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Renaissance - East Lothian
Course Architect   Estate History   Views   Layout
Muirfield  - Gullane  - North Berwick East  - Dunbar  - North Berwick West  - Musselburgh

Renaissance Club
Archerfield Estate, Dirleton, EH39 5HS
Head Professional: David Armitage

Tel. 01620 850 905
e-mail: darmitage@trcaa.com

[Archerfield]
3rd fairway © Digitalsport UK

[14th on West Links]
12th tee © Digitalsport UK

[Archerfield]
12th Fairway © Digitalsport UK

  Renaissance Club at Archerfield
By Douglas Seaton
Archerfield Factfile

ARCHERFIELD is situated beside the historic village of Dirleton, three miles from North Berwick and forty minutes drive from Edinburgh. To the north, the sandy shores of the Firth of Forth and to the west, the famous Muirfield links, home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

The Renaissance Club have leased 300 acres from the landowner, Hamilton & Kinneil Ltd the family trust set up by the late Duke of Hamilton. The par-71, 7,435-yard championship golf course laid out by American designer Tom Doak was opened in April 2008.

Jerry Sarvadi the American business man who is spearheading this family concern involves his brothers and a group of friends including American John Imlay.

In 2011 they purchased extra land from the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers on the northern edge of the property close to the shore of the Firth Of Forth where three new holes were laid out.

There is now a large practice area where the first three holes were originally. Alterations to other holes in the centre of the course have allowed the three new holes, 9 through 11, laid out among the sand dunes to come into play, affording the golfer spectacular views of Fidra Island.

Visit Dirleton Castle and the 17th century Parish Kirk.

The property of the Renaissance Club lies to the west of the estate while on the east Caledonian Heritable Ltd have developed Archerfield Links Golf Club, a private members club with two golf courses.

The par at Renaissance remains 71, but now there are five par threes instead of four, four par fives instead of three. The new course begins on the original 4th hole measuring 460 yards. There are no set boxes from which everyone must play, the golfers are encouraged to choose their own tees, even mix and match within the round depending on the wind conditions.

The new clubhouse covers 34,00 square feet on four floors which includes a fully staffed spa and fitness area, a cocktail lounge, dining room, and six bedrooms. Beside the clubhouse is the par-three, 148 yard 6th (originally 9th) which is fast becoming the signature hole, where the gallery can watch golfers hit anything from a driver to an eight iron on to a narrow green surrounded by bunkers.

Archerfield was the site of a golf course in the 1890s where among others Willie Park Jnr., Ben Sayers and Harold Hilton played.

Tom Doak the course designer has taken his inspiration from the courses at North Berwick, St Andrews and Muirfield with large greens, old stone dykes and natural contours. Doak said his favourite hazzrd is short grass, not water, bunkers or deep rough.

Approximately 84 acres of trees were originally cleared to open up the site. This is the only portion of the historic Archerfield Estate to retain its natural windswept sand dunes. The coastal stretch of the estate has been protected for centuries by a dense pine forest and the natural contours, untouched by the plough have required little earth moving.

In 2013 Russell Smith replaced David Armitage as director of golf at Renaissance. Smith was the head professional at Gleneagles until 2011 when he moved to Close House near Newcastle. Armitage had been at Renaissance since it opened in 2006 was appointed to the Donald Trump organization in New Jersey. The clubhouse at Renaissance opened in May 2013 followed that year with several new golf holes.

History

There is significant historical interest in Archerfield Estate with a Bronze Age burial cairn 3,500 years-old; the site of a 12th century castle at Elbotle Ridge where David 1 and William IV stayed and the remains of an 11th century mediaeval village. Eldbotle means 'old place' and it was thought that monks lived there until the village was submerged by sandstorms in the 16th century.

In May 2006, archaeologists discovered a number of rectangular clay-boned stone buildings in the area of the new 17th fairway on the Renaissance course. Some of the buildings were very substantial in size and although a forest plantation had been planted on top of them, many of them have survived exceptionally well with some still standing a few feet high.

Historic maps from as far back as the 16th century indicate the presence of the medieval village of Eldbotle within the Archerfield Estate but further to the north-east than this site. This latest find could be an extension of Edbotle or could be a separate distinct site. There was also a horse burial discovered and numerous bones and oyster shells.

[Renaissance]
Renaissance Original 1st hole (389 yards) © Digitalsport UK

Archerfield Golf Club was established on 6th April 1869 following a meeting in the Castle Inn chaired by William Palmer, the Parish Schoolmaster. Permission to use the ground was granted by the Right Hon. R. C. Nisbet Hamilton, the proprietor and George Hope from Fenton Barns, the tenant of the links. Originally to be called Dirleton Golf Club but this was amended following a suggestion by Miss Nisbet Hamilton when she presented the club with a medal for competition in October 1869. Her mother Lady Mary regularly presented a full set of Tom Morris's best clubs as a prize at the Autumn Meeting.

The club adopted the rules of Luffness Golf Club and James Todd, farmer at Castlemains was elected the first President. In 1869, Luffness Golf Club suggesting dates to play for the new Challenge Cup presented by the Earl of Wemyss for competition among the Golf Clubs in the county. The secretary was instructed to reply that the dates suggested were unsuitable. The Wemyss County Cup is now the oldest foursome competition in the world.

The nine-hole private course was played only by Archerfield Golf Club, the tenants of the mansion house, and their guests. The club had forty members including James Bisset, the hotel proprietor, Dr. Frank Crombie, Rev. John Kerr, John Watt Muirfield Farm, Parish School teachers Archibald Pringle (1889), Willie Hastie (1894) and James Grant (1896), and Willie McDonald who won the Hamilton Medal four times and was allowed to keep it, although his family returned it to the club in 1889.

The Archerfield Links were also used by golfers of fame and repute such as Robert Maxwell, Freddie Tait, Harold Hilton and Johnny Laidlay among the amateurs and Ben Sayers Sen., Jack White and Willie Park Jnr. among the professionals. Prior to the Ladies Championship played at Gullane in 1897, a two-day competition was help over Archerfield Links with prizes donated by the members. Over a hundred ladies took part and the winner was Annie Maxwell, sister of Robert Maxwell.

One of the largest gatherings of golfers on the links at Archerfield was in 1885 in connection with a fund raising bazaar held in Dirleton Castle. Among the players were John E. Laidlay, George Shepherd, Donald M Jackson, Alexander M Ross and Andrew Wallace who won the amateur competition. In the pro event Ben Sayers was first with (51), Williie Campbell was second (54) Willie Park (58) and Bob Ferguson (58).

Lady Mary Nisbet-Hamilton proprietor of Beil and Archerfield estates and Bloxholme in Lincolnshire died 22 December 1883. She was the eldest daughter of the seventh Earl of Elgin, her husband was the Right Hon. R.A Christopher Nisbet Hamilton who died in 1877 and is buried in Stenton Kirkyard.

As a special consideration the staff of Archerfield and their families were also allowed to golf on the course. The Watt brothers, William, David, John, Robert and James learned to play the game on Dirleton village green and on the course at Archerfield where their father was the estate forester. Willie and David were Scottish Professional Champions in 1912 and 1914. Willie was appointed pro at Turnhouse and David Watt, the first left-handed player to win a championship was professional at Mortonhall.

James Law a proprietor of the Scotsman newspaper was tenant of Archerfield House for 35 summers, while John Penn MP for Lewisham resided at Archerfield in the autumn and winter months. For many years the course at Archerfield consisted of 13 holes until James Law extended the course to 18 holes in July 1887 with the advice of Ben Sayers. In 1909, Law persuaded Willie Watt to return to Archerfield and look after the course. It was here Willie was golf tutor to Herbert Asquith and as a reward, Willie and his family were invited to Downing Street to have tea with the Prime Minister. In 1908 Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord Of The Admirality by Asquith at Archerfield House.

"Archerfield greenkeeper Peter Lees, was in great demand constructing courses in America with Albert Tillinghast and Charles B. Macdonald."

James Watt served his apprenticeship with Willie Park & Son before establishing his own successful clubmaking business in North Berwick. On 1st August 1894, 20 year old Jock White set a new professional course record of 69 strokes. White was educated at Dirleton School and apprenticed as a club maker under Tom Dunn at North Berwick. In 1899 Freddie Tait scored 63 to set a new amateur record which was never beaten. Tait was Amateur Champion in 1896 and 1898. Jack White went on to win the 1904 Open Championship and presented the driver he had used to his Dirleton Parish Church Sunday School teacher.

Thomas Durie and Peter Lees apprenticed as greenkeepers at Archerfield before Lees moved to Barnton and Durie was appointed head greenkeeper at Mortonhall in 1892. Peter Lees was persuaded to move to Mid-Surrey Golf Club in 1911, where he introduced several grass bunkers to break up the flat appearance of the course. This was so successful that the grass bunkers were enlarged to create the 'humps and hollows' which looked so natural. This was the making of Peter Lees's reputation and he emigrated to America where he worked on numerous projects with golf course architects such as Charles B. Macdonald, Albert Tillinghast and Seth Rayner.

John Shiells born in 1881 was the elder brother of Archie Shiells, greenkeeper on Archerfield links. They lived with their parents John and Jane Shiells in Ivy Bank, Dirleton. John served an apprenticeship as a club-maker before moving to Maryport Golf Club on the Solway Firth in 1906. The following year he was appointed the first professional at Kendal Golf Club where he remained for 45 years until his retired in 1951. Golf clubs stamped with John Shiells are popular with collectors.

The course at Archerfield survived until 1940 when the land was commandeered by the Ministry of Defence. Archerfield Estate is named after the field where the archers of Edward I pitched their tents when they invaded Scotland in 1298. Archerfield Wood is called the Garden Seawood in Robert Louis Stevenson classic 'The Pavilion On The Kinks'.

Copyright © Douglas Seaton 2015, All Rights Reserved.