The original course at Gassan Lake City Golf Club (as it was known) opened for play in 2005. A decade later the layout was completely renovated by architect Lee Schmidt and the property was renamed Gassan Legacy Golf Club.
Gassan Legacy GC is located 45 minutes by car from the centre of Chiang Mai in Thailand. The current course is a complete redesign by US architects Schmidt Curley who are known throughout Asia for their body of work- which now includes Mission Hills Shenzhen & Haikou, Stoneforest, and the nearby Chiangmai Highlands.
The new course opened in 2014, and is beautifully maintained- certainly the greens were the best we played on in the area.
The course has five par 3's and five par 5's, and can play to a massive 6852 yards off the back tee. The white tee at 5967 yards sounds short, but will prove more than a match to most, as accuracy, not length is the key to a successful round here.
The course starts quietly with the delightful par 5 opener which asks you to plot your way to the green past bunkers left, right and centre- it is the only hole where water does not feature...
Schmidt Curley worked with a gently rolling site and used a lot of bunkers to tighten up fairways and greens. At times they seem claustrophobically tight. Inevitably, with the benefit of playing holes over, one will realise that there is perhaps a little more room than first realised. This is where a good caddy could be invaluable!
But our experience was that communication on strategy was difficult at times, although the caddies were very helpful with straightforward matters such as distances and lines of putts...
Did I mention the water?
Gassan Legacy is a tight course, demanding accuracy- but it is not the bunkers that will dominate your memories of Gassan Legacy. After the first hole all 17 holes have water as a significant factor.
There are two island green par threes, and another three where water must be carried off the tee.
There are quite a number of longer holes- both par 4 and par 5- where the tee shot must negotiate a water carry, often with water in play to the side of the fairway as well.
Playing off the white tees was pure fun as we encountered so many risk/reward shots where we could decide how much we could take on- but at the same time the more timid, or less capable were able to play a more conservative line on most ocassions.
Now I love a short par 4, and Gassan Legacy has three short par 4's- holes 6, 13 & 14, where the longer hitter could go for glory, but others can attack with accurate approach shots. It's good stuff!
One of the challenges playing on Asian courses is navigating the grain on the greens, and chipping from the fringes where the club can get caught. But at Gassan Legacy we found the playing surfaces immaculate and much easier to play.
Gassan Legacy is a good test of golf, and will have the thinking player plotting his way around the course. The longer or more erratic hitter will need to consider putting the driver away at times in favour of hitting fairways, but at other times will be given the opportunity of taking the game on.
It is just great fun - but take lots of balls!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.