Ban Rakat Club’s new Ballyshear Golf Links course near Bangkok, Thailand – designed by Gil Hanse – is set to open in August 2021.
The Ballyshear layout has been inspired by Lido Golf Club on Long Island, which was designed and built by Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor in 1918, before being abandoned during World War II. Dr Alister MacKenzie also contributed to the original layout, having won a design contest for its eighteenth hole.
“Normally we feel strongly that a golf course should be the product of its surrounds,” said Hanse, who is working in Asia for the first time. “But in the back of our minds, my partner Jim Wagner and I have often wondered what we would do with a completely flat site – what can you do to distinguish it? The most famous example of a manufactured golf course from the Golden Age was The Lido. Jim and I had always wanted to do a MacDonald/Raynor, angular grass-faced bunker design. We pitched the idea to the owner at Ballyshear and he loved it.”
“The goal has always been to create something entirely new in the Bangkok market and it’s our strong feeling that Ban Rakat Club and Ballyshear Links will do exactly that,” said Ban Rakat Club chairman Takeyasu Aiyama.
“The Ban Rakat Club project will perfectly showcase Hanse’s skill and expertise, while introducing his work to an Asian audience for the first time. What’s more, vintage design projects such as Ballyshear have never before been undertaken in Thailand. In these and other ways, Ban Rakat Club will bring something completely unique to the market.”
Holes at the original Lido Club were inspired by existing holes, including the Redan at North Berwick, the Channel at Littlestone and several at the National Golf Links of America, a 1911 MacDonald design which itself had many template holes.
For Hanse’s design, he has recreated and reinterpreted every hole from the original Lido, with 16 of the course’s 18 holes in the exact same order. Only the second and sixth holes were swapped in the Thai routing, due to constraints inherent to site boundaries.
“I think I’ve played most all of the original templates, those that still exist,” said Hanse. “MacDonald and Raynor adapted these templates over and over – and differently each time. Interpretation is part of the challenge. At Ballyshear, I think the seventeenth and eighteenth, with their shared waste bunker between them, came out extremely well. The scale of those two holes at Lido was impressive and we were able to capture that at Ballyshear.
“The Redan sixteenth also came out really well. The Punchbowl twelfth is a very moderate version and works well. I’m also really excited to play the Biarritz eighth and Leven ninth. They are going to make for a really cool corner of the property.”
The site of the new course has been built on the former Kiarti Thanee Country Club, which partnered in 2017 with Yokohama International Golf Club – a Japan-based golf development and club operations firm – to redevelop the property. The terrain was flat but proved challenging. The high water table in Bangkok required the construction team to drive thousands of concrete pile-ons into the soil – to support the man-made landforms created above the surface.
“The original Lido was also predicated on the ground game,” said Hanse. “We used the new Zeon Zoysia to create those conditions in Rio. At Ballyshear, we’re using a local variety of Zoysia, cultivated in Thailand, that should produce the hard and fast conditions we need.
“Ballyshear is going to be so different from anything that exists there today, it’s going to be fascinating to see how the course is received. The reactions could be all over the map. It could be a landmark project for the country – and it could be that people don’t get it or like it at all! It could be fairly polarising, which is fine so long as the owner is happy, and the club thrives.”