Internationally renowned Scottish golf course architect David McLay Kidd was in Siem Reap for just over 24 hours before he landed in the rough – the car returning him from an inspection of a new golf course site on the outskirts of Siem Reap slid off the road and had to be pulled back on track with ropes.
“I was thinking I would have to jog all the way back if it took another hour to get the car out,” a bemused Kidd told the Post. “That was early evening and I was worried I might miss my 11.30pm flight back to the US.”
The flying Scotsman was on a whirlwind trip to negotiate a forthcoming commission to design a new golf course to be built at a massive new $470 million entertainment, gaming and hotel complex, Bellus Angkor Resort & City.
The complex, being developed by Korean-based company, Intercity Group, is on a 265 hectare site, 22 kilometres north of Angkor Thom, and an opening ceremony is expected to take place in October.
Intercity Group acquired the concession for a casino and permission for other resort facilities in October 2008, which was widely reported in the regional media as a massive casino complex.
On December 10 last year, Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper reported that the Cambodian government “requested to arrange various facilities in order to prevent the resort from being degenerated into a casino-centered facility.”
While a gaming centre is still an important component of phase one of the development’s construction, more emphasis is now placed on other entertainment and sports amenities, such as several hotels with up to 750 rooms, a large ultra-modern convention centre, and three golf courses.
Two golf courses are still in doubt, contingent on the company being able to lease a further 180 hectares of government land. But construction of the first international golf course, an 18-holer to be built on the existing lease, will start early next year and should be completed by the end of 2011.
But first the course needs to be designed, hence the arrival of Oregon-based Mr Kidd, one of the world’s leading golf course creators.
He flew into Seoul from the US on Saturday September 12, arrived in Siem Reap on Saturday afternoon, toured the temples, played golf at the Angkor Golf Resort on Sunday morning, checked the site of the new golf course on Sunday afternoon, endured the off-road incident, dined at Red Piano at 9pm in the evening, spoke to 7Days, and then hightailed it to the airport.
He met two of the InterCity Group big boys who had also flown in from Seoul – Hyung-Joo Kim, CEO and president, and James Cho, CMO and vice president, plus Siem Reap-based company adviser Jae-Sub Chung.
All parties seemed to reach amicable accord so it would be a safe bet to say that Kidd will design the new golf course, which will become the fourth in Siem Reap.
Kidd said all parties seemed to have a similar mindset.
“So hopefully things will move quickly forward and I’ll get the opportunity to develop the idea of how Angkor Wat meets golf,” he said.
“My initial thoughts are that everything about this part of the world is the history and the mystery of the temples. The challenge is to consider what could be done on a golf course to create a similar look and feel, with that same prestige and mysterious culture.
“I don’t know how to do that yet, but I’m excited about the potential.”
InterCity Group vice president James Cho said, “Eventually we want to have 54 holes in total here so that will be two more golf courses, apart from the course that we hope David will design.
“Experts say it takes about five golf courses to make it a golf destination and of course golf is a big sport in Southeast Asia. There is a big Thai base of golfers here, and of course here Hun Sen likes golf, and with the driving range that’s now in Phnom Penh, we hope the sport will become more popular with Cambodians.”