The new 18-hole golf course for Aquella Golf & Country Club, north of Phuket, Thailand, designed by Pacific Coast Design architects Paul Reeves and Phil Ryan, is opening for play in August.
Construction of the 7,000+ yard layout began in November 2018, on the site of the former Thai Muang golf course, which closed in 2007.
“When Paul and I spent the initial few days looking over the property we found only a few obvious mounded old bunker sites and stumbled onto an old metal tee marker, which we gave to the project team,” said Ryan. “The old course was routed parallel to the beach, whereas our new layout touches the beach at one point and is mostly played just back of the proposed beach resort and villas. The good news was that the sand profile for the site was still intact, so we had an excellent base to work from and the entire new course was built from local sand.
“We looked at some old photos of the Thai Muang course: they had a pot style and timber-faced bunkers. Having used timber in other PCD projects, both timber-faced bunkers and timber wall features, we decided to adopt the timber bunker faces as the signature for the new course, although our bunkering would be considered more of a resort style. We think it pays homage to some of the past while creating a unique future as timber-faced bunkers are not at all common in Thailand.”
The Aquella property has 2.6 kilometres of pristine sand beach framed by coconut palms and views of the Andaman Sea.
“Being directly on the coast of the Andaman Sea is sometimes a challenge: we had two strong storms over the past few months when the Links Golf maintenance team were trying to groom up turf surfaces prior to opening,” said Ryan. “Storm damage mostly affected landscaping, with many trees having to be replaced, although turf surfaces were not really impacted. We are confident though that when open, the golf course will really impress and only get better as it matures.
“We managed to save the vast majority of the existing established trees during our early visits, and this has given a lot of the Aquella layout an older look belying its new construction.”
Pacific Coast Design worked with numerous stakeholders on the project, including Pacific Century Premium Developments, which bought the site in 2016, the Lan Kwai Fong Group and its associated entity Paradise Designs Group of Phuket, and Absolute Golf Services, which is managing the club.
Thailand closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic, so Reeves and Ryan had to find other ways to ensure progress on the project. “The pandemic did impact construction, with several instances of materials or manpower being restricted due to lockdowns,” said Ryan. “The project team provided weekly drone videos over the site, and we also used mobile video technology, however, we still had to have the construction group rework some of the greens and fairway zones when we checked profiles and slopes through the project team, something which rarely happens when we are visiting regularly.
“It was difficult for Paul and me not to be able to visit during the final 12 months of golf construction as during this time you would normally ‘tweak’ things like final bunker finishes and green slopes, but with the detail design we had provided and the regular video inspections, we managed to finish with what we believe will be an exceptional golf journey. The team at Links Golf did a really great job in bringing the constructed golf course up to our expectations and we really cannot wait to get over and play the course ourselves.”
Aquella has a golf academy and a mini golf course designed by PCD, as well as some Thai-style villas. Preliminary work has started on the resort hotel and lagoon areas and, when complete, the entire resort will eventually include multiple hotels, villas, houses, a beach club and a tennis academy.