Tom Doak, one of golf’s leading course designers, is quietly confident his layout at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian will pass its biggest test so far this week.
It is hosting the Scottish Seniors Open from tomorrow through to Sunday, when Englishman Paul Eales defends a title he won next door at Archerfield Links last August.
“I’ve always judged my success as a designer on the happiness of the membership, instead of on tournament play,” insisted Doak. “But it’s a great compliment when a course is able to pull off both.”
The American was happy enough with what he created when the course first opened in 2004 but believes it is even better now after he was called back in to create some new holes closer to the River Forth.
“From almost the day it opened, The Renaissance Club has been one of the best conditioned courses I know,” added the man whose other creations around the world include Pacific Dunes in Oregon, Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand.
“They have a great greenskeeper who understands links golf conditions, combined with an ample budget and limited traffic. I think it helped the maturity of the course that we didn’t have to move much earth around to build it.
“We worked hard on the original version of the course, and we were particularly pleased with how the first three holes had turned out, set in a patch of ordinary forest.
“But there was never any chance those holes would have as much appeal as getting out into the dunes for the new ninth and tenth holes, and turning the corner to see the lighthouse on Fidra. Scenically, the changes are spectacular, and the new holes are also much more exposed to the prevailing westerly that makes golf in East Lothian so difficult.”
Eales’ title rivals in the £250,000 event include last year’s Senior Open champion Paul Broadhurst, as well as former Ryder Cup captains Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance.
“It’s a good fit because I like to think my designs give players opportunities for shotmaking and curving the ball in the wind to attack certain hole locations,” said Doak of this week’s event. The senior players grew up on that sort of golf and they can still play those shots when needed, whereas the young players just rip it long and high and straight.
“I don’t know how long they will play the course, but if they go all the way back the guys will be wearing out their long irons and hybrids on some of our long par-4s.”
The Renaissance Club is set to host an Open final qualifier for the first time next summer, having been in the frame for the Scottish Open before Gullane was selected for it in 2015.
“It would be nice to see them realise their dream,” said Doak of the owners, the Savardi brothers Jerry and Paul, having made no secret of the fact they’d like to see a big event staged there one day.
“It’s a first-class facility from A to Z and I’m sure the pros would enjoy a week there just as much as the members and their guests do. The holes can play very differently from one day to the next because of the variety of hole locations on the greens, and that would keep it interesting for a big event.”