As with everything Jack has done in golf, one name stands out among them all: the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, perhaps the greatest player of all time and now one of golf’s design gurus. Nicklaus’s 18 Major victories remains unchallenged, as does his name on more than 300 courses around the world that were designed personally by the Golden Bear or by his company, Nicklaus Design.
Nicklaus’s best work in Thailand is at Laem Chabang International Country Club near Pattaya. Laem Chabang opened in 1993, seven years after the last of Nicklaus’s Majors victories at the 1996 US Masters. Laem Chabang, a 27-hole complex, offers three Lake, Valley and Mountain nine-hole layouts, each a close-to-nature experience that is visually appealing and often challenging. The Valley nine in particular, at 3619 yards, is 200 yards longer than the Lake and Mountain nines, and features water on many holes that demands precision shot making off the tee and into greens, which are well guarded by water and sand. The Mountain course begins as a jungle-like experience, before opening up to wider fairways and excellent fast greens. Laem Chabang is a member of Golf In A Kingdom, the collection of Thailand’s best golf courses.
Springfield Royal Country Club is another 27-hole complex, set in a lush landscape near the Thai seaside resort of Hua Hin on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand. Like Laem Chabang, Nicklaus gave golfers a choice of Valley, Lake and Mountain nines. Located 200km and three hours’ drive south of Bangkok, Springfield was one of the first championship-style layouts to be developed in the area in the 1990s. The layout features five sets of tees and offers varying degrees of difficulty that accentuate the dramatic lush landscape. There are some long carries if you play from the Jack tees.
Kirimaya Golf Club is on the edge of Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The golf course is set in natural surroundings with panoramic views of Khao Yai’s lush greenery and mountains. Playing 7115 yards from the back tees, it gives players the impression of a unique wilderness golf experience.
Nicklaus’s other three Thai layouts are Mission Hills Golf Club and Resort near Kanchanaburi, about two hours’ drive west of Bangkok, the Phuket Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa on the island of Phuket, and nine holes at the Kaeng Krachan Country Club and Resort at Petchaburi, about 90 minutes south of Bangkok on the way to Hua Hin.