times mandate), but I’ll drop a few not-so-subtle hints about how Joe Public can get a round in when I post the full feature at WorldGolf.com shortly.
But before that, I’ve got more golf to play and more pints to drink. So stay tuned to the blog…
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