Hanse and Doak Take On The Lido Club

Ballyshear Links Thailand fourteenth hole

The 14th hole at Ballyshear Links in Bangkok was inspired by The Lido Club’s 14th, which in turn was based on the “Short” sixth hole at the National Golf Links of America. (Image: Ban Rakat Club)

What’s old is new again at high-profile re-imaginings of Charles Blair Macdonald’s legendary Lido Club by celebrity architects Gil Hanse and Tom Doak.

Is there a sport more enthralled by its so-called Golden Age than golf?

Now that Tom Doak’s take on a classic Irish links, St. Patrick’s Links, has launched to wild acclaim in County Donegal, the next most anticipated course of 2021 is surely Ballyshear Links at the new Ban Rakat Club in Bangkok, Thailand. Designed by Gil Hanse and his partner Jim Wagner, Ballyshear is their hole-by-hole recreation of the almost mythic Lido Club, the Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor design that opened on Long Island, New York, in 1917, and closed during World War II.

The celebrated Hanse, who is best known for the 2016 Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro and the Black Course at Streamsong Resort, will be on hand in August to christen a layout that like most privately owned courses in Asia will allow some public play (via formal request; no drop-ins).

Named after Macdonald’s estate on Long Island, Ballyshear Links pays homage to a Golden Age course that was itself inspired by signature holes at other golf courses—including the Redan at North Berwick, the Alps at Prestwick, and the Channel at Littleton. Other famous template hole designs—such as Cape and Biarritz—are also represented.

Then there’s the Lido’s famous par-four 18th hole, which was based on a design by the then unknown Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Macdonald saw the doctor’s contribution to a golf hole design competition in Britain’s Country Life magazine and ran with it. MacKenzie would, of course, go on to design Augusta National (with Bobby Jones), Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne.

Gil Hanse, golf course architect

Celebrity architect Gil Hanse based the design of Ballyshear Links on the old Lido Club on Long Island, New York.

“I think I’ve played most of the original templates, those that still exist,” Hanse says of the holes recreated first at the Lido Club and now at Ballyshear Links. In their various projects, “Macdonald and Raynor adapted these templates over and over, and differently each time. Interpretation is part of the challenge.”

Built for a then whopping cost of US$800,000, the Lido Club numbered among golf’s most revered courses during its heyday. Masters champion Claude Harmon Sr. thought it “the greatest golf course ever,” and golf writer Bernard Darwin called it “the finest course in the world.”

Like the premature death of a Hollywood movie star, the destruction of the Lido Club in 1942, when the U.S. Navy occupied the property, has added to its growing legend and fascination for golf architects and developers alike.

Overlapping with the launch of Ballyshear Links is the construction of a rival high-profile recreation of the Lido Club in Wisconsin. This one is by the estimable Tom Doak, who like Hanse leaps from one success to the next. Doak is building on a site just north of the Sand Valley golf resort. Overseeing the project is Michael Keiser Jr., the eldest son of Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links developer Mike Keiser.

A full opening of the course is anticipated in the spring or summer of 2023. Members will get preferred tee times, but visitors are promised ready access to the tee sheet.

May the best Golden Age replica win.