FOR too long, course development has been about owners trying to sell homes or squeeze dollars out of unsuspecting visitors. So it was rather refreshing to see a golf course built in Asia with something alternative in mind. Nikanti Golf Club, in Thailand’s Nakhon Pathom province (one hour outside of Bangkok) has breathed new life into the region with the construction of a layout consisting of three six-hole loops.
This southeast Asian gem has become one of the most popular golf destinations in the world, yet Aussie golfers will be wondering what any new golf destination here can offer that doesn’t already exist.
They’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Nikanti combines a thoughtfully designed course with an equally enticing tourist experience. The course, owned by the Sasomsub family, actually opened for play three years ago, but in July 2016 launched its clubhouse and restaurants. There’s every reason to expect that Nikanti – 53 kilometres west of Bangkok – will appeal to Aussie golfers with its unique approach, which takes on many forms.
Firstly, this luxurious club – unlike most upmarket Thai courses – is open to the public. Visitors pay a single rate, which includes green, caddie and cart fees (including caddie tip), unlimited water and snacks on course, in addition to a meal before and after the round. The all-inclusive experience is enhanced by a careful attention to service and a clubhouse ambience that is second to none.
The name “Nikanti”, after all, means “delight” or “great pleasure” and is derived from Buddhist teachings, and there is little to refute this promise on your visit.
“Our philosophy is for our guests to ‘be delighted by us’,” says Nick Sasomsub, managing director of Nikanti Golf Club, whose father Chaiyot Sasomsub founded the club. “We asked ourselves what we want from a golf experience and tried to create that at Nikanti.”
To say the Sasomsubs were successful in doing so is an understatement. Every corner feels like it has been thoughtfully designed with patrons in mind. And once your all-inclusive fees are settled, there is little left to do than to enjoy a wonderful day of golf.
Locker rooms are sleek and stylish without being over-designed. Common areas offer visitors a selection of different places to congregate with their own groups.
On the food front, flamboyant resident chef Narakorn Lertnibuna has brought his experience working with a UK celebrity chef to design dishes that reflect the traditions of Thai cuisine – but presented in a contemporary West style. Apart from the complimentary buffets available before and after your rounds, more elaborate six to nine-dish set menus are also available at Nikanti’s delectable Kan Restaurant. And the bar there is also a fine place to have a beverage before engaging in your multi-course meal.
The quality at Nikanti is a reflection of what Asian designers are capable of, given the opportunity. The futuristic clubhouse is the work of local architects and effectively combines the outdoors with sophisticated interiors seamlessly. Most significantly, Thai course architect Piraporn Namatra’s layout at Nikanti would certainly not look out of place in a golf complex of internationally renowned course designers.
The most poignant – and creative – thing about Namatra’s course is that it goes against the convention of having two nine-hole loops. Nikanti is instead laid out in three loops of six, giving golfers the option of playing six, 12 or 18. Golfers rightly pay different all-inclusive rates depending on the number of holes they play.
Each six-hole combination ends at the clubhouse, and has two par 3s, two par 5s, and two par 4s so the experience is not compromised regardless of the number of holes played.
The first impression of Namatra’s design is that it’s pleasing to the eye. Contours of emerald, Bermuda fairways ripple and roll towards intricately designed green complexes. Putting surfaces of TifEagle turf can confound those playing here for the first time, but then again, that’s part of the challenge and fun.
“We wanted to do something different,” says Sasomsub. “We wanted the uniqueness to come not from the extreme of the course design, but from its functionality. We believed in trying to make the golf course more flexible while making it fun and challenging. I think Khun Namatra did an exceptional job.”
The par 3s come to mind when you consider the ‘challenging’ aspect of Khun Sasomsub’s comment. Most of these are long, with three of the six in excess of 180 metres (black tees). But their design affords weaker golfers places to ‘lay up’ in the event that they don’t have a club, or a swing, to get their tee shots to the green. The design consistency throughout the course is worth noting as each six-hole grouping blends into the next without changing its general characteristics. However, unlike 18-hole courses designed with the customary two nines, there is no strict distinction of a ‘finishing hole’ as each of the six-hole configuration can stand alone as a genuine finale exam.
While length can be useful off the tee, course management is probably worth more here. Water can be found on many of the holes and often forces the golfer to play around them. And on those where they are not, bunkers (and there are many of them) come into play. The raised sides of the fairways give the course a stadium effect while preventing shots hit astray from rolling further into trouble. And the 4,000 or so trees planted on the course give it a resort aesthetic that reinforces the feeling of holiday golf. There is an added advantage of playing in the afternoon here because the light takes on a nice glow as the sun sets over the horizon. Ending your round with a cocktail, and a meal, on the terrace overlooking the golf course might just be the best way to cap off your 5-star, all-for-the-price-of-one experience.
Pay: For one price – 4500 baht ($170) on week days and 5500 baht ($210) on weekends – you needn’t put your hand in your pocket again. A delicious buffet breakfast or lunch is included, along with caddies, cart, green fees and soft drinks. A bottle of local Singha beer is 150 baht, about $5.
Stay: Millennium Hilton Hotel,
123 Charoennakorn Rd, Klongsan. Bangkok
p: +66 2 442 2000
e: [email protected]
Nikanti Golf Club
333 Thetsaban 14/2 Alley,
Thammasala, Mueang Nakhon Pathom District
Nakhon Pathom 73000
Phone: +66 34 965 666