Pattaya, Thailand: The course architects at Golfplan will unveil this spring their new 18-hole design in the Silver Lake region south of Pattaya.
Chee Chang Golf Resort will debut its flamboyant new layout in the significant shadow of the Chee Chan Buddha, the 110-metre spiritual anchor to an existing resort complex that already includes a water park, winery and shopping district. All of these amenities are arrayed beside white sand beaches on the Gulf of Siam.
“It’s been a delight to be so active again in Thailand, home to one of the most dynamic, diverse and sophisticated golf cultures on the planet,” said David Dale, Partner at Golfplan, a Full Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
“Our track record here is pretty extensive; Golfplan designs like Panya Park, Panya Indra and Mountain Shadow in Pattaya all remain popular and profitable. But those were built in the 1990s.
“We’re eager to reacquaint Thai golfers with Golfplan because our style has evolved a great deal in 20 years and, frankly, the Thai golf market is uniquely discerning,” added Dale, who has directed the project.
Dale and partner Kevin Ramsey, named among the ‘Top-10 Most Powerful People in Asian Golf’ for 2016, are uniquely positioned to compare and contrast golfing cultures from country to country. Formed in 1972, Golfplan has created more than 217 original designs in 32 different countries (if master planning is considered, make that 85 countries).
“Golf cultures in Asia develop on different tracks, some on the American model, some on the British model – but Thailand is unique because it has created its own distinct culture, its own model,” Dale said. “Japan and South Korea have done the same thing, but Thailand is the only such country in Asia that also serves as a golf destination, attracting golfers from all over Europe, from Australia and New Zealand. It’s also far and away the number one golf destination for Japanese and Koreans, which speaks volumes. It’s just an amazingly diverse golfing destination and we’re very pleased to be back.”
The terrain in Pattaya along the Gulf of Siam is generally quite flat, but Dale said that Chee Chan Golf Resort is a glorious anomaly, boasting 25 metres of elevation change, just the right amount to create a challenging, visually dramatic and walkable resort course that measures more than 7,200 yards from the championship tees.
The property’s perimeter is further accented by a series of enormous, partly vegetated escarpments, some standing 150 metres high. It is on one of these massive rock faces that the 110-metre Chee Chan Buddha looms so large, as it is carved directly into these rock faces. His serene visage is visible from multiple points on the property, including the entire opening hole.
“We couldn’t afford to miss that opportunity: to start golfers at Chee Chan on their spiritual journey under the watchful eye of Siddhartha Gautama,” Dale said. “We have much to learn from the Buddha, who taught us a ‘Middle Way’ between sensual indulgence and severe asceticism. For golfers the message is clear: Relax and keep it in the fairway.”
AGIF Executive Member IMG manages operations at Chee Chan GR, a stand-alone property in this active resort area. Brodie MacDonald, a Scottish national and member of the British PGA, has been appointed General Manager, with Englishman Mike McKenna taking on the role of golf course superintendent. Both joined Chee Chan Golf Resort from Nirwana Bali Golf Club, which closed its doors last year.
Dale visited the course at Chee Chan in December, by way of South Korea, where another of his designs – The Club at Nine Bridges – recently played host to the inaugural CJ Cup, the first US PGA Tour event staged in the country.
Dale said he appreciated Pattaya’s tropical heat and the proximity of The Silver Lake Vineyard, located next to his soon-to-open design at Chee Chan.
“I was pleased to discover a wonderful chenin blanc there, absolutely fantastic, which they serve chilled with a first-class bread stick,” said Dale, a serious oenophile and resident of Sonoma County, California, one of the finest wine regions in the world. “After a hot day out in the dust of course construction, or trudging through the mud after a 40 mm rain (in one hour), that was just the ticket.”