By Daven Wu
Jan 7, 2021
IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME IN THE MAKING, but after a delay of almost five years, the Dusit Thani has finally opened in Singapore.
Set within the grounds of the tony Laguna National Golf and Country Club, the 198-room urban resort is the first in town to have direct access to two private 18-hole championship courses – a vacation win-win for both rabid golfers and their long-suffering widows.
On paper, at least, you can understand why the now-seemingly foolhardy decision to open yet another hotel on a tiny island already bristling at the edges with so many five-star properties was so tempting when its billionaire owner Peter Kwee – who also owns the golf club – and his son Kevin first workshopped the idea some 15 years ago.
Until the virus hit early last year, the Southeast Asian golf tourism market was conservatively estimated to be worth a head-turning US$2 billion, and involving 1.5 million golfers travelling to and within the region. Tapping into this market by opening a luxury hotel that’s just 10 minutes from Changi airport – a fly-in and tee-off time that’s hard to beat – and that’s literally miles away from the crowds of central Singapore…well, that qualifies as a no-brainer in anyone’s book.
But for now, alas, the island-state is still in Covid-isolation and you have to wonder when the Kwees will be able to start clawing back their estimated S$200 million investment. In the meantime, it’s us lucky local Singaporeans who get to check in, and tee-off.
Commanding the crest of a hillock, the Dusit Thani fairly looms over the horizon – a low-slung silvery silhouette of glass, steel grids and sparkling tiles that architects Mercurio Design Lab say was inspired by the “surging undulations of the greens which often make the course resemble a green moonscape and clusters of sculpted sand bunkers…[and] the aerodynamic swing of the golf club.”
It’s a particularly vivid image of modernity – one that firmly sidesteps the stylistic flourishes one might expect from a brand as thoroughly Thai as Dusit Thani is. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear this was an airport by Norman Foster or Zaha Hadid complete with swooping roof lines and grand sweeping driveway. (Actually, the airport analogy isn’t too far off the mark. Commercial planes periodically fly overhead, their dull drone heard a bit through even the double-glazing of the bedroom windows.)
There are a few subtle giveaways, though, of the Dusit Thani’s provenance: an unexpected ‘Sawadee ka’ from one of the beaming Thai staff brought in from HQ, a surprisingly good massaman curry at Greenhouse restaurant, the soft watercolors of a flowering branch over the headboards in the bedrooms, and a gentle outline of a spired curve in one of seven capacious treatment rooms in the Devarana Spa.
A particular treat about Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore is its incredibly bucolic setting on the edge of two tentpole golf courses, the Classic and the Masters, laid out by supremo designer, Andy Dye for the European, KLPGA, and Asian Tour Championships. For jetsetters more used to looking out from their hotel rooms at (or, perhaps, from) the skyscrapers of Marina Bay, there’s something incredibly soothing about waking to the courses’ gently undulating canopy of flame of forest, angsana and trumpet trees.
No other hotel in Singapore is cosseted by this much greenery – there’s nearly 14,600 yardage of it. Not even the famously lush Shangri-La in town comes close. Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo have played here, so there’s also that.
If you’ve checked into the ground floor rooms, there’s also a surreal quality about stepping out onto the expansive piazza that runs down the resort’s spine, its entire length linked by an 85-meter pool. A few steps away, and you’re on the edge of the greens and a great showboat of a lake, the latter, depending on the time of the day and year, frequented by Chinese Pond herons, white-throated kingfishers and, if you happen to be around the 16th and 17th holes of the Classic Course, the rarely spotted Masked Lapwing.
There are plenty of other distractions, not least three tennis courts; an “Eat Well, Sleep Well” spa program that’s paired with an organic farm in the works; a lunch that I highly recommend of burger and fries at The Nest, a heaving eatery overlooking the Masters Course’s 9th and 18th holes; and a treatment in Devarana Spa. (Pro tip: try the indulgent 2.5-hour Heavenly Nantha Garden Garden Experience, which includes a tingling body scrub, a soak in a petal-strewn bath, and a massage featuring a judicious mashup of Thai, Ayurvedic, shiatsu and Swedish strokes.)
Golfing neophytes might take off to the nearby Laguna National Driving Range for lessons with an LGA golf pro at the Leadbetter Golf Academy, or putting practice on the Short Game Area, a gorgeous 265-yard stretch of manicured green and bunkers.
And before you know it, dusk descends, sweeping away the day golfers. Meanwhile, inside the Greenhouse restaurant – a bijou nook teeming with a forest of potted plants – an appreciative crowd settles into executive chef Kim Gates’s cheerful mix of Western and Asian standards, including seafood-laced laksa, and mango and butterfly pea-blue sticky rice.
Later that evening, as you settle your head onto your soba buckwheat pillow (there are seven or so pillows to choose from), it occurs to you that you could almost convince yourself that you don’t actually need to travel all that far for a holiday. Dusit Thani and its grounds, for a hotel in a buzzy metropolis like Singapore, is strangely, meditatively quiet. And all the more welcome for it.
dusit.com; doubles from S$380