The Renaissance Club
Updated: Oct 20
Down the winding road to the Archerfield Estate is one of Scotland’s exclusive golf retreats.
The Renaissance Club is almost as well known for its hot tubs, halfway house and premium service as it is for hosting the Genesis Scottish Open.
With a course designed by Tom Doak, it is a modern, American-style country club on the very traditional golf coast.
It has echoes of Skibo Castle, from the friendly welcome, down to the lockers with visitors' names in its sumptuous changing rooms.
But, in my opinion, it is one up from its Highland counterpart because its course has a tad more spark.
We were lucky to have been invited by a member who showed us around and even pointed out a framed ball-marker collection from his impressive world golf travels (oh, how I wish I had gone for them, instead of caps!).
After the introduction and a quick drink, we followed the steps of golfing gladiators and proceeded to marvel at the liberties they have taken with links that, to average players, are damned tough.
Bunker avoidance is key to success and the first drive from a tee next to the Rolex clock needs to be placed between bunkers on the right and left of the fairway.
One pine remains from the cull when the course was built and I can testify that it is a significant obstacle for those who try to enter the green from the left to use its slope.
“Didn’t Rory hit straight over those trees?”, asked one of our compadres incredulously as he contemplated the copse to the right of the dogleg par-five third.
This is when the course revs up and normal human beings are forced to decide between taking a tight line to the side of the trees or going left and facing the rough or deep bunker.
I was mighty lucky to miss trouble and my approach skirted bunkers before I completed par.
The short par-four fourth is my type of hole – a well-placed drive between the sand traps leaves a short iron approach to a plateaued green.
However, those, like me, who attempt to chip and run the ball will see it funnel off, way left of the target.
The par-threes at Renaissance are belters and the first of them is the sixth – a temptingly short hole with the backdrop of the Firth of Forth and three pot bunkers on the right of the green and one on the left.
Eight sand traps punctuate the long-par-five seventh – landing in any of them will almost certainly deny the opportunity for par.
It is followed by a heck of a par-four – ascending, long and past the fanned-out tree which appears in so many photos.
Remains of the ruined wall and a flat-roof tree are at its rear with bent branches showing the direction of the prevailing wind.
Renaissance’s original design was altered after a deal was done with the captain of the neighbouring Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (aka Muirfield) to exchange slices of land.
This allowed the development of an exhilarating stretch of holes on the coast.
The ninth is a peach of a par-three with an infinity green the aforementioned wall in play all the way down the right.
Our host had been playing a great game and I was inspired by the fabulous tenth to try to equal his standard.
This is a risk-and-reward dogleg with thick rough and a slither of beach lurking for those who are too greedy off the tee. We were both thrilled to draw our drives onto the fairway and make the green in two.
Meanwhile, a shout of “fore” came from our compadre whose approach galloped right of the green, rebounded off our buggy and landed within six feet of the hole.
The halfway house did not disappoint. Members have a code to enter a haven where players can help themselves to delicious homemade meat or vegetarian pies, fruit, chocolate and any drink they fancy.
Bellies full and bodies warmed, all four of us managed par-threes on the photogenic 11th with its slanting left-to-right green and the ancient wall at its rear – another classic hole.
Bunkers down the right of the par-four 12th may inhibit drives but, as I discovered, a shot too far down the left will find tangly rough and leave a significant test to find the putting surface.
The 13th would have usually provided a good opportunity to score but was against a gathering wind.
It is a relatively short par-five with a blind second shot that I leaked left and then misjudged the green’s false front.
I reckon the fairway on the 14th is the toughest to hit with a long carry against the wind from the tee, rough running up the left-hand side and a pot bunker on the right. A giant sand trap on the right of the green is best avoided.
Cold was accompanying the wind as we set about the par-three 15th and par-five 16th before our host told us there was a realistic possibility of a hole-in-one on the 17th.
Senses reinvigorated, I assessed the par-three and its bowl green and struck a lovely ball only to see it fade to the left. Our guide was perplexed that the ball didn’t fall nearer the cup.
Renaissance’s final hole is a belter with fearsome bunkers threatening from either side before the last encounter with the wall and another very tricky raised green.
My teeth were chattering as we putted out, so we reserved conversation about the game until we had dipped ourselves into the warmest hot tub I had ever experienced.
I feared the thermal shock may send my body into convulsions but my balance was restored by a cool gin and tonic.
It felt like the height of decadence but Renaissance prides itself on being a cut above. This is how its members are treated and guests receive no less.
The experience was rare indeed and left me with a glow… figuratively and literally.