Renaissance keen to replace Muirfield as an Open venue

Muirfield's next-door neighbour, The Renaissance Club, believes it is a tailor-made replacement if the R&A is looking for '¨an alternative Open Championship venue in East Lothian.

The Renaissance believes the course is long enough to host the Open.  Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Renaissance believes the course is long enough to host the Open. Picture: Ian Rutherford

On the back of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers rejecting a proposal last week to admit women members, the R&A said it would not be considering Muirfield for future Open Championships.

Given that the 2013 event won by Phil Mickelson generated £45 million directly for the East Lothian economy, the loss of the sport’s oldest major would be a massive blow to the area.

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Having staged the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open for the first time last summer, Gullane could be a possible alternative for the R&A if the men-only status quo remains at Muirfield, where the committee is set to meet in the next few days to discuss the fallout from the club’s widely-criticised “no” vote against women.

The only other course in East Lothian which would come close to being considered for the Open Championship, both in terms of its challenge and also having enough space to handle the event’s infrastructure, is The Renaissance Club.

Having opened in 2008, it is a baby in comparison to Muirfield, as well as the nine courses that remain on the R&A’s rota, but the Tom Doak-designed layout is a formidable par-71 test at 7,300 yards.

It is being used by the R&A to jointly host the Boys’ Amateur Championship with Muirfield in August,while it will also become the new Scottish venue for Open Championship qualifying in 2018.

“We would absolutely love to be involved, there is no question about that,”

founder and CEO Jerry

Savardi told The Scotsman

when asked if The Renaissance Club could provide the R&A with

an alternative for the Claret Jug joust if the Muirfield situation remains unchanged.

“It is something we would aspire to, for sure.

“We’ve got length. It is plenty long enough at the moment and can go longer. Also, the infrastructure for an Open Championship is all right here on our doorstep. The parking owned by

the R&A is within walking distance of here. You are talking about close.

“The amount of property and land we have for everything associated with the event is huge. Our practice range is also something that would be an asset.

“There’s no question that we hope our relationship is building with the R&A. We are excited about hosting the Boys’ Amateur Championship later this year.

“We are also delighted to be getting the Open Championship final qualifying as staging an event like that [it will be held there for four years through until 2021 after taking over from Gailes Links in Ayrshire] definitely helps in terms of your reputation.”

While keen to see The

Renaissance Club get some television exposure going forward, especially after watching the power it had in promoting Chambers Bay after it hosted the US Open last year, Savardi admitted he hopes Muirfield will become mixed membership so that it gets to be considered again for the Open Championship.

“The local discussions I’d heard prior to the vote was that it was going to be a ‘no’.

“We’d heard that quietly beforehand,” he said. “Generally speaking, the reaction from our perspective is that you can’t build a business model on an event that comes here once every ten to

13 years.

“We have experienced it just once – in 2013 – and it did help by creating a big week. It was good for exposure from a worldwide basis. We are so close and a lot of people came in here that week from the golfing world. It was handy for them.

“But what The Renaissance Club really needs and wants

is some coverage from a television event. A good example of what that can do for a venue is Chambers Bay. How many people had actually heard of it before the US Open last year. Now everyone is going there to play.

“I would prefer The Open to be coming back to Muirfield every ten to 13 years.

“It’s a magnificent course, let’s face it, and yes I want to see the top players being

tested there.

“It was fantastic to see Mickelson winning it the way he did in 2013 [picking up four birdies in the last six holes as he stormed home in 32 in the final round]. Everybody loved that.”

Turnberry, in 1977, was the most recent course to be added to the Open Championship rota, with Royal Birkdale coming on to the list prior to that in 1954.