For many, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open will be the first opportunity to get a glimpse of The Renaissance Club as the Rolex Series event visits a new venue on the East Lothian coast.
Located between Gullane and North Berwick, it opened in 2008 and is ready to swing open its gates to welcome the golfing public and showcase its championship course designed by Tom Doak.
The American has crafted a fabulous test of golf on land that sits next door to Muirfield, having been handed that opportunity by the six Sarvadi brothers after they came up with the vision for The Renaissance Club.
“Our father started a golf outing and, in 2002, 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?’ We looked at him like, ‘you idiot, that is crazy, why would anybody want to do that as there are so many great courses already?’
“Then he said, ‘but the land is right next to Muirfield’. I said, ‘does that mean a mile away?’. He said, ‘no, there’s a stone wall between the two properties’. We were all drinking wine and me and my brothers all said, ‘yes, let’s build a golf course in Scotland [laughing]’.
“The next morning we got up and went back to thinking ‘that is crazy’, but I guess in the back of my mind I thought about it a little bit. A few months later, I got the opportunity to come over to play Muirfield in a sponsor’s day ahead of The Open being played there, so I called up Don Lewis and said that I wanted to talk to the people who owned the land [the Duke of Hamilton family] and we arranged a meeting.
“I remember landing at Edinburgh Airport and it was chucking down with rain. We got halfway round the 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 and Jerry admits there were numerous times during that spell when he doubted it was ever going to happen. “I would leave meetings between attorneys shaking my head and think, ‘this is stupid, this is crazy, this is never going to work’,” he added.
“But I kept coming out to the property every trip and, through an opening in the buckthorn along the ridge that is now our tenth hole, I would look down at the cove and say to myself, ‘somebody has to build a golf course here as it is just made for golf, so why not us?’ That’s why I kept coming back.”
Since it opened, the course has staged the Scottish Senior Open, Final Qualifying for the Open Championship and co-hosted the Boys’ Amateur Championship with Muirfield.
The stage is now set for an exciting Scottish Open double-header, with the ladies’ event also being staged there in early August.
“Last year when it was announced that the two events were coming to The Renaissance Club, one guy from Houston came over and was saying what a great accomplishment that was, just 10 years after we opened. The truth of the matter is he is right,” said Jerry, who is the family’s man on the ground.
“It is hard doing something like this, and it was struggling at one time due to the global financial crisis. Probably 99.9 per cent of people would have given up, but we were committed. All my brothers are committed, as were a lot of the investors along the way. We knew what we wanted to do, and what we have here today is testament to that.
“For me personally, having been involved hands-on, so to speak, it is extremely satisfying. And I hope it is for Tom Doak, too. He is involved in rebuilding a course at Houston to get a PGA Tour event back there. But this is his first tour event. It is a major deal and it is very exciting. All my brothers are going to be here and we are all thrilled to be part of this.”