63-hole resort planned for Thailand

Later this year, a diamond merchant in Thailand expects to open the first golf course at what he says will be “a precious treasure of the golf world.”

Pornsit Sriorathaikul is referring to Royal Gems Golf City, which is taking shape on 560 acres in Rangsit, a northeastern suburb of Bangkok (in Pathum Thani Province). In at least one sense, Royal Gems is unique, as it’s expected to consist of a stand-alone 63-hole golf complex.

Sriorathaikul, the chairman of Beauty Gems Company, Ltd., has been selling gemstones in Thailand for nearly four decades. He has said that he’s played “almost all the world’s leading golf courses” and he even built one of his own, Royal Gems Golf & Sports Club in Phuthamonthon, which features a course designed by Gary Roger Baird.

For his second golf venture, Sriorathaikul aims to create a golf destination.

Royal Gems’ first course, called Dream Arena, is expected to open in the fall of 2010. Royal Gems calls it a replica course, but its designer, Lakeland, Florida-based Ron Garl, says that the holes were merely “inspired” by some of the world’s iconic golf holes.

Sriorathaikul hopes to break ground on Royal Gems’ second course, Moon Walker, in 2012. It’s a lighted 18-hole course that will be designed by Lee Schmidt, one-half of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Schmidt-Curley Design.

Royal Gems’ third course, the D Legend, will be a 27-hole layout created especially to host major tournaments. It’ll be designed by Andy Dye, who operates out of Perry O. Designs, Inc., in Denver, Colo. Sriorathaikul hopes to begin building it in 2014.

Sriorathaikul, the president of the Thai Golf Course Association and the host of this year’s Asia Pacific Golf Summit, understands that a stand-alone golf complex isn’t necessarily a path to quick riches.

“Without real estate development,” he recently told the Bangkok Post, “a golf course may not work, because real estate helps to bring the synergy. But we want to develop a pure golf course, with an idea of good management and maintenance. So it may take up to 10 years for the return, longer than normally.”

What’s more, this isn’t the best time to open a golf course in Thailand. The nation is embroiled in political turmoil, with soldiers and anti-government protesters shooting at each other in the streets of Bangkok. The clashes have scared away vacationers who’d been counted on to fill tee times.

Nonetheless, Royal Gems Golf City Company, Ltd. reports that it’s sold 600 memberships into Royal Gems and that it expects to reach its goal – 1,000 memberships – by the end of the year.

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