Construction of a new 18-hole layout by Pacific Coast Design (PCD) is progressing well at Aquella Golf & Beach Resort on the site of the former Thai Muang golf course, north of Phuket, Thailand.
The layout is being built over gentle undulating land. “While it has been designed to be one of the best golf courses in the region, we have at all times considered the resort golfers,” said PCD director Phil Ryan. “It can be set up to be very challenging, but our design was always going to both reward good golf and be a lot of fun to play.”
Pacific Century Premium Developments (PCPD), a public company in Hong Kong, bought the derelict Thai Muang golf course – a site on the Andaman Sea – and in early 2016 asked PCD to develop a feasibility study to review the potential of the property. The study involved reviewing the original master plan for the 177-hectare site, which included 18 holes of golf, a resort, housing and a marina.
PCD directors Paul Reeves and Phil Ryan made numerous site visits. “Although quite overgrown, the potential was obvious from the first day, with around 2.6 kilometres of beautiful beach and the old structure of the previous golf course still visible,” said Ryan.
“We looked at the site issues of water supply, drainage, soil structure and landscape. While the previous golf zones had 20 centimetres of sand cap, the underlying soil structure was clay silt with a very high water table and around 30 centimetres of sandy clay topsoil on the non-capped zones,” said Ryan.
“The previous master plan had not used many of the old golf holes as they took up valuable seaside lands, but we were lucky when inspecting the marina site to see that previous dredging for the marina had created large stockpiles of sand – around 290,000 cubic metres – which had been flushed by frequent rains over the years. Therefore, we knew we would have a great base for golf wherever the final layout sat on the site.”
As part of the study to see what could be expected from developing Aquella, PCD reviewed the financial viability and investment return potential by researching the Phuket market for golf and accommodation.
PCD’s financial feasibility report was completed in mid-2016. In late-2017 PCPD commissioned the firm to work with Hong Kong-based Original Vision and local company Paradise Designs to review the master plan, revamp it, and to undertake the design for a new 18-hole golf course.
Construction started in November 2018 and as of May 2019, bulk earthworks have been completed on fourteen holes. Drainage, irrigation and feature construction is also under way. Thailand-based Trad International is undertaking course construction along with shaper and project coordinator Bill Kessener. Trad International’s chairman Songchai Wattanachai has been on site for every PCD visit.
“For any golf architect team, having a beachside golf project is really a dream come true. Both Paul and I live near the ocean and take inspiration from the tranquillity of being near such wondrous natural living sea,” said Ryan. “When developing the final master plan, we successfully argued to have golf come right up to the beach so as to ensure the ‘linkage’ between the course and the Andaman Sea.
“The 186-yard par-three eleventh is very special to us as it really gives the golfers a magnificent view out to the ocean and along the beach front. It also has multiple angles into the green from different tees – the hole has extensive purple groundcover so will be visually stunning.
“We are planning on having a webcam behind the tees to record golfers playing the eleventh so they can have a visual reminder of playing Aquella and, should they score a hole in one, have a permanent record of the event.
“While the new design has followed the routing of three of the former holes, we have utilised the previous sand-capped ‘zones’ to layout golf over, so as to not waste good sand. This strategy has really assisted during construction as even during rain the site has remained relatively dry and we also tried to retain the old drainage network for as long as possible.
“This approach also allowed us to retain some wonderful trees which will give the site an established look from opening day.
“The bunker theme throughout the golf course is a tribute to the original Thai Muang layout in that we have used old railway sleepers set into a lot of the bunker faces which gives a very strong look, differentiating the course from any other in the region.
“The predominantly green established trees on site – which we went to great extents to maintain – is offset by our use of purple and gold through both trees, like Jacaranda, and groundcovers.”
Platinum TE paspalum grass was selected for the entire course, sourced from Atlas Turf International through Centaur Asia Pacific. Grassing will start in late-May, with nine holes expected to be ready by the end of the year.
The course is expected to open by mid-2020.
PCPD envisages Aquella developing into one of Asia’s premier resorts with world class facilities, several hotels, villas and apartments. “The accessibility was already good but the main road north to the site from the airport has since been expanded to multi-lane highway status,” said Ryan. “A new airport for Phuket is also planned at a site around 15 minutes from Aquella.”