As the county gears up to host the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club on Thursday, it’s a team of local greenkeepers who have prepared the course for the world’s best golfers.

Jamie Aitken, course manager at The Renaissance Club, and his team of hard-working staff have been putting in the hours to make sure the course is in pristine condition.

The Gullane native spoke to the Courier about his journey up the greenkeeping ranks and his team’s role as unsung heroes in one of golf’s elite tournaments.

He said: “I got started at Renaissance in 2009, a seasonal job here – divotting the fairways – and I got kept on and just worked up from there.”

Jamie left to work at Archerfield in 2014, then went to Gullane, before returning to Renaissance in 2018.

He has been in his current role as course manager just over a year, and is now overseeing the arrival of the Scottish Open to the course.

He said: “I’ve always had the mindset that whatever I do, I’ll try my absolute best.

“I think this is a lot like managing a football team; you’ve got a group of guys that you’re trying to get the best out of – and the boys are brilliant.”

“[The role] is about getting the best out of the golf course; we are a high-end members’ club, so their expectations are high.

“Regardless of if we have one golfer a day or 150 golfers in a day, the course still needs to be exactly the same.

“The owners want the best and hopefully they will get the best; we are getting there but it is a process.”

Jamie thanked former manager Paul Seago, who now works in an advisory capacity with the club, for laying the groundwork for the brilliant work Jamie’s team is now able to accomplish.

He said: “We have a terrific platform to build from what Paul Seago started.

“It’s a case of building and building – Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

This year’s event will see the tournament co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour for the first time, elevating its place in the world game, and Jamie told the Courier that “you can see the excitement already”.

He said: “You can see it in everyone’s faces, everyone has a spring in their step, and you know what you’re working towards.”

Renaissance is surrounded by historic golf courses and, at only 15 years of age, remains the “new kid on the block” but Jamie and his team are slowly turning the course into an established part of Scotland’s golf coast.

Jamie said: “We are not going to be the established links yet – we will get there but it is a process and we just need to keep doing the right things.”

Getting the course ready for an international event comes with its own challenges and Jamie told of the dedicated work his team have put in to make sure the course is perfect for tour pros.

He said: “It’s very dry and we are all out there doing the rain dance!

“There’s a lot more attention to detail, the boys are working a lot longer hours; for example, if there’s any weeds popping up, we can hand pick them.

“We are ticking along but the intensity will change as we get closer to the event; everything will get ramped up.

“The boys all know what to expect now, it’s not like this is anything new to them and they just take it in their stride – the expectation is that it needs to be perfect.”

Jamie added: “The pressure doesn’t get to the boys; they are all pretty level-headed and they are an absolute privilege to work alongside.”

A key difference from last year’s event is the changes to the golf course, which has seen new bunkers, hollows and dunes built by the greenkeeping team to toughen up the links for the game’s stars.

Jamie explained: “It’s just about making them think – that they can’t blast it anywhere they want and get the second shot to the green.

“We are where we want to be, and we are ready to host a tournament in true links conditions.”

Jamie stressed that the course’s pristine condition was down to his 19-man team of greenkeepers.

He said: “They are all heroes; no job is too big for them, and they would do any job you ask them to as well.

“We’ve not got one bad egg in the group – I have worked in some big teams, and you always have big personalities that are trying to get above someone.

“And we do have some big personalities here, but I have never worked in such a tight-knit group.

“It really is a privilege to be part of that team.”