Ballyshear Golf Links, the first Gil Hanse course in Asia, has officially opened at Ban Rakat Club near Bangkok, Thailand. The layout is inspired by Long Island’s famous lost course, Lido, designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor.
“The Lido is the holy grail for the ‘created’ golf course, the ultimate manifestation of what can be done with enough creativity, money and sand,” said Hanse. “The fact that it no longer exists makes it more romantic in nature and inspires all of us to elevate it in the pantheon of golf course architecture.”
Ballyshear features the same 18 template holes as the Lido, each reinterpreted by Hanse and his design partner Jim Wagner to work within the natural landscape of the site. The holes have been replicated in order, except for swapping the second and sixth due to constraints inherent to site boundaries.
Holes include the Eden third, with the Ballyshear version having a ‘sand-and-scrub’ take on the Lido original; a par-five Channel hole with a split fairway, inspired by Lido’s fourth; and the Short fourteenth, which includes a ‘thumbprint’ green.
The course closes with a par-three Redan sixteenth, a 600-yard par-five Long hole, then a closing par four based on Dr Alister Mackenzie’s winning entry to Country Life magazine’s design contest.
“I remember reading about the Lido competition that MacKenzie won,” said Hanse. “I was doing some research at Cornell University, and they had a great collection of original editions of this magazine. After seeing the competition, I did more research on the Lido and we had the great fortune to work with Macdonald and Raynor biographer George Bahto on several projects. He was always talking about the Lido. After his passing, George’s family allowed us to use his Lido file to help us in our design for Ballyshear. It proved invaluable!
Hanse and Wagner’s approach has been very different to that taken by Tom Doak and his team at Sand Valley in Wisconsin, whose Lido course has been built as precisely as possible to the original, based on a virtual model created by Peter Flory using software from video game The Golf Club.
“We use the words ‘homage’ and ‘tribute’ because they best describe what we did. Our site was very fixed in terms of the boundaries we could work with, and very fixed in the fact that we did not have stable soils under the site that would have allowed us to shape the site in a manner that might be more faithful to the original. As a result, we used the Lido as a concept for what to do with a site that was honestly very limited in its potential.
“We were so happy the owner was supportive of this vision, and that we were able to get the sequence of holes very close to what they were in the original, with two exceptions.”
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Hanse and Wagner have been unable to visit the site since 2019 so their Caveman Construction team completed the project.
“That is completely against the philosophy that we have adopted for all of our courses,” said Wagner. “However, we were living in strange times. Hats off to Bret Brennan, Josh McFadden, Trevor Dormer and Tanner Guyer for working tirelessly on this project, and to Shaymus Maley, Jaeger Kovich and Robert Nelson for jumping in as well. We trusted their abilities.
“From the images, it looks like our trust has been rewarded by their great work. We are hopeful to get back over there to play some golf at the start of 2023.”
The new course and Kengo Juma & Associates-designed clubhouse were both completed earlier this year.
“It’s incredible to think back – through two and a half years of Covid – to when this project began,” said Wagner. “Just reflecting on what this property was when we showed up: a dilapidated, perfectly flat golf course. What has it become today? A total and truly remarkable transformation from a golf course, landscape, earthwork and vegetation standpoint.”