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Published on : Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Golf is a game of numbers, right? Well in Thailand, there’s an innovative 18-hole layout that is counting on three 6’s beating a pair of 9’s. Nikanti Golf Club’s 6-6-6 concept is a revelation in golf course design. Derived from Buddhist teachings, the name Nikanti means ‘delight’. And as I recently found out, the full-course Nikanti experience is a truly great pleasure. Sam Gole writes.
Five years ago, Jack Nicklaus commented that the length of time it takes to play 18 holes led to a drop in recent player rounds. He stated for golf to expand, it needed to become more time-competitive. Nicklaus suggested dividing traditional 18-hole courses into three, six-hole layouts. Welcome to Nikanti Golf Club, located just 35 kilometres west of Bangkok.
Opened in December 2014, Nikanti was designed by Thailand’s leading golf course architect Pirapin Namatra.
This clever Thai course is Asia’s first 18-hole, par-72 course comprising three six-hole layouts. The smart design allows for starts at three different points on the course. With the final green of each six-hole loop conveniently placed by the clubhouse, this format affords golfers the flexibility and the choice of playing 6, 12 or 18 holes. It’s a concept that’s ideal for golfers who are time poor. And it’s a concept richly supported by Jack Nicklaus—the game’s greatest-ever golfer.
Namatra and Nikanti’s owners aimed to create a golf course that is interesting, enlightening and distinctive. They achieved this goal. Measuring 6,207 metres from the tips, Nikanti isn’t long by modern day standards. While most golfers won’t find its length overpowering, Nikanti isn’t a pushover either. All golfers will be challenged. The ground breaking layout with undulating fairways and fast greens, features brilliant fairway and green-side bunker systems combined with the strategic use of ponds and lakes.
Not content to simply build three six-hole loops. Nikanti takes the 6-6-6 design philosophy one step further. Each individual six-hole layout consists of two par threes, two par fours and two par fives. That means the total 18-hole course boasts six par threes, six par fours and six par fives. It may seem an odd mix. After all, most golf courses contain up to ten par fours. Nevertheless, the even distribution really works. And any course that presents more chances to score a hole-in-one is ace in my book. Plus, with six par fives on offer—most reachable in two shots for longer hitters—this unusual format provides numerous birdie or better scoring opportunities. Overall, Nikanti is a lot of fun.
Each set of six holes begins and ends with a ripping par five. Holes 1 & 6, 7 & 12 and 13 & 18 are sensational. So, no matter where you start or finish your round, your day will be thrilling.
The seventh is one of my favourite holes on the course. The 450-metre, par five is stunning. And from a technical aspect, the design of this hole is brilliant. The seventh features a split fairway. At around 210 metres from the tee, a bunker surrounded by an area of rough guard the middle routing of this hole. In order to stay out of trouble, players must elect to drive to the left fairway or to the right fairway. The left fairway is narrow, but shortens the hole. If you find the cut surface, the green is reachable with a solid approach. The right fairway is wide, but lengthens the hole. From here, most golfers will lay up short of the raised green.
The thirteenth hole is another gem. And like at the seventh, the 13th includes design elements to test the resolve of all golfers. From the tips, there’s just under 500 metres to cover. Long hitters are rewarded with the decision to fire their second shot at the green. However, this bold play comes with risk. The putting surface is precariously placed over a pond. An approach shot that is marginally short of the green or off line to the right will find water. The bail out option also contains drama. There’s plenty of room to fire the second shot down the fairway and left of the green. However, this conservative play leaves an interesting third shot, where the pitch shot must fly a series of bunkers en route to the green.
If you enjoy ending your round on a high, the 18th hole at Nikanti is one of the best finishing holes you’ll find anywhere. With the magnificent clubhouse as a backdrop, the fairway winds right around a large pond. The green is perched metres above the fairway and surrounded by bunkers. It’s rated the second most difficult hole on the course.
Nikanti is immaculately presented. It is evident that producing a tournament quality playing surface is part of the everyday exhibition of Nikanti.
The resort-style course is visually impressive. Each hole is well contoured to provide aesthetic appeal. Fairways are lined with more than 100 varieties of native trees with around 4,000 trees planted with the construction of the course. The layout features many landscaped garden bed areas. Pockets of Red Top, Lemongrass, Bahia and Fountain Grass ground cover provide a splash of colour and interest. Watch out though, these pretty massed plantings also provide a hazard to errant drives and iron shots—as this scribe found out.
The greens are superb. If you appreciate surfaces that produce an even roll with a true speed, you’ll love putting at Nikanti. With a combination of smaller and larger TifEagle putting complexes to negotiate, good putting strokes will be rewarded here.
The bunkering is outstanding. Nikanti’s fairway and greenside sand traps are among the best I’ve seen and played in Asia. Each bunker is beautifully shaped and thoughtfully positioned. And the texture and depth of sand in each trap is consistent from one bunker to the next.
The strategic use of ponds and lakes is another asset. Unlike some courses where water hazards dominate the layout, the incorporation of water into the overall design is more refined and considerate here.
Nikanti’s comprehensive approach to golfing pleasure means you’ll enjoy unparalleled service and convenience every step of the way. A smooth flow is ensured from moment of arrival. Nikanti’s all-inclusive rates include: green fee; golf cart with GPS technology; caddie fee; and meals before, during and after each round.
The club’s caddies further set apart Nikanti from a conventional golf club experience. Dressed in contemporary sporting fashion and highly trained, Nikanti caddies pass on to players thorough course knowledge. They also extend the kind of intuitive, natural hospitality for which Thais are renowned the world over.
Golf carts are fitted with GPS systems. It’s another special touch, that makes a round at Nikanti an absolute pleasure. Pin-point-accurate yardage measurements, scorecard emailing capability and leaderboard information during private competitions, are all assessable via the system’s touch-screen display. And, you can even place food and drink requests with the clubhouse.
The centerpiece of Nikanti’s is its stunning clubhouse. Elevated to provide superb views over the course and surrounding area, Nikanti Golf Club provides an outstanding setting for gatherings of all types. The bright and relaxing atmosphere is the ideal spot to enjoy fine Thai cuisine. The enjoyment of food and drink is essential to the Nikanti experience.
Kan restaurant brings to fruition the concept of a prominent Thai chef/restaurateur who for many years worked with a UK celebrity chef abroad and in Thailand. Chef Pop now applies his considerable local knowledge in choosing the finest produce for a farm-to-table, fresh-and-seasonal dining experience that’s both delicious and nutritious.
Kan and the terrace dining area is complemented by the club’s own wine room, cigar bar and excellent locker room facilities.
Nikanti makes certain of full-course pleasure for every guest.
The combination of its innovative golf concept with its truly distinctive all-inclusive golf offer is exceptional.
In the years to come, you can expect many new golf courses to follow similar design philosophies utilised at Nikanti.
But why wait for those experiences to arrive? Even if you are pushed for time, spend just one night in Bangkok with a round at Nikanti Golf Club, and you too will see why the 6-6-6 futuristic model, makes perfect sense.