Our pal Carol ‚?? who took us out for a fantastic day at The Olympic Club in San Francisco back on Day 133 ‚?? also spends a bit of time over ‚??ere, often managing to tie in little trips with business (something she appears to be very adept at doing). ¬†Carol just loves Scotland, and she just loves golf. ¬†And so it seems that bringing her friends along for a game at The Renaissance Club, out in East Lothian, is for Carol one of life‚??s pleasures ‚?? something she is only too happy to do. ¬†Today we were among the lucky few that were extended an invitation.
A bit about Renaissance: ¬†You can read about its history here. ¬†Basically the land was part of the Duke of Hamilton‚??s Archerfield Estate, until a couple of ambitious American brothers had better ideas. ¬†¬†To the West is The Honourable Company‚??s home turf, aka Muirfield. ¬†To the East is Archerfield Links, a new club like Renaissance. ¬†It‚??s quite a setting. ¬†The Firth of Forth sits out in front of you to the North, and on a clear day you can see The Kingdom of Fife (on a really really really clear day you can see the flags of Lundin Links, Leven, Elie and the like ‚?? if you have binoculars and the hankering). ¬†Bottom line ‚?? a lovely canvas for a golf course.
Enter Tom Doak, who‚??s certainly among the most revered course architects of the modern day. ¬†Tom‚??s responsible for the likes of Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand and Pacific Dunes up at Bandon in Oregon. ¬†He knows what he‚??s doing. ¬†And he doesn‚??t like to mess too much with the natural lay of the land. ¬†To quote the man himself:
‚??The most noteworthy courses of the past decade have been among the least expensive to build. ¬†Thanks to clients who understand the value of beautiful property, we‚??re able to create courses which compare to the best of the past...and look like they have been there just as long.‚?Ě
Well said Tam. ¬†Anyway Tam ‚?? as I‚??ll now call him, since we‚??re in Scotland ‚?? was pleased for the club to be named after his company, Renaissance Golf Inc, given his high regard for the property and the area‚??s rich golfing heritage. ¬†So there you go.
It‚??s quite a grand entrance, I must say. ¬†When you wind past Archerfield House and eventually find the big gate bearing the club‚??s crest, you know right away you‚??re in for a pretty unique experience. ¬†A tree stump bolted to the wall by the gate bears a sign ‚??press to enter‚?Ě. ¬†The driveway takes you past the 2nd green and 3rd hole, and up to the imposing clubhouse. ¬†It‚??s all very grand. ¬†
Right away we spotted Carol, who was doing what she does best ‚?? chatting to her friends and to the staff. ¬†After a big hug we were introduced to Harry & Carolyn (a charming retired couple from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) and Ian (a dry witted Aberdonian). ¬†The lads ‚?? who Carol knows from Loch Lomond, where they all belong ‚?? would be joining us for a hit, while Carolyn planned to go for a brisk walk and finish what sounded like a good book. ¬†Sean the maitre-d‚?? gave us the run down on the place and mentioned we had 7400 yards of golf course to look forward to, if we were game. ¬†Which we always are.
Tam‚??s a quirky character if his golf courses are anything to go by. ¬†The boxes on the 1st tee are laid out on the practice putting green. ¬†Mike and I shied away from hitting 2 iron in case we took a divot! ¬†The 5 of us set off, with Carol having picked up another in caddy Paul. ¬†Our half dozen must‚??ve looked almost as imposing as those two ball foursomes plus caddies that we saw at Prestwick last week ‚?? a veritable golf army marching down the fairway! ¬†Skins was the format ‚?? as you can imagine there were a few halves with 5 contestants and shots flying everywhere...
The course though young manages to feel established, as Tam would hope. ¬†Ancient dykes (walls, for you non-Scots) have been retained, and add a rustic charm (not to mention the fact that they double as obstacles too). ¬†Doak left a few features trees and forests as well, giving the course something of a hybrid links/parkland feel. ¬†Quite unique. ¬†From the tips it‚??s a slog ‚?? something you appreciate almost right away, when you stand on the 2nd tee ‚?? a 260 yard par 3 to an undulating green. ¬†The rain came tumbling down too for a few holes on the front, stretching the holes out yet longer. ¬†Nothing wrong with a bit of Good Scottish Weather though; indeed it prompted Carol to don the most impressive rain gear I‚??ve ever seen ‚?? not so much as a drop could penetrate that outfit!
After 8 we paused for refreshments and sustenance, and were joined by a mutual friend Toddy, who‚??d been lunching at The Honourable Company on the back of a morning hit. ¬†Suffice to say he had a warm glow about him. ¬†Our 5 was then 6, so we split into 3s and hacked it around the back 10 at a more Scottish pace. ¬†Along the back 9 there were some stunning vistas across the Forth; we also saw the plot of land where they‚??re hoping to stick another 3 or 4 holes, down closer to the beach. ¬†Apparently Muirfield used to lease the land from The Duke‚??s estate, but couldn‚??t get planning permission to do what they wanted to do. ¬†The crowd at Renaissance are more optimistic and word is they‚??ll be getting to work in the not too distant future. ¬†If they manage to get the proposal through they‚??ll be a handful of stunning holes (and the first few will be used for warming up / practising). ¬†The flags are already out!
Toddy flinched awkwardly when I rolled in a stray birdie on the 14th ‚?? he‚??s one of the kind humans (Carol being another) who‚??s sponsoring us a pound for every birdie carded in Scotland, and a tenner for every eagle. ¬†Being a staunch supporter of The First Tee of NZ though he knows it‚??s for a good cause! ¬†Just as well he wasn‚??t paying for double bogeys today ‚?? otherwise he would‚??ve had to fork out a significant wad! ¬†
Our group converged in the warmth of the bar and perched on the most comfortable set of leather sofas this side of Cape Town. ¬†I was asked for my card by Carol, who took it upon herself to tally the skins. ¬†By some miracle (and it was a miracle) I came out on top, despite playing abominable golf. ¬†With all the horse trading finished we just sat and enjoyed each other‚??s company and tried not to fall asleep on those amazing sofas. ¬†Carol being the consummate host that she is insisted that we order a morsel or two to keep us going until dinner ‚?? a very comforting plate of bangers and mash arrived not too long after (Goldy continued his burger stretch as part of his weight gain program). ¬†Just the ticket after taking beating on Tam‚??s Leviathan.
As all good things do, the day came to an end. ¬†Carol was off in the morning to see friends in France, before heading to Tokyo on business. ¬†We were heading to Edinburgh, which was slightly less glamorous but more convenient. ¬†I‚??ve been trying to twist her arm into coming down to New Zealand for the Final Day at Cape Kidnappers on 31 December, but Carol‚??s a tough nut to crack. ¬†So in the spirit of peer pressure I‚??m going to publicly invite you Carol to come and be our guests down on our turf ‚?? it‚??s high time that you enjoyed some of our hospitality! ¬†Toddy‚??s been trying for years without success, but now you‚??ve got a couple other young motivated Kiwis on the case too...
Thanks again for an epic day at Renaissance. ¬†
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