Just down the road from Thai Muang, seemingly only a good three wood from the airport lies Blue Canyon Country Club. From the outset, Blue Canyon’s developers set their sights high; it was to be not simply Thailand’s most prestigious country club and golf complex, but also the premier golf course in Asia. Today, some 15 years after its opening in late 1991, Blue Canyon achieved its original aims on both counts.
The Club occupies a peaceful and exotic location, formerly a tin mine set in rubber plantations among craggy hills. The Canyon Course spreads over two wooded valleys which are linked by a central spur of higher ground and which filter down to a series of clear blue freshwater lakes. The developers and course designer Mr. Yoshikazu Kato, went out of their way to ensure that the interference with nature was minimal. A wealth of trees and beautiful plants give a sense of maturity.
Fairways unfold over sloping, rolling land and are punctuated by various hazards in the form of narrow landing areas and well-guarded greens. Early holes run through avenues of towering trees and are relatively less difficult than the holes to come. The challenge of the back nine, on the other hand, is progressively more demanding.
Certain holes are nothing less than spectacular. For those playing the forward tees, the climb to the back tee on the 10th hole gives the reward of stunning views over Phang-Na Bay – as well as a clearer view of this deceptively easy-looking short par 4, with its myriad bunkers protecting the hole.
The 390 yard par four 13th, "The Canyon" hole, features a daunting carry across a beckoning canyon. Would you believe that Tiger Woods actually drove the green when he played here in 1994. Take a look at the photo at left and imagine hitting over the trees on the far right? Hard to imagine!
The signature par three 14th hole drops 194 yards from an elevated tee to a tiny island green. The 586 yards par five 15th hole is a blind double dog leg, left then right, with two water carries.
Having negotiated these awesome holes, you come to the par 3 seventeenth, described by Fred Couples as "one of the best par 3’s anywhere in the world". It is easy to wreck your scorecard on this hole – yet, such is the beauty of golf that a 26 handicap friend of mine holed in one here during a golf outing last year!
The 9th and the 18th holes present wonderful finishing holes up to the luxurious club-house and "Golfer’s Lodge". Yet, if I were to be asked what really differentiates this course, I would say that it is the severity of many of the greens. Simply staying on the green can be hard when putting from certain positions on certain holes, notably the 1st, the 5th, the 7th, the 13th, and the 18th!
Tomorrow I will continue this post and go into detail about the second Blue Canyon "Lakes" Course as well as cover the club house and resort facilities on premise.