Once the flag bearer for Thai, if not Asian golf, The Canyon course at Blue Canyon opened in a blaze of glory in 1991. The course hosted the Honda Invitational event and two Johnnie Walker Classics in the 1990's, so it is no stranger to championship golf.
Blue Canyon is located just 7 minutes from Phuket International airport, and close to all tourist destinations on the west side of the island.
Designed by Mr Yoshi Kato the course plays through a terrain that includes significant elevation change, thick jungle, tight fairways, water on 14 holes, some 80 bunkers, and a big finish that involves hitting over and around the gorges.
Until recently the Canyon course was considered the best course in Thailand, but with impressive new layouts like Black Mountain & Red Mountain now competition, Blue Canyon is unfortunately showing her age. When we visited the area had just endured 10 days of torrential rain- roads were closed, and the course was damaged. Many bunkers were destroyed, and to add insult to injury the greens had been heavily cored and were in poor shape.
Because the course was so waterlogged golf carts were not an option. Walking the course became an endurance test as the heat and the wet underfoot combined to make it a humid and long walk. And the course played exceptionally long with no run on the fairways.
So when I say that maintenance levels are not what they were, you might think I am referring to the recent weather induced condition, but that is not the case. Broad leaved pasture grasses were penetrating fairways, and the course looked just a little shabby. Perhaps unfairly I had concerns about the maintenance budget?
The bones of the course are still there, though, and it is quite a test of golf. The course has a championship structure, and the back nine holes have real spectator appeal with all the canyon holes and water in play- it is brilliant theatre!
While the front nine is 'quieter' each hole demands your attention. I particularly liked the long par 4 third hole with a giant Calabash tree guarding the shot to the green, and the twisting, turning par 5 sixth hole.
But on the back nine things get even more interesting with a number of gorges, and water carries to challenge you. Twelve is a super hole, with water in play down the right and in front of the picturesque green. Thirteen is know as 'The Tiger hole' as Tiger Woods drove the green. For mere mortals it is a terrifying prospect with a sharp dogleg offering fairway beyond a rather imposing gorge. Of course one is given the option of playing safely left, but no one surely would travel all that way to play Blue Canyon and take the safe option, would they?
Hole 14 is a drop dead gorgeous par 3, with a drop shot to a spectacular curved green surrounded almost entirely by water..
Another memorable hole is the par 3 seventeenth- described by Fred Couples as 'one of the best par 3's anywhere in the world'.
It is a long par 3 with water carry and water all the way down the right hand side. The left to right sliding green is partially hidden by the gorge wall. It is a very pretty hole with a hell of a sting in the tail!
Blue Canyon's Canyon course is a dramatic golfing experience, and combined with Red Mountain and some magnificent accommodation makes Phuket a compelling golfing destination.
For all concerned I hope that the condition of the course improves- personally I can't wait to get back there
The Travelling Golfer