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Renaissance - East Lothian
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Renaissance Club
North Berwick, EH39 5HS
Tel. 01620 850 905
e-mail: membership@trcaa.com

[Archerfield]
3rd fairway
© Digitalsport UK

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

[Archerfield]
12th fairway © Digitalsport UK

  Renaissance Club at North Berwick
By Douglas Seaton
Archerfield Factfile

[sign] ENAISSANCE 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 course is owned by the six Sarvadi brothers and their partners who reside all over America and Jerry Sarvadi is the families man on the ground.

In an interview Jerry Sarvadi said our father started a golf outing and in 2012 we were at Pinehurst in North Carolina" said Jerry Sarvadi of how it came about. "My brothers lived all over the country, including one in Columbus, Ohio, "He brought a friend to the outing that he'd gone to school with. His name was Don Lewis and his father-in-law was a guy called Pandel Savic. He was one of Jack Nicklaus's mentors and he was one of the developers of Muirfield Village. "Anyway, we were all standing around after playing 36 holes and Don said hey, do you guys want to build a golf course in Scotland?"

Jerry remembered landing at Edinburgh Airport and the rain was chucking it down. We got halfway round the city-bypass and the clouds were starting to break up. We got to the A1 and the sun was out and by the time we got to Muirfield at 9am, it was a perfect day. I walked the property the next day and met the trustees and I started talking to them. It took three years for the project to get off the ground. The fourth for the Scottish Open is normally the tenth which is the signature hole on the Tom Doak-designed course at the Renaissance Club.

Visit Dirleton Castle and 17th century Parish Kirk.

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.

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 Dirleton and Fidra laid out by David J. Russell. The par4's have a good mix of long and short holes, the raised greens are firm and the traditional bunkers are well placed.

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

The par at Renaissance is 71,and now there are five par three's 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. Tom Doak the course designer at Renaissance 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.

Scottish Open 2019

The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open in July 2019 was the first European Tour event to be hosted by The Renaissance Club. In the first round Austria's Bernd Wiesberger carded a course-record 61 (36-27) and took a share of the lead at the halfway point. Scottish 'Rookie', 22 year-old left-hander Bob MacIntyre from Glencruitten Golf Club, Oban, played with Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler in the marquee group in the first two rounds.

On Monday Justin Thomas paid a visit to North Berwick after arriving in East Lothian for his debut in the Scottish Open. Justin was joined by his father and fellow PGA tour player Kevin Kisner. They had no caddies, Justin carried his bag and Kevin pulled a golf trolley and played the round in 3 hours. Thomas was persuaded to play North Berwick by Rickie Fowler who enjoys links golf. Rickie played the West Links on Tuesday with Rich Beem who also played the nine-hole course at Gifford.

On Saturday Bernd Wiesberger broke away from the pack to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Scottish Open. Overnight leader Wiesberger was two under-par for the day and 22 under overall with France's Benjamin Hebert having finished with a nine-under round 62, but the Austrian triumphed at the third sudden-death hole to secure his sixth European Tour title. Romain Langasque was third and Andrew 'Beef' Johnston finished fifth equal.

Ladies Scottish Open 2019

In August 2019 the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open was hosted for the first time by The Renaissance Club. In the line-up were six past champions and 19 Solheim Cup players. The 29-year-old South Korean Mi Jun Hur closed with a terrific five-under-par 66 to secure a four-shot victory in the Ladies Scottish Open.

In the second round, the morning starters faced appalling weather conditions before play was suspended for a spell early in the afternoon as heavy rain took its toll on the fairways and greens. The surface water was so bad the main road to North Berwick was closed.

During the miserable wet condions in the fourth round Mi Jung Hur with her Scottish caddie Gary Marshall posted six birdies in the last 10 holes including four in a row from the ninth to finish on 20 under-par 264. The joint runners-up were Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand - whose sister Ariya won the competition 12 months ago at nearby Gullane Golf Club, and the reigning US Woman's Open champion Jeongeun Lee6. Two late bogeys saw Scotland's Carly Booth finish joint ninth on 10 under-par and winner of the Douglas Lowe Memorial Trophy as the leading Scot in the field.

Archerfield Estate 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. Among the artifacts unearthed at Elbotle was Iron Shears from the 13th and 14th century, used to trim hair and beards. It was an expensive item owned by a wealthy individual and is now on display in the John Gray Centre. 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

[sign]he Archerfield Golf Club was founded on 6th April 1869 following a meeting in the Castle Inn, Dirleton 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.

Course Record 61: Bernd Wiesberger, July 2019.

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.

[High
Street] 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.

Left: Peter Lees

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 Monktonhall 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.

In 1911, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith spent the summer at Archerfield House as the guest of one of his Tennant brother-in-laws. Asquith invited Winston Churchill and his wife to join him in September. Asquith and Churchill played golf over the private nine-hole course when Churchill accepted the appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty.

Fidra Golf Course

In 1923 a group lead by Messers Hunter and Laidlaw were in negotiations with Colonel Nisbet Hamilton Grant owner of Archerfield Estate to purchase land in the area of Yellowcraig and establish the Fidra Golf Club. They proposed to erect a clubhouse in the grounds of Link House Wood west of Invereil House and that year they made enquires to North Berwick Town Council regarding the cost to supply gas and water to the premises. Former Provost John MacIntyre was also involved in this project. He had previously been in lengthy negotiations to purchased the ground on behalf of North Berwick Town Council for a relief golf course.

In 1922, Grant benevolently gave a piece of ground to the villagers of Dirleton where a nine-hole course was laid out and tended by a band of 30 local enthusiasts. It was known as the Fidra Golf course and survived until 1940 when the land was commandeered by the Ministry of War. 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 1994 - 2020, All Rights Reserved.