The Renaissance Club in East Lothian, Scotland: Keeping good company next door to Muirfield
When you live in a smart neighborhood, it’s not unnatural to worry a bit when the adjacent plot is sold to a foreigner. And doubtless the Honorable Company of Golfers, better known as Muirfield, must have been rather anxious when an American named Jerry Savardi snapped up a sizeable chunk of real estate bang next door.
They need not have worried as Mr. Savardi is every bit as conscious of the game’s rich traditions as they are, and he set about creating a course and club that would comfortably maintain the exceptionally high standard that prevails along this outstanding stretch of East Lothian coastline sometimes referred to as Scotland’s Golf Coast.
Sandwiched between Muirfield and Archerfield, the Renaissance Club is within a few minutes of other such illustrious names as North Berwick, Gullane and Luffness. In fact, there are no fewer than 20 courses within a 15-minute drive.
Some might question the need for yet another one, but the land is so admirably suited to golf and incapable of sustaining any other activity that it would be a waste to leave it lying fallow. In any case, the Renaissance offers something dramatically different. Unashamedly upmarket, it is evidently aimed at the very well heeled prepared to pay for their privacy and privileges.
And right at the heart of the offering is a simply superb golf course. Although a few might quibble over the purity of its links’ credentials, there’s no doubting the quality of this Tom Doak design. The opening and closing holes are cut through stands of imposing pines, while the middle section weaves through lovely linksland.
After passing perilously close to Muirfield’s sixth fairway, you emerge right on the water’s edge to enjoy glorious views to the lighthouse on Fidra Island and out over the Firth of Forth.
It’s around here that a halfway house is soon to be built. And it will be a stop where you can tarry a while and soak in the atmosphere without fear of either holding anyone up or losing your place.
Why? Because the chances are there will be at least several clear holes both in front and behind. This is such an exclusive facility that the number of golfers out on the course at any one time will quite likely be lower than your handicap. So few play they don’t even bother with start sheets.
Another thing they don’t really bother with is carts. With gently sloping terrain, the next tee’s never far away, and expert caddies are always available, there’s really no need of a cart unless you suffer from a genuine medical condition.
Somewhat surprisingly for such an overtly high-end facility, the atmosphere and ambiance could hardly be less snooty. Both out on the course and in the impressive $16 million clubhouse, the emphasis is on informality, and the atmosphere is decidedly relaxed. Although you’re unlikely to spot even one tie in the clubhouse, you will doubtless see several cell phones and laptops.
You can use whichever of the four sets of tees you fancy (including the reds), and while not perhaps actively encouraged, friendly five-balls are not unknown. All of which is in stark contrast to Muirfield next door. But despite the contrasting philosophies, the two clubs enjoy a relationship every bit as close as their proximity to one another.
For example, they are jointly hosting the 2016 Boys Amateur Championship. There’s even a private thoroughfare between the two that was well used at last year’s British Open by such illustrious players as Adam Scott, Veejay Singh, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker and Angel Cabrera, some of whom stayed in the extremely comfortable accommodation in the luxurious Lodge next to the clubhouse.
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The Renaissance Club’s “One-Time Experience” offer
Before deciding this is the club for you, you may wish to consider the cost. So before forking out around $125,000 for the membership bond and committing to paying the annual dues of around $8,000, you might want to check it out thoroughly, which you can do through the “One-Time Experience” offer.
For a comparatively modest £600, you can sample the very special delights that the Renaissance has to offer, which include Titleist ProV1s on the driving range as well as an overnight stay in the on-site lodge. But pay attention when you’re there because the One-Time Experience is what is says, just the one time.
Although the super-rich might not worry about saving a few bucks, non-billionaires might care to note that Virgin Airlines, who fly to nearby Edinburgh, carry golf clubs for free.
The Renaissance Club: Final thoughts
The Renaissance Club is a wonderful place and an absolute cracker of a golf course that looks certain to host the Scottish Open sometime soon. If there wasn’t already sufficient incentive to get rich, having the wherewithal to join the Renaissance might just provide it.
Although in his 60s, with a handicap of 15 and lifetime earnings comfortably below $100, Clive Agran nevertheless still believes he can win a major. Arguably England’s most gifted golf writer, when not dreaming of glory he’s scouring the globe simultaneously searching for lost balls and great golf courses. Follow Clive on Twitter at @cliveagran.