Author: John

Thailand Golf Tours – Great Getaways

Thailand Golf Tours – Great Getaways

Hi, my name is Wayne, that’s me second from the right.

I’m from Figtree in New South Wales, Australia. I’ve played golf for almost 30 years and am a member of Port Kembla Golf Club which is a short distance south of town on a beautiful spit of land bordered to the west and east by water and the beach. The course is long at 6,300 metres, tree-lined, and a legitimate championship test. I am currently playing off a 6 handicap.

My first time golfing in Thailand (indeed my first visit) was in June 2015.  The courses looked great on the internet & I’d heard people were really friendly. I travelled with 5 mates from the Figtree Hotel Social Golf club and returned in 2016 with 3 from the 2015 trip plus one other…all blokes.

In 2015 we played 5 rounds in Pattaya and Bangkok with the following year taking in Hua Hin as well; 7 rounds in total this time. We travelled both times with Golfasian whom we found on the web. Our first impressions were outstanding. The tour was so very well organised from the collection at the airport to departure, absolutely seamless.  Straight away Thailand made a big impression and was a wonderful experience.  The people are so friendly; nothing is a problem, everyone is smiling…it all seemed very carefree. Whether that’s the case behind the scenes it makes for a fabulous visit. We liked all our hotels, as good as anything I’ve ever stayed at: great locations, service and amenities.

Despite it being Thailand’s low season and the start of the “rainy” period we had great weather, only a little hot.  You couldn’t ask for more: great courses, delicious food and most of all the friendliness of the people. Our caddies were very good at their job and were prepared to have a good laugh. My favourite course(s) were the Jack Nicklaus-designed Laem Chabang Country Club (what I expect of a top championship course) and The Royal Gems which is a replica course comprised of many famous holes throughout the world including Amen Corner from Augusta.  I’ve been watching the Professionals play these holes for years and now I was able to play them myself.  Black Mountain was just magnificent and Khao Kheow Country Club a gorgeous layout, with Nikanti such a wonderful overall experience.

After golf we’d spend an hour or 2 in the pool, have a few beers with the boys then all go out for dinner & a few drinks. All in all it was exactly what I had hoped for and more…I’ll definitely be back.

Green Aerification…Spoiling My Golf Trip?

Green Aerification…Spoiling My Golf Trip?

In all likelihood it could spoil that day…it’s certainly not helping. A common question from clients intending to travel with Golfasian is; “While I’m there, will the greens have been aerated?”

Showing up to a golf course only to discover that it has recently undergone an aerification process is never a good thing. Clients have, after all, paid a relatively large sum to travel to play overseas. You were expecting the golf course, and especially its greens, to be in great shape. Instead you find them full of little holes or covered in sand or other topdressing. Golfasian understands that the golf course aerification process can be especially frustrating to golfers.

Aeration usually involves removal of half inch plugs that are subsequently filled with sand (topdressing); another word for this is coring. Other aerification techniques use machines with tines, or knives that simply poke holes through the soil; these have far less impact on the smooth roll of your ball but all in all a green isn’t at its best post maintenance of this kind.

But I can hear a great big “so what…I don’t want to play greens like that when I’ve travelled 2,000 miles to play golf, what are you doing about it?” The good news is that generally significant aeration takes place twice a year and at a time which is logical. When would you rest your soccer team….post and pre-season in all likelihood and greens get the same treatment. Thus in Thailand aeration takes place in April when the rains arrive and high season ends, and September when the course is gearing up for the new high season with maximum traffic starting November. Are you aware that Golfasian publishes golf course maintenance plans every month in its newsletter? Course inspections are also carried out to give notice that the greens may be particularly challenging. Bottom line, everything is done to guarantee the client a great day on the links.

Whilst trying not to be too tongue in cheek, does showing up to a golf course that is in the throes of aerification guarantee a bad time or a bad score? Consider the fact that PGA Tour legend Tom Watson shot a sizzling record 58 at his then-home course, Kansas City Country Club, just days after the greens had been aerated. Consider also that aerification is merely a short-term disruption that has long-term benefits for golf courses. When you see them, remember that without those little holes, the greens would eventually die…and with a more positive stroke a good score is still possible.

But rest assured, if Golfasian finds out that your best interests aren’t being served, everything will be done to resolve the problem, rescheduling where possible.

Golfing Thailand as a Single

Golfing Thailand as a Single

Titirangi Golf Club

My name is John Billington. I live in Aukland, New Zealand, which is the largest and most populace area in the country. I am a member of Titirangi Golf Club, a course designed by Alastair McKenzie on his trip south to design Royal Melbourne. I have played golf in most continents and especially on the McKenzie courses in California (including Cypress Point). I was a scratch handicapper but at 66 years I am now playing off a respectable 7.

I have been travelling to Europe for sailing holidays regularly for the past five years and transit through Asia. I travel one way alone, meeting my wife in Europe and taking the opportunity to play some golf on the way.

I started using Golfasian to arrange golf holidays in Thailand. It worked seamlessly for me with transport etc and because they tended to join me up with other groups I met many interesting people from all around the world whom I would not otherwise meet: Russians, Swedes, Germans, Dutch, Swiss, Scandinavians, and golfers from all over Asia; fascinating!!

Red Mountain 1st

The courses are all good, well-groomed and economical by world standards whilst facilities are of a uniformly high standard. Last year I spent a week on my own golfing in Phuket and recently a week in Chiang Mai. Red Mountain in Phuket is particularly stunning and a great test, whilst Alpine Chiang Mai is unique with its beautiful surroundings and varied types of holes providing different challenges.

I usually stay in hotels in the city rather than at a resort because I enjoy sightseeing, the local markets and restaurants including the wonderful street food.

Thai caddies are exceptional and great company; quite able to lift my spirits and get me back on track if I’m finding it difficult to find my rhythm. The Golfasian drivers are invariably courteous and efficient, providing recommendations on local attractions.

I will return to Thailand soon, this time with a group of friends from Titirangi. We shall probably play in the Chiang Mai area because the climate is appreciably cooler, the countryside truly beautiful and mountainous and there is such a lot to do and see. I’ll leave the arrangements to Golfasian…they haven’t let me down yet!

Golf in Myanmar

Golf in Myanmar

My name is Catherine Capozzi, and I’m from the golfer heaven state of Arizona in the US. Now, I live with my husband in India. Despite growing up in a place renowned for golf, I can’t say I’m very good at the sport: we don’t belong to any golf club, and the extent of our practice involves playing 9-hole courses around sunset at a discount. Nonetheless, my husband and I have made a concerted effort to improve our swing every time we go back to visit Arizona in the winter. And in this case, we decided to bring our burgeoning love of golf with us on vacation to Myanmar.

Myanmar had been on my family’s radar for some time: We knew it was an up-and-coming destination that hadn’t succumbed to the usual touristy pitfalls of over development and pollution. We heard it was rustic, clean, full of Buddhist history, had amazing cuisine and friendly people. All of these things proved correct, especially the hospitality. The unspoiled nature was easily one of the best parts, and I was amazed at how pristine the country was.

We didn’t think Burma and golf would go hand-in-hand, but the courses were actually quite beautiful. They unfortunately didn’t have left-handed golf clubs and we didn’t bring ours, so we had to alternate between using the back of a 5-iron for the left hand, or practising with my right and toting around the 7-iron as my defacto club (not that it helped). Thankfully, we found every bad swing rather amusing. If we were smart, we ‘d have brought our own clubs.

The caddies were the real heroes of our game, because they were out in the rough fishing out my husband’s golf balls practically every shot. They also were so attentive, setting up the balls in a makeshift tee from grass tufts. The ladies were great sports.

The courses were gorgeous. In Bagan, the course is situated among the famous pagodas so we enjoyed weaving our cart through these historic monuments. The Inle course was expansive and was very well-maintained. The weather was also cool here, but it started pouring rain around the 6th hole. One of my fondest memories of the trip will be how we careened down the course, making a beeline for the clubhouse as we all got drenched—especially the caddies, as they clung to the back while the rain pelted them. We gave up our golfing ambitions for the day once the rains hit, but we had a fabulous time.

GolfAsian made our vacation effortless and so enjoyable. The group consisted of my husband, our 15-month-old baby, my mother, and me. I was a little worried that the itinerary was too hectic (three cities by plane in a week), but the organization made travelling a breeze: someone was always waiting for us on the other side, our guides were compassionate, responsive and informative, and all we had to do was show up.

In Yangon, we were booked in a fantastic, spacious hotel called the Rose Garden. Our guide showed us some of the heritage buildings downtown, and gave us a tour of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. We found Yangon to be lush, clean, vibrant, and full of friendly people. We had a great time visiting the market and buying jade, Buddha statues, paper umbrellas and other quintessential Burmese souvenirs.

In our next stop, Bagan, we explored the ancient Buddhist monuments that pepper the rustic city. Tharabar Gate was easily one of our favorite hotels, and we enjoyed the amazing spread of local cuisine (as a vegan, I especially enjoyed the local chickpea-based tofu and fresh carrot salads. The peanut sauce in Myanmar is the stuff of legends. My husband, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of the fish). My mother and baby had a delightful time going through the green countryside in a horse-drawn carriage.

Our last stop was the Inle Lake region. There’s simply nowhere else in the world that can compare to this unique spot: they have floating gardens and an entire city built atop the water. Visiting these sites by boat was such a special experience that even the later rains didn’t damper the mood. Though the hotel didn’t have the best variety of food and the WiFi was intermittent, (as is the case in most hotels, was our understanding) the grounds were lush, expansive, and made for a beautiful walk.

8 days later, we all felt like we got the full Burma experience. We had a delightful family vacation!

Thailand Golf, Off the Beaten Track – A Golf Group’s Tale

Thailand Golf, Off the Beaten Track – A Golf Group’s Tale

Gary with Golfasian MD Mark Siegel
Gary with Golfasian MD Mark Siegel

Hi, my name is Gary. I am an Australian, originally from New South Wales, but now very comfortably domiciled in Perth, Western Australia with a wife of 35 years marriage and two grown up kids!

I have played golf since my father stuck a golf club in my hands when I was about 10 years old. At 61 years old now, I guess you could say I have been a long-term golfer. I have been a member of private golf clubs since a junior, and a member of my current golf club, Melville Glades for the last 22 years. My current handicap is 4 … hard earned at my age! I also happen to be the President of the club and have been on the Club’s Board for the last 5 years.  Melville Glades is a parkland golf course in the Perth metropolitan area and will celebrate 50 years of operations in 2017. We have in excess of 1,100 members with member competitions every day of the week.  Oh, we also have a mob of around 200 kangaroos that live on the golf course which is a very special experience for our members and visitors.

I have been to Thailand around half a dozen times, and have played golf in Phuket, Pattaya, Bangkok and now Kanchanaburi. Thailand is renowned as the best and most enjoyable golf tourism experience in Asia, and the combination of well-conditioned courses, excellent caddy services and comfortable, luxurious Clubhouses, makes for a unique golfing experience for visiting Australian golfers.

Gary with Golfasian's Hua Hin Manager Ian Morgan at Black Mountain
Gary at Black Mountain with Golfasian’s Hua Hin Manager Ian Morgan 

My most recent golf tour included Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi and Hua Hin. We played 5 great golf courses, including Black Mountain, Thai Country Club and Grand Prix … all different with individual challenges. Royal Ratchaburi was a unique and most enjoyable golf experience playing in the countryside and through the mountains bordering Myanmar.

With golf tours in Asia, you need to consider the time of the year and the prevailing weather conditions. There are obviously peak season times where prices increase, however I like to schedule my tours around the “shoulder” seasons where I can access some lower rates and then build some “value-add” into the tour price with things such as trophies, prizes, complimentary polo shirts etc.

My most recent tour had 22 guests and most were golfing couples. Being a 10-night golf tour, we only arranged a couple of team dinners … this allowed the guests to “do their own thing”! Some couples teamed up with others for dinner and drinks, and others went out for massages and shopping … things Thailand are famous for!

group-photoAll in all everyone thoroughly enjoyed the trip and would like to sample another Asian destination, perhaps Vietnam. Let’s see what Golfasian can do for us!!

Good Caddy, Not so Good…Some Answers Why

Good Caddy, Not so Good…Some Answers Why

Thailand’s caddies are one of its unique selling points generally because they work with an easy smile and just like the rest of Thailand’s renowned service industry just want you to enjoy yourself. But we golfers are far more demanding than just requiring a smile, we want Steve Williams on the bag. Therefore, that can’t be where the story ends.

d-schade-669x272If you have golfed here for many years you will have played with good, less good and somewhat mediocre caddies, generally described as “bag carriers”. To better understand what makes one caddy better than another and the inherent challenges faced in order to create the Williams effect, I spoke with Derek Schade, GM of Chiang Mai Highlands, who launched Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Resort in Northern Thailand and managed 3 golf courses in total.

GA – You launched an entire golfing organisation from nothing, so where exactly do you start when it comes to caddying?

DSIn the case of somewhere like Highlands which is entirely surrounded by rural areas, you are starting very much from scratch. It helps that I can speak fluent Thai so at first I went into the community and spoke to various groups explaining what would take place, the jobs that were on offer and what caddies might earn. Used to back breaking work in the fields, riding around in a cart with people prepared to pay 4,000 baht for hitting a ball with a stick for 4 hours got their attention…there was easy money to be made!

GA – I’m guessing things start slowly then become more involved?

DS – Exactly. Our programme ran in 3 week-long phases. First they needed to understand the language and etiquette of golf; tees, bunkers, greens, other hazards, where to stand on the green, when to talk and when to remain quiet, what the players were aiming to achieve. It was basic understanding when obviously all this was a complete mystery.

Following this we could look at more technical matters such as distances a particular club might travel and the flight of the ball, distances to aim points or trouble, greens and pins. Then how to rake bunkers and repair pitch marks.

Finally it was all about adding value and enabling better scoring on behalf of the customer (player). Take distances to a pin on a par 3: the hole marker will have distances from various coloured tees, perhaps a simple map and of course the flag itself will indicate front/middle/back and that has to be taken into account. The vast majority of caddies would say the distance as they saw it on the marker or score card, but the smart ones could say 150 to the middle but the pin’s at the front so maybe 145 yards. Some could even factor in the wind and the cream of the crop would then be able to club players. The final skill was to learn how to read the greens…an art for the best of us let alone for a Thai girl from a village who one month prior was planting rice.

GA – That’s a lot to learn in 3 weeks given the circumstances.

DS – It was and we were on a deadline to open. Basically, once we were sure the caddies wouldn’t embarrass themselves or the club they were let loose on the course but an attempt was made to put together groups where promising caddies could help the less able. In the end it worked surprisingly well.

GA – Impressive and it explains why some caddies are better than others.

DS – I know it is frustrating to get a caddy less able than another one in the group who is pulling out the right clubs and reading the greens superbly and of course that is reflected in the level of tipping, but I believe they are doing their best and when the course supervisors, the organisation and the caddies gain more experience naturally the abilities across the board rise. We are, of course, always investing in their training and are proud of all that has been achieved.

GA – Thanks Derek, hopefully we’ll all appreciate our caddies even more in the future.

Amazing Asia Golf Double-Header: Vietnam & Thailand Combined

Amazing Asia Golf Double-Header: Vietnam & Thailand Combined

Hi, my name is Willy Ma.   I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Canada to finish high school.  I then attended college in the US and made Los Angeles my permanent residence.   I am a member at Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank, Los Angeles, California founded in 1924: Bing Crosby was club champion 5 times. I am also a member at Village Country Club at Lompoc, California in Santa Barbara County.

My current SCGA Index is about 14. I started playing golf in the 1980s and take regular golf lessons from various golf schools and PGA Professionals so hope to get to single figures before too long. I often plan golf trips for my group of 8 to 16 golfers from all over the world aiming to play the world’s best courses. We’ve travelled to Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, China, Canada, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos as well as locally in US.   Golf in China used to be my favourite but after this Vietnam and Thailand trip arranged by Golfasian, I would come back in a heart-beat. I find Southeast Asians are the friendliest and most respectful people…..and our dollars go a long way. I would like to plan more trips to Southeast Asia and eventually find a place there to retire. My wife is also an avid golfer but she cannot deal with the humidity and mosquitoes. I also love the food and massages; the only way to end a day’s golf. There’s no place like Thailand.

willy-ma-kings-island-gc
King’s Island GC, Hanoi

On my recent trip to Hanoi, I loved all the courses we played in the itinerary except The BRM Legend Hill.  It didn’t seem like a Jack Nicklaus-designed course at all. Notwithstanding, my most memorable hole was a 498 yards par 5.  I was on in two with a 12 foot putt for an eagle; lipped out and made a birdie; very satisfying.  We played the blue tees at all venues and found the courses in Hanoi were very challenging and well designed. My preference has always been for old established courses rather than modern ones.  My best rounds on this trip were at Sky Lake and Kings Island in Hanoi, Springfield and Banyan in Hua Hin.

Banyan GC
Banyan GC

Everything was perfect until the last round at Black Mountain in Hua Hin. I was so looking forward to playing there but the whole experience that day really disappointed me. The course condition was poor, muddy and wet with track marks all over the fairways. There was not one hole that was decent. On top of that, we backed into a group of beginner, older golfers from Australia. They were talking on the tee box most of the time and one guy in particular was always far behind his own group.  It was a five hour round and I had to wait five or more minutes to hit all my shots.  I asked our caddies to go around them but they were afraid to do so. I wish there were Marshalls at these courses and people would be more considerate of others.  I really wanted to quit after 9 holes. A shame things turned out that way because I’m sure such a prestigious course is wonderful in its prime.

The hotel selections in the package were very good especially the Anantara Resort. I liked the Anantara for its location away from all the tourists, plus the staff there were excellent. The manager Sheldon was always there to greet us at the breakfast buffet which was a nice touch. We totally enjoyed the breakfast buffet which was a great way to start our day before golf. All the Golfasian drivers were courteous and patient.

Lastly, I would like to thank Ms Ha Bui Viet for planning our package and our guide Brian Tho Nguyen in Hanoi for making our trip so pleasant.  They both really went the extra mile to help us with any request.

It was a memorable trip and we can’t wait to return for more.

Group’s Long Weekend Golf in Chiang Mai

Group’s Long Weekend Golf in Chiang Mai

My name is Tim Spriggs, an Englishman who lives and works in Singapore. For the past couple of years a group of friends and I have undertaken a short golf tour elsewhere in Asia, last year in Danang Vietnam and this year in Thailand. Whilst we play in Singapore, membership is prohibitively expensive so travelling works out cheaper and we enjoy exploring new places and their golf offer. We loved Danang, but having done quite a bit of research knew that Thailand would be great fun with superb food and some decent nightlife. Notwithstanding, we weren’t yet ready for a venue such as Pattaya and thought that Chiang Mai would be a sensible “christening”; for many of us this was the first visit to Thailand.

Working with Golfasian came about because of a simple Google search. Their website was comprehensive and informative and our initial enquiry was responded to promptly which always impresses. We were given some excellent advice about which courses to play and where to stay, preferring downtown. This was only a 3-day trip but it felt good to have everything organised and allowed the golf to take centre stage. On the side, I worked with Mike Moyer of Fenix Golf to organise team shirts, caps and prizes: Mike was incredibly helpful given this was only a small order (8 players) and he really took care of us.

Everything went without a hitch. Local travel arrangements, hotels and golf all materialized without a single issue. There are no compromises, no snags and no surprises. Every day we had some sort of team competition that culminated in a finale at Gassan Khuntan. The après golf started in the bar post the round with prizes and some “fines” various from appearing late for breakfast to not driving past the ladies’ tee (no names, no pack-drill).

alpine-chiang-mai-greenChiang Mai was beautiful and the people at all levels so welcoming. The food is sensational and golf courses are magnificent. We first played Alpine which was notable for its superb and very challenging par 3s, then 36 holes at Highlands (our favourite) whose backdrop was breath taking, and finally Gassan Khuntan which was super-challenging. Khuntan is in a truly exquisite setting located in the lee of the northern mountains of Thailand. The extensive water hazards will challenge most golfers so bring your best game to this course. It is shameless and can strip away your dignity, but what a pleasure. You cannot talk golf in Thailand without recognising the delightful Caddies. Those gentle people who give intuitive advice, moral support, best club selection and playing strategies to suit the course and your game. My experience tells me to listen and follow their wisdom.

All the group agreed that golfing in Thailand was special and are now planning a return. I would like to thank Golfasian for making it all possible in such a seamless way. We loved every minute and will return!

Fabulous Chiang Mai, a Great Golf Destination

Fabulous Chiang Mai, a Great Golf Destination

Having moved to the area of Chiang Mai I am reminded how beautiful the place is, full of culture and fabulous to explore. Thailand’s most mountainous region (albeit “mini-mountains”) it supplies fabulous opportunities for great golf.

Chiang MaiAdditionally, unlike Bangkok which tends to be hot all year round, Chiang Mai has a genuine “winter” period (end November until start April) when the temperatures can fall to the sublime mid twenties and prompt the actual wearing of a sweater (I only have one…threw all the others away). But that’s just the icing on the cake. Rather than go into great detail, which you will be better served by reading the Lonely Planet guide, I’ll provide an overview and give you just a taste.

The city is relatively compact and much more residential in feel which makes exploring on foot easy and fun. Whilst it has modern shopping, high rise hotels and commercial areas there are also myriad back streets with markets, small craft and coffee shops plus what seems like hundreds of small hotels and guest houses that cater for visitors, particularly those backpacking in Asia. In those back streets you may come across a beautiful temple or ancient monument which appears unexpectedly.  As you’d expect in Thailand, you are never far from “street food”which in this part of the world is subtly different (try the local speciality, Khao Soi, which is a delicious noodle curry with just a hint of Indian spices), but in recent years, because of the influx of foreign visitors and residents from the four corners of the world, there are all manner of restaurants and cuisines available…I particularly like The Swan, a Burmese restaurant in the centre of the tourist area.

Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon

Chiang Mai is surrounded by beautiful countryside, predominantly forest-covered hills and mountainous areas (whilst small nonetheless spectacular) including Doi Inthanon Thailand’s highest point. This terrain provides the wonderful backdrop to many of the area’s golf courses making them so different from others elsewhere in Thailand. Because the local area is largely rural the roads are quiet and in excellent condition because they don’t get so much heavy traffic and exploring in a car is actually pleasant and stress free.

What of the golf itself? In Highlands, Alpine and the recently refurbished Gassan Legacy you have 3 of the finest courses in the country, all of which provide challenging yet rewarding experiences in gorgeous surroundings. There are others, of course, over a dozen and don’t forget the superb Robert Trent Jones Santiburi near Chiang Rai, only a couple of hours away.  So there you have it…Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s unsung golf destinations , give it a try you’ll be delighted you did.

For information on Chiang Mai Golf Packages go to www.golfasian.com/golf-holidays/thailand/chiang-mai/ or contact info@golfasian.com

Living on a Golf Course in Thailand

Living on a Golf Course in Thailand

Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort. Courtesy of Richard Castka
Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort. Courtesy of Richard Castka

For some of us golfers it’s a dream, certainly for me. I’m sitting on the balcony of my rented condominium looking out over beautiful Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Resort in the north of Thailand, my new home. Am savouring the view but also having to pinch myself and acknowledge how lucky I am.

It won’t be all plain sailing because the site is quite remote and my wife (also a golfer) and I have spent the last 9 years in bustling and bedazzling Bangkok so this is a huge change in tempo. However, we plan to give this life a go and see if our future lies here.

This is day two and I have decided to write a blog about the experience. It won’t be about me, but hopefully give readers an insight into this area, it’s golf and this particular lifestyle…keeping things in the ‘Zone’.  The main reason I am writing, is that whilst I’m sure such blogs exist for places like Florida or The Algarve I haven’t seen such a blog for Thailand. I also won’t keep up the blog for too long, because as I said, it’s an insight only.

On that note let’s see where the next several weeks take us. I’d value any feedback or questions.

Wonder when we’ll play our first round?

JC

 

 

Our Best Hua Hin Golf Holiday

Our Best Hua Hin Golf Holiday

Hi, my name is Tony Spanjers. As you can see from the photo we were a group of sixteen, made up of “Captains and Presidents”, Captains being Orange and Presidents being blue. We played a two ball match play stableford format with Captains prevailing on this particular trip. We are all from Perth, Western Australia and are members of Araluen Golf Resort, which is situated in the hills South East of Perth. Those of us who are no longer working generally play every Saturday and Wednesday together. Our handicaps range from 7 to 27, so a fairly diverse mix of ability.

For some time have been touring as a group, with numbers varying between 12 & 16, every year in July or August [winter in Perth]. Each year we choose a different tour director and different location. Last year we toured and played golf in Da Nang Vietnam, and 2014 we were in Pattaya. We have also been to China’s Mission Hills, New Zealand, the Gold Coast Australia, and sand belt, Melbourne Aust.

We were all very happy and impressed by our Hua Hin golf tour, in fact we considered it our best tour yet from all angles. Prices were very reasonable (important as a few of our members aren’t working). The golf courses were excellent, especially Black Mountain Golf Club and the management of our itinerary and transport plus tee times was exemplary. Our only concern was the condition of the greens at Sea Pines but overall we were very happy with the caddies, the weather [only got wet once], the hotel which was in a great location in the centre of all the entertainment venues and had the most friendly staff, plus the Thai people in general.

Black Mountain- View from behind the 10th greenOur best score was a 49 points which was outstanding, from memory first game at Black Mountain…it wasn’t me!

After every round, we enjoyed group beers, ate lunch, and collated scores and updated team positions, paying out prize money to first, second and third as well as settling personal bets.

Back at the hotel it was a quick change and head for the pool’s swim up bar for a couple of hours. All would meet in the lobby around 8 pm and head off into the night and choose a local restaurant for dinner. After dinner some headed back to hotel, some to a nightclub or pool bar, eventually all ending up in bed ready for the battle to resume the next day. As I said, it was a great trip and one to remember. I’m confident Thailand will feature in future outings.

A Big Fan of Golfasian

A Big Fan of Golfasian

Graham and Mark S at Centara MastersMy name is Graham Cater, an Aussie who plays Southport Golf Club on the Gold Coast of Australia. It is there I hone my skills and test my mental strength to ready me for our annual Thailand Golf Tour.

Playing golf in Thailand is not just about the game it is an exotic experience that has left me with the most wonderful memories from the Land of Smiles. Now I don’t always play well and I have been known to miss the odd easy putt but nothing can stop the enjoyment I get playing on some of the best golf courses in Asia.

Graham with some GA staffI first heard about golf in Thailand and Golfasian whilst playing with a group in Singapore. It sounded exciting and the more I investigated the practicalities of putting a tour together the more enthusiastic I became. Then it all came together in March 2012. I had contacted Golfasian and received a quick response from Bee. I was amazed at the efficiency with which Bee put our first golf tour in Hua Hin together. Local travel arrangements, hotels and golf all materialized without a hitch. Five years on and Bee is still looking after our group. She has become our good friend as have many of the wonderful staff of Golfasian.  Currently we are considering Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia for an extended tour, all of which are covered by Golfasian with their own in-country staffs. What makes touring so easy with Golfasian is their awareness of your individual needs. This is integral to their business model. There are no compromises, no snags and no surprises.

Grahams crazy companionsThailand is a beautiful country with a wonderful culture. The people are most welcoming, the food is sensational and golf courses are magnificent. I love the green curries, Pad Thai and the tasty whole fish with an accompaniment of shrimp and lobster, all washed down with a cold Singha beer.  What is surprising is how little it costs to have such a spread of dishes.  We play courses in Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Hua Hin. We consider Hua Hin our home-from-home destination. The sweeping fairways of the Pirapon Namatra-designed Banyan offer golfers a world class experience in spectacular surroundings. The championship course Black Mountain is everything you would expect and is acknowledged as the best golf course in Asia. Hosting both Asian and European Tour events it has won a string of international awards and is my favourite course. Gassan Khuntan in Chiang Mai is in a truly exquisite setting located in the northern mountains of Thailand. The extensive water hazards will challenge most golfers so bring your best game to this course. It is shameless and can strip away your dignity, but Some of Grahams friends on a caddie's motorbikewhat a pleasure. You cannot talk golf in Thailand without recognising the delightful Caddies. Those gentle people who give intuitive advice, moral support, best club selection and playing strategies to suit the course and your game. My experience tells me to listen and follow their wisdom.

From the mountains to the sea there is a golf course in Thailand for every golfer. It is such a relaxing experience, it is beautiful and such fun. Golfasian cannot improve your golf but they can give you a golfing experience you will never forget. I have recommended 60-70 golfers and friends who have also enjoyed the Golfasian experience and all returned with the same praise. Thanks for providing such outstanding service.

Drought – A Golf Course’s Greatest Challenge

Drought – A Golf Course’s Greatest Challenge

We are aware that Thailand’s tropical climate has a rainy season (Apr-Nov, see http://www.thailandgolfzone.com/thailands-rainy-season-how-does-it-affect-our-golf) and the remaining months enjoy hot and predominantly dry weather throughout, resulting in a tourist “high season” especially in respect of golfing visitors. The 4 main golf areas, Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai all have to manage their water in this period in order to sustain good playing conditions throughout the year. When water is scarce, there is the added challenge that community demand takes priority. Thus, sustainability becomes paramount and stockpiling precious water in the rainy season essential.

Designers are very aware of this which is why water features abound in Asia and strategic reservoiring in the form of large lakes is no accident. A great deal of time and specialist expertise is invested in planning for water sourcing. We all want our courses to be lush and green and when conditions are parched, greens rock hard and fairways threadbare we notice; although every cloud has a silver lining and 40 yards run on your driver comes in very handy! Notwithstanding, drought conditions are bad for business…visitors expect the best experience and take good conditioning for granted so the 2015/16 dry season has been a significant challenge as genuine drought conditions prevailed for the first time in years. One prestigious golf course in particular suffered; Springfield Royal Country Club near Hua Hin. This superb Jack Nicklaus design was hit hard with its various lakes as low as 10% capacity and significant restrictions placed on water usage. Others in the area faired just as badly, but the 2 most prestigious local courses Black Mountain and Banyan weren’t impacted so severely, perhaps because they planned better or maybe they were just luckier. Black Mountain was of course hosting the True Thailand Classic in February and needed to be in prime condition in front of the television cameras but a few months later even they were seen to suffer “around the fringes”.

The drought was certainly bad with almost no rainfall from November until late May; just a couple of showers in January which made no impact. It was the worst drought in Thailand in almost a decade. The last was in 2009 but this year was more severe. An additional factor is that Hua Hin’s population is also expanding rapidly and the growing demand for domestic water risks outstripping supply completely.  There are rumours of water pipelines from outlying areas that support Hua Hin but as yet nothing concrete has been announced.

La Quinta, California

This isn’t a new experience for global golf. In the United States, in areas that suffer from water shortages throughout the year and experience high household demand, such as California and Arizona, the golf community has always struggled with its water consumption, environmental credentials and aura of exclusivity. When Californians can’t clean their beloved cars because of hosepipe bans and on the television and lining magazine shelves there are glossy pictures of pristine, fabulously green fairways with what appears to an extravagant use of sprinklers used to maintain this idyllic lifestyle for the wealthy and privileged, naturally there is a clammer to close the whole industry down.

Thailand doesn’t yet face this type of problem and water management is very clearly a challenging and complex issue as periods of severe flooding give way to drought. Nevertheless, the golf industry, which is an important and growing contributor to the country’s tourism offering needs to do all it can to plan for the threat of drought and manage its resources accordingly to minimise the risk of losing some courses altogether.

Springfield Royal Country Club
Springfield Royal Country Club

I shall end by saying that from what I experienced this past weekend, happily the staff and management at Springfield Royal Country Club have recovered their course to full playability which is good news for golf fans.

Your Views…Hua Hin

Your Views…Hua Hin

Hi my name is Paul Keefe. My wife and I live in Montreal in Canada.

I am 72 and have been a Member of a golf club for 50 years. My current club of 33 years is Royal Montreal. We have 45 holes and our claim to fame is we are the oldest golf club in North America. We have hosted the President’s Cup and many Canadian Opens.

My lowest handicap was a 12. While I was working golf was limited to 20-30 games a year but since retirement 10 years ago, I have been playing a lot of golf. My handicap increased over the years to 18.

image2My wife and I first came to Thailand in 1990 for our honeymoon and since coming for golf for the first time 6 years ago we have seen many changes. On one particular trip we stayed for 8 weeks and loved the experience.

We have tweaked our trip each year to see as much of South East Asia as possible. In Thailand we have golfed in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Hua Hin and Pattaya. We have also golfed in Vietnam and Cambodia (Siem Riep and Phnom Penh).

There is so much to like about golf in Thailand, but in particular we think the hotels are outstanding because of their superb service and the friendliness of staff. We like the Westin in Bangkok because it is on the BTS transportation line. In Hua Hin the Centara and the Hilton are located on a beautiful beach and are right in the center of town. For the golf, of course having a caddie is a real treat. They are really good with yardages and reading greens.

The courses for the most part are in great shape and most are excellent designs. My favorite courses are Black Mountain and Banyan in Hua Hin, St Andrews and Siam Country Club in Pattaya and Thai Country Club and Summit Windmill in Bangkok. The weather is usually great. In 6 years I was only forced to abandon one game due to a rain storm. We always walked until this year when we started using a cart because of medical issues.

Post our rounds of golf, in the beach towns we would return to the hotel and enjoy the facilities, in Bangkok we shopped. The shopping compared to Canada in terms of choice and variety is incredible.  Of course having a post golf massage is wonderful.  Renowned for its cuisine, the restaurant choices are amazing. The shopping centers have great restaurants and the prices are incredibly reasonable.

We keep coming back because of the value, choice and wonderful, varied experiences. We think Thailand is hard to beat as a golf destination.

Your Views on Golf in Hua Hin

Your Views on Golf in Hua Hin

Hi, my name is Craig Philpott. I am from the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. I travelled to Hua Hin with 4 mates from Nudgee Golf Club in Brisbane.  I have played golf for approximately 30 years. My handicap is 4 at the moment. I am a member of Nudgee Golf Club in Brisbane. Nudgee is a members’ course but open to guests as well.

This was my first time to Thailand. We selected Hua Hin so we could watch a member of our club, Scott Hend, play in the Thailand Classic, which he duly won so we now have to return next year! Three of the members on the trip have known Scott for quite a few years so this was a cause for much celebration.

My first impression of Thailand was “how good is this”. We were picked up by Golfasian at Bangkok airport and transported straight to our hotel at Hua Hin in a very comfortable vehicle. Check-in was swift and I was in my room within 10 minutes of arrival. Next morning we enjoyed a very good breakfast before heading to the front of the hotel ready for golf. The Golfasian driver was waiting for us and we were on our way. We played Sea Pines first and I would recommend this course to anyone. It’s a very good course with great views out to sea on the first, second and the last few holes. Played Banyan and it was everything I had been told it would be. A course with everything, tight holes, wide open holes, trouble for the unwary but playable for all; also in very, very good condition. Springfield Royal was next. Due to the drought it was very dry, which meant not only were the fairways firm (although well grassed) but the large dams were dry. Tee blocks, fairways and greens were in remarkable condition considering the lack of rain the course has received over the past 2 years. I would love to play this course again once the rains return and replenish the water holes. Majestic was next and it also was quite dry once off the fairways. Very playable for all standards and an enjoyable course. Again, would like to play this course after rain as it would be a great test. The staff have done a great job to have it in the condition it was in. Black Mountain was the last course we planned and it was in absolutely great condition 4 days after the Thailand Classic. Not sure what I can say about this course apart from it was a privilege to play such a wonderful layout. Playing from the 7000 yard tees I somehow eagled the 18th, driver, 3 wood and a 3 metre downhill putt. Black Mountain rates in the top 6 courses I have played, sitting alongside the Palmer course in Hawaii, Cottesloe in Perth Western Australia, Royal Adelaide, Troon North in Scottsdale Arizona & Torrey Pines South course.

We liked everything about the trip. Caddies were great; all very pleasant and very informative. It didn’t take long for them to work out our strengths and weaknesses. The price may be leaning towards the top of the scale but when everything is as well organised as this trip was it was well worth the money. Condition of the courses was fantastic when all is considered. Favourite course was Black Mountain but the others were very enjoyable. There were many favourite holes but due to my eagle the 18th at Black Mountain is at the top. The 14th & 15th at Springfield Royal would be great holes when the dam is full; what an awesome sight from the tee blocks. The 3rd & 18th at Banyan were great, 1st, 2nd, 16th, 17th & 18th at Sea Pines – fantastic. Majestic also had some great holes but I can’t remember which numbers. Weather was beautiful…couldn’t ask for better. One player had 38 stableford points one day which was the best in the group. My best was 34 at Sea Pines, maybe I was enjoying the courses too much to concentrate. The best day was the Thursday at Black Mountain. Everything about this day will be remembered for a very long time.

After golf we did a little bit of site seeing but mostly visited restaurants and bars, checked out the markets and did some forward planning for our return which will be asap. Everyone we encountered was smiling and happy. Fantastic local people who were only too willing to chat and give us ideas on what to do.

I’ve already recommended Golfasian to others and will continue to do so for anyone who wants a fantastic golf holiday in Asia. A huge thank you to Ian Morgan and his team in Hua Hin for a job well done.

Amateur Weeks – Spice up your Golf Vacation

Amateur Weeks – Spice up your Golf Vacation

Pattaya WeekGolfasian, Thailand’s largest Inbound Golf Tour Operator, has been bringing clients to Thailand for amateur tournament golf since 2012. In the following year, for their Amateur Golf Weeks the venues were expanded to include Cambodia and Vietnam.

Although the company has been providing Asia golf packages to clients throughout the world since the late 1990s, including transport, accommodation and golf, a gap in the market was recognised for a 5-star offer with an additional element…competition. Importantly, the tournament play would be run along professional lines with sponsorship, branded shirts, caddie bibs, sophisticated score keeping using the latest software, plus marshalling (in co-operation with course staff), rules officiating and of course prizes; all overseen by Tournament Director PGTAA qualified Mark Penfold, who has over 10 years of experience in the industry.

“One of the most common responses when we ask clients what they most liked about their golf trips with us is everything is taken care of, I can just concentrate on my golf. When we introduced the competitive element we needed it to be very fair and transparent, giving participants the confidence that things were being run properly, just like they are at their home clubs. Elements like the caddie bibs add a bit of drama and uniqueness giving players the feeling that they are being taken seriously and playing for something that matters; this often brings out the best in them.”

They mean it when they say 5-star. For Pattaya this year, the accommodation was at the Amari Ocean View and 4 rounds of golf were played at Siam Country Club’s superb triumvirate of courses plus the Jack Niklaus-designed Laem Chabang. The timing, in March, deliberately takes advantage of the recently finished Honda LPGA Thailand on the Old Course as well as the joint European/Asian Tour’s Thailand Classic at Hua Hin’s Black Mountain, ensuring both are in immaculate condition with lightning fast greens. But people shouldn’t be intimidated. Men and women of all ages are welcome and there are competition divisions for handicaps ranging from scratch to 40+. The scoring is along stableford lines so pace of play is maintained.

pattaya 4Because it’s also about the social side either travelling with friends/spouse or forming friendships anew, there is an emphasis on the social side with both welcome and prize giving dinners plus daily happy hour gatherings for the latest scores update, near pins and assorted other giveaways.

What do people think…?

“As usual the whole 7-day event was memorable. Sure, the golf is the draw card but besides the great courses I loved the tension (not too serious) of the competition, the social events, catching up with old friends and making new. When the rest day came around it was a great opportunity to site-see, do some shopping and soak up the local culture. I’m hooked and can’t wait for the next one.”

Richard – Sydney

Your Holidays in Focus

Your Holidays in Focus

 

J Kirby 1Hi, my name is Joe. I started playing golf in 1992 as a club member at Amstel Golf Club, but am now playing off a 10 handicap at Drouin Golf and Country Club at Drouin Victoria in Australia. The Drouin course is predominately couch fairways set amongst a picnic day racecourse, quite picturesque. My lowest playing handicap has been 7.

Before this trip, I had travelled to Thailand twice before, backpacking, and not staying in any one place for any length of time.

A local Drouin member had taken a group of friends to Thailand last year and had organised another trip in May 2015, so I decided to join this group along with a few others who hadn’t been to Thailand golfing either. I didn’t know these members, but by the time we left Hua Hin the 12 of us had become good mates. All agreed to return next year.

We all agreed it was sensational. The golf courses are well above par, the food great, the night markets and social activities were sensational.

Having had such a magnificent time golfing in Thailand, I couldn’t wait to go again.

I found Golfasian on their website and their Asia Golf Week tournaments caught my eye. They were available at a great price, including golf, caddies, carts, accommodation, all overland transfers plus group dinners. I booked in for the Chiang Mai amateur tournament, apprehensive at first not knowing anyone, but was soon put at ease with some supporting emails from Mark Penfold, director of events.

Upon arrival at Chiang Mai I was promptly picked up for my transfer to the hotel. The group meeting that night was full of expectation and excitement. As the week rolled on new friendships grew and the golf became more competitive. The beautiful courses at Alpine, Chiang Mai Highlands and Gassan were very challenging and a real test, particularly as it was a competition. If it wasn’t for the knowledge of the caddies I’m guessing many of us would have really suffered.

Kirby Alpine CNXThe Alpine Golf Resort had been set up for the ASEAN championships, so it was very tough with its Bermuda rough and tight fairways.

The last round at Chiangmai Highlands Resort and Spa surrounded by the local hills was also tough but very scenic and easy on the eyes. My score of 34 points wasn’t good enough to hold off the better players on the day. The courses selected by Golfasian, that I have seen so far, are top quality layouts making you think about every shot.

The location of the hotels were excellent, very close to all amenities, bars, restaurants and markets. The golf course transfer drivers were efficient; always on time and very polite.

Although the weather was hot, which I don’t mind, the caddies were always on hand with an umbrella and a cold drink or parking the golf cart in the shade; the ultimate indulgence.

J Kirby 2After the round a nice cool drink, snack and some good stories were exchanged in the beautiful club houses, before returning to the hotel for an evening meal.

I am extremely impressed with the professionalism of Golfasian. I really can’t think of anything that could improve the Chiang Mai amateur championship tournament.

I urge those thinking about it to just do it, you won’t be disappointed. I’m off to Hua Hin in March 2016.

Thailand Golf Trips – Not Just for Golfers

Thailand Golf Trips – Not Just for Golfers

My name is Steve Hall.  I am originally from England but migrated to Australia just over 8 years ago.  We live on the beautiful South West Coast of Australia in a small place called Australind, approximately 2 hours South of Perth.   Here we are fortunate to be able to enjoy the outdoor life; lovely beaches, many BBQ’s, beach fishing, numerous wineries and of course golf. I started to play golf with my sons when we first came to Australia and later, when we made friends with others who enjoyed the game too, I joined one of our local golf clubs called Sanctuary Golf Resort.  It is an 18-hole municipal golf course and can be quite challenging at times with its many lakes and sand bunkers.

Although I have been playing the game now for several years, I still have a rather high handicap; one I would not care to mention, but I am slowly getting it down.  My wife says she is proud of me for my sheer determination in continuing on but I do enjoy the sport, more on a good day, and especially the social side which comes with it.  It is our third time in Thailand but our first time golfing.  We chose Thailand and especially Hua Hin because it was highly recommended to us by our son.  He stayed there with friends a couple of years ago and was very impressed with both the area and the golf.  I found Golfasian on the internet, emailed them with our requirements and went from there.  We travelled with friends of ours, Scott and Sandra.  Neither of our wives play golf so we needed to make sure that there would be enough for them to do whilst we were off enjoying the game.  Golfasian came up with a very attractive package and before we knew it we were booked and ready to go.

LaksasubhaWe stayed in Hua Hin for seven nights at the Hotel Baan Laksasubha Resort. A beautiful Colonial, Thai-designed property located right on the beach and close to all the shops, bars and restaurants.  The rooms and grounds were kept very clean and the staff were so friendly and helpful.   The infinity pool overlooking the beach was a big hit for us.

Our itinerary included three alternate days of golf where we played Springfield Royal Country Club, Banyan Golf Club and Black Mountain Golf Club.  The conditions of the courses were excellent but my favorite was Banyan because there I played a better game and although all our caddies were excellent, the caddies we had here were a lot of fun.  Whilst we played golf, the girls kept themselves entertained with shopping, massages, relaxing by the pool and lunch and cocktails at the beach bar.  After golf we would all relax by the pool with a cold beer.  What could be better.  In the evenings we dined at some of the wonderful restaurants Hua Hin has to offer.  The food was excellent and the people very friendly.

siam wineryOn one of the none golfing days we took a taxi to a winery which was just under an hour away.  “Winery in Thailand” I hear you say.  Yes, we could not believe it either and it did not cost much to get there.  It was set in beautiful lush green surroundings and reminded us of one of the wineries not far from where we live.  There we sampled some lovely wines ready to then order with our lunch.  The food was tasty but the portions a little small.

We spent another day fishing at the Hua Hin Fishing Lodge.  The surroundings were idyllic, relaxing and then explosive when you catch a fish.  Here the girls caught their biggest fish ever.  A nine kilo and eighteen kilo catfish.  It was amazing and an excellent day was had by all.

The simplicity of booking the holiday was excellent and we found the staff of Golfasian excellent too.  Travel from the airport in Bangkok to the hotel in Hua Hin and the return journey was the most comfortable we have experienced.  The whole Thailand golf experience from start to finish was fantastic and not only would we recommend this to others, including none golfers, but we are hoping to return again next year.  This time for longer in order to try out more golf courses.

 

The perfect Father/Son golf trip – Hua Hin

The perfect Father/Son golf trip – Hua Hin

My name is Aki Mustonen. My father, who accompanied me on this very special father/son trip is Timo. We come from Finland; Dad lives in Helsinki and I live and work in Beijing.

My father started playing golf in Finland at the age of 35. Once my sister and I arrived he stopped playing but once I became old enough (aged 10) he got me a couple of modified clubs and I was able to practice with him occasionally. At that time I was more interested in football and ice-hockey so one day I informed him I was no longer going to play golf. My dad continued playing occasionally and once we moved to China in 1998 he joined a golf club there, and again I occasionally joined him. At this time his handicap was 12.

I was finally bitten by the golf bug when I attended the Sports Institution of Finland at age of 22. To my pleasant surprise we had access to a free 9-hole practice course. Very quickly my handicap dropped to the low 20s, also playing golf quite a bit with my father. My current handicap is 18 but I’m looking to drop to 10 this year.

Vierumaki Golf Club
Vierumaki Golf Club

In Finland I belong to Vierumaki golf club, which has 2 tree-lined courses (pine trees and lots of heather) and the practice facility which the Institute uses.  The “Cooke” is a championship course and challenges all levels of players: the 18th and 13th holes were included in Golf Digest magazine’s readers’ Dream 18 golf course.

This was not the first time we had travelled to Thailand having previously been to Bangkok, Koh Samui and Phuket with the entire family. This was, however, the first visit to Hua Hin which appeared to have a good golf pedigree and was still relatively convenient for Bangkok.

Our first Thailand golf experience was something very special for both of us. Thanks to Golfasian everything was taken care of in advance so all we had to worry about was to wake up, have breakfast and play golf. In Finland we always walk, but in Thailand we used carts for almost every round because it does get very hot during the day (caddies appreciated it too!). Additionally, our two favourites, Black Mountain and Banyan are quite hilly.

IMG_1393One part of the golf experience was the energetic and friendly caddies with whom we got to share our rounds. Not only were they keen to laugh and joke around with us but they also proved to be very capable at reading the tricky greens, especially at Black Mountain. Thanks to one amazing caddie and her green-reading skills I scored my best round at Black Mountain, 84 from the back tee! Some of the caddies also respected the Finnish tradition of enjoying a small “nip” of cognac when a birdie was scored 🙂 although I have to admit it didn’t happen too often. Another part of the golf experience was meeting nice people who joined us to make a 4-ball. It’s interesting to hear stories and backgrounds from different people around the world.

IMG_1611After golf we would have a shower to freshen up, drink a beer (or two…) and have a snack at the club house. On a few occasions (3) we enjoyed ourselves so much we played an additional round. If we had time we would go back to our rented villa which was part of the package and enjoy the sunshine by our pool, perhaps the Black Mountain Water Park or even at the beach which is 20 minutes away. Generally we had dinner in town at one of several restaurants before heading back to bed and preparing for a new day’s golf.

In conclusion we were really satisfied with how everything ended up for us in terms of transport, accommodation, golf and free time. Hua Hin has a lot of beautiful golf courses and we found that it was perfect to be able to focus on the best course as far as we are concerned, Black Mountain, while also taking the opportunity to play three others. Two weeks was the right amount of time to get in a lot of golf but still have enough time for other things.

We highly recommend Golfasian services as well as Hua Hin for those who are looking to enjoy a memorable golf experience.

Thailand Golf Holiday Experiences

Thailand Golf Holiday Experiences

Hi, my name is Bob Wood. I am from the Sunshine Coast, just north of Brisbane in Australia.

Bob Wood HI1I have played golf for over 50 years but have become more serious in recent years after my retirement from Secondary School teaching. I play off a handicap of between 6 & 8, depending on the benevolence of the golfing Gods and am a member of Caloundra Golf Club a parkland course north of the town of Caloundra and just a few kilometres inland. I usually play competitions at my club 3 times a week.

Recently, on a golfing trip to Thailand I had my second hole in one at Lam Luk Ka Golf Club one hour north of Bangkok on the 145 metre par 3, 12th (the first was last year at The Royal Gems). It’s always great to see the ball go in off the tee on a par 3 but particularly good fun when you are on holiday playing with friends in beautiful surroundings.

This is my 6th Thailand golf holiday with like-minded golfing addicts from Australia. I consider Thailand to be the best golfing experience in the world. The courses are excellent and the caddies in the main are friendly, competent and diligent; they add to the ambience of any day. The friendliness of the Thai people in general is overwhelming.

West Course 12th
West Course 12th

Our Thailand destinations have included Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Hua Hin all of which offer the full cultural and golfing experience without the hassles of big city traffic and crowds.

All our trips have been expertly organised by Golfasian, whom we have found to be friendly, well organised and reliable.

Surprising Chiang Mai

Surprising Chiang Mai

Having reviewed the superb Chiang Mai Highlands golf course recently, I just got back from another short trip to Chiang Mai, this time with visitors doing the tourist “bit”. Courtesy of blogs like this, for those of you who are novices to Thailand in respect of golf I’m guessing the destinations most familiar to you will be Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin (less so) for something that combines golf and other holiday-typical activities, in their case the beach.

Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort. Courtesy of Richard Castka
Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort. Courtesy of Richard Castka

Chiang Mai turns out to be a bit of a dark horse (although no beach which will become obvious when you look at the map), offering superb golf (see Chiang Mai golf) plus plenty of things to enjoy when away from the links. Chiang Mai is my second favourite city in Thailand, just slightly behind Bangkok which I have grown to love. One of the reasons is that unlike Bangkok which tends to be hot all year round, Chiang Mai has a genuine “winter” period (end November until start April) when the temperatures can fall to the sublime mid twenties and prompt the actual wearing of a sweater (I only have one…threw all the others away). But that’s just the icing on the cake. Rather than go into great detail, which you will be better served by reading the Lonely Planet guide, I’ll provide an overview and give you just a taste.

The city is relatively compact and much more residential in feel which makes exploring on foot easy and fun. Whilst it has modern shopping, high rise hotels and commercial areas there are also myriad back streets with markets, small craft and coffee shops plus what seems like hundreds of small hotels and guest houses that cater for visitors, particularly those backpacking in Asia. In those back streets you may come across a beautiful temple or ancient monument which appears unexpectedly.  As you’d expect in Thailand, you are never far from “street food”which in this part of the world is subtly different (try the local speciality, Khao Soi, which is a delicious noodle curry with just a hint of Indian spices), but in recent years, because of the influx of foreign visitors and residents from the four corners of the world, there are all manner of restaurants and cuisines available…I particularly like The Swan, a Burmese restaurant in the centre of the tourist area.

Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon

Chiang Mai is surrounded by beautiful countryside, predominantly forest-covered hills and mountainous areas (on a small scale admittedly but spectacular nonetheless) including Doi Inthanon Thailand’s highest point. This terrain provides the wonderful backdrop to many of the area’s golf courses making them so different from others elsewhere in Thailand. Because the local area is largely rural the roads are quiet and in excellent condition because they don’t get so much heavy traffic and exploring in a car is actually pleasant and stress free.

What of the golf itself? In Highlands, Alpine and the recently refurbished Gassan Legacy you have 3 of the finest courses in the country, all of which provide challenging yet rewarding experiences in gorgeous surroundings. There are others, of course, over a dozen and don’t forget the superb Robert Trent Jones Santiburi near Chiang Rai, only a couple of hours away.  So there you have it…surprising Chiang Mai, give it a try you’ll be delighted you did.

For information on Chiang Mai Golf Packages go to www.golfasian.com/golf-holidays/thailand/chiang-mai/ or contact info@golfasian.com

 

 

Chiang Mai Highlands – Just got better

Chiang Mai Highlands – Just got better

This month I was invited by the General Manager, Derek Schade, to review Chiang Mai Highlands’ new nine holes which opened to the public on November 1st. Derek had only taken up his post at Highlands recently after a successful period running Lotus Valley Golf Resort. There was a “return of the prodigal son” element as he had previously managed the Golf Club and enjoyed working closely with the inspirational owner Khun Vichai who persuaded him to re-join the Team.  As I hadn’t played in the area for several years, and given Chiang Mai Highlands Golf & Spa Resort was in the running for the 2015 Asia Golf Awards Best Golf Resort in Asia Pacific (they subsequently won!), I took the opportunity to explore the whole facility and give readers an insight into what the complete package offers.

First, golf in the Chiang Mai area is a wonderful experience not just because of the spectacular backdrop of lush, verdant hills. It is also due to the general climate which is just that bit more forgiving than central and southern areas of Thailand with temperatures and humidity 5-20% more favourable. As its name would suggest Chiang Mai Highlands takes particular advantage of the locale and the designers Schmidt-Curley, who have delivered several projects in Thailand, notably the prestigious Amata Spring home to the Thailand Golf Championships, were eager to leave their mark yet remained sensitive to the beauty of the region. They were able to create something challenging and rewarding yet natural, sitting comfortably within its surroundings.
Lee Schmidt was the actual designer of the original eighteen and designed the new nine. Whilst subtly different in that the fairways on the new ‘C’ Course are wider and more forgiving, plus the greens much larger with distinct tiers, it is clear all 27 holes have the same DNA. Every shot requires an element of strategic thinking followed by sound execution in order to steer clear of hazards. These are natural in the form of young and mature trees or streams that meander throughout the course, plus bunkers that define the “smart” landing areas off the tees as well as approaches to the greens. These aren’t the only architect’s tools in use because the lay of the land allows for significant slopes and undulations, complemented by mounding that provides for a great or otherwise lie and/or line to the green.  Many greens have severe run-offs but they are a large target so it’s not all penal.

Hole 1 resizeJust like the original eighteen this nine exercises the brain and cannot be overcome by brute force alone. A case in point is the first hole; a 545 yard par 5 that doglegs left at a distance of about 300 yards from the blue tees. Standing on the tee you’ll straight away see the owner’s sensitivity to the environment because only 80 yards from the tee on the right sits a quite lovely tree that ever so slightly prevents a completely unimpeded view and on many courses would have been removed; I’m glad it’s there. Bunkers at 250 yards on the left dictate a drive that favours the quite open right hand side but then you wonder if the chance of getting on in two is out of the question.  It probably is for all except the likes of Rory McIlroy because once the hole turns left the ground climbs sharply to the multi-tiered green which slopes from front to back and provides for 2 very different pin positions. Even for a layup second the left side is peppered with bunkers such that the right hand side, and far right at that, is the only sensible option no matter how alien it feels. From a hundred yards with a sand wedge in your hand the perspective changes and for the first time 2 deep bunkers guarding the right of the green stare you in the face. In essence at every shot selection your decision process must be considered and measured, weighing risk and reward. Such is the case with every hole on the nine from a long par 5 to a short par 3.

One striking feature of the nine holes was how good their conditioning was; a credit to the fact the owner didn’t want to rush the opening but rather wait until the nine holes reflected the high standards of the original A/B course. I implore you to discover all this for yourself and am confident you’ll walk away delighted.

For information on Chiang Mai Golf Packages go to www.golfasian.com/golf-holidays/thailand/chiang-mai/ or contact info@golfasian.com

Golf Club membership in England versus Thailand

Golf Club membership in England versus Thailand

Last Sunday I turned up to play alone at Lam Lukka and was sensibly paired by the starter with 2 Thai gentlemen. After a few polite introductions we completed the first 3 holes and at the first drinks stop started a more involved conversation. This was about the differences between being a member of a club in Thailand versus England where I come from.  First of all I need to say that this is my experience and there are some generalisations, but in the main I believe the following are valid observations.

I have been a member of 5 clubs in England and am a member of 2 here in Thailand. They are very different propositions. The vast majority of clubs in England are member-owned and through their affiliations are subject to the governance of the English Golf Union and its various Associations. There is similar infrastructure in Thailand but understandably not so mature in its development.

An English golf club has a very formal hierarchy with an operational organisation managed by the Club “Secretary” who takes care of the running of the course and its facilities. This is also true of Thailand albeit the post is more practically described as the General Manager, but there the similarities end because this hierarchy is far more evident day to day in England. Because Members are effectively shareholders of the club they participate in the management of the organisation by virtue of a standing Committee which influences rules and guidelines for play, dress codes, social matters, pricing and other matters.  Importantly, two posts on the committee are filled by the Captain and Lady Captain who are voted in by the other Members as their representative for the year and who fulfil an important role which is far more than ceremonial. The reason for these positions originally was because there has been a long tradition of competition in English golf both internally within the club, playing for various trophies, as well as external competition between local and regional clubs in tournaments managed by the various Associations: thus you need a team Captain.

Whilst the position of Captain is quite demanding and expensive because they are expected to participate in all things social as well as playing probably 200 times a year and certainly twice every weekend, there are perks. The Captain will have their annual subscription waived, enjoy a rather prominent car parking position next to the front door of the clubhouse and best of all as far as I was concerned, have absolute right of way on the first tee…they turn up and as a function of courtesy you step aside…wonderful! Not all Captains used that privilege, can’t think why not? Another unusual tradition is that the Captain plays with all prospective new members so it is important to be on your best behaviour that day and create a good impression.

But what of the day to day for us lowly types who seek only to play and not get involved with the organisation, bureaucracy and politics (there was a lot of that going on)? Just like Thailand I tended to play with a regular group of various ages; a common theme being they were very sociable. The difference was I probably met that group because on joining the club the first thing I did was sign up for the inevitable weekend competition. In this way I met people both on the course and afterwards when it was customary to get together in the bar and say hello over a civilised drink. On one occasion this turned out to be an unexpected event when I arrived at the pro shop to pay the competition entrance fee and looking at the list of players the professional told me I was joining “Dennis, who’s out on the practice green”. Dennis turned out to be a very famous TV star who subsequently became a firm friend.

Membership of a golf club is also different in England because there is much more emphasis placed on the wider social side with everyone encouraged to attend the numerous evening functions.  These are important sources of club revenue required for investment and upgrade of the facilities; you didn’t mind because you were spending money on a club you had a stake in. There were no millionaires or large corporations bankrolling the courses because most were created as a local community facility (albeit generally for the better off in society), not as a property development exercise which is common in Thailand.

golfer in the rainAlthough not about membership at all and more about day-to-day play, another significant factor is the weather. Inevitably you’d be glued to Friday’s weather forecast for the weekend. This would dictate the number of layers you had to wear which could be astonishing (you’ve seen the professionals playing in the Open Championship in Hoylake in July)…10 degrees, 30 km/h winds and lashing rain…not exactly Hua Hin? Okay, it didn’t rain every day but looking back it felt like it. Clubs in England do have a drinks stop, but just the one which is generally after 9 holes and rather than an ice cold beer they offered coffee or hot chocolate and a bacon sandwich which was meant to thaw you out (just what was needed I have to admit). No caddies of course, except perhaps at some of the very prestigious courses, which means carry your own clubs or commonly use your own trolley, tend the pins and rake your bunkers.

Do I miss it? Not a bit! Whilst I enjoyed the sense of “belonging” that an English club gave me, the Thailand experience for me is superior. Pretty much guaranteed weather (I’ve been rained off the course only once in 15 years’ playing in Thailand), I play generally better courses and having a caddie to keep me cool, calm and collected has meant that I’m a better player with a lower handicap. Also, because I like joining other groups there have been lots of opportunities to meet people from all over the world.

What’s the downside? You play faster in the UK…to stay warm!

Your Views of Golf in Thailand

Your Views of Golf in Thailand

My name is Steve Madden and I live in Sydney, Australia.

pennanthills1I have played golf since I was a young boy, however it’s only in the last 4-5 years that I have had time to play on a regular basis. My current GA handicap is 13 and I am a member of Pennant Hills Golf Club in Sydney. With its roots established over a hundred years ago Pennant Hills is considered a “Private” A Grade golf course, featuring tree-lined fairways and rolling terrain. Whilst not long by modern standards the par 71 course is still demanding.

I have played golf in Thailand many times originally playing in Phuket whilst on holiday with my family in 2006. I first came across Golfasian when I saw their advertisement in an Australian golf magazine and they have looked after me ever since.

Resize1There aren’t many destinations I haven’t visited: Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Pattaya have all been sampled. Most times I have travelled with a group of like-minded male golfers all of whom love the experience of playing “Golf in a Kingdom”. Golf in Thailand is great because of the quality of the courses on offer, the hot and humid climate and the post-golf activities. Although the price of golf is quite expensive (if you choose to play some of the best courses) it is well worth the money in my opinion. A point to consider is that as a full service company, Golfasian packages include transfers to and from the course, accommodation and green fees plus caddy. You are collected promptly, delivered directly to the course and chauffeured in well-kept mini vans that have plenty of room for you and your golf gear. After golf the driver delivers you back to your hotel without any hassles, capping off a great day’s golf.  I also thoroughly enjoy the great attitude of the caddies that form a large part of the unique experience. Their friendly nature and willingness to provide advice and guidance makes golf in Thailand something you keep coming back for!! The humidity can sometimes be challenging but I love this type of weather so it isn’t a problem.

Personally I love visiting Thailand for the culture, food and night life. Most of the hotels that we have stayed at have been first class including the Sofitel Bangkok, the Holiday Inn Bangkok and a recent stay at the Shangri-La Bangkok which is right next to the Chao Phrya river, a wonderful bustling thoroughfare that harks back to the 19th century when Bangkok was a significant Asian trading centre.

resize2After a great day’s golf you can relax by the pool or grab a massage before heading out for dinner. The cost of food ranges from cheap but delicious street food to a top quality dining experience; Thailand has a taste for all budgets! Then it’s back to the room for a rest before another day’s golf!

The best thing about booking your golfing vacation with Golfasian is that they take the hassle out of planning. All you have to do is turn up and swing the club! I would highly recommend Golfasian to anyone looking for a great golf experience in Paradise!!!

Which golf ball should I play in Thailand?

Which golf ball should I play in Thailand?

Of all the variables that determine a golf ball’s performance compression may be the most mysterious. You’ll know it as a number on the ball, usually 90 or 100. If you see slow motion videos of balls impacting the club face you’ll see it as the ball deforming or “mushing”. The ball launches as this compression releases.

Generally, professional advice says the faster you swing the less compression you need but there are way more issues to consider namely spin speed generated, feel, control, etc but let’s leave that to Phil Mickelson.

By and large, for Thailand, you can play with a ball with less compression and avoid the 100 models. This is because generally the greens are softer so the ball stops more easily, which means less spin is required. We amateurs like less spin because that means less deviation in the shot trajectory. Another issue is the air is “thicker” and a firmer ball will penetrate the moisture laden air more effectively.

As I’m blogging I expect a thousand replies about why a Srixon Z-Star SL suits someone better than a Taylor Made Burner and they’d be right because a lot of it is how the ball feels for you and what works. Nevertheless, science says my premise is sound. Actually, my best advice is to use the “water balls” you can buy at great prices near to the entrances of many gold clubs in Thailand then when it inevitably revisits the lake where it was plucked from you won’t mind so much.

Is Thailand Golf Good for the Blood Pressure?

Is Thailand Golf Good for the Blood Pressure?

Two things have happened to me in the past several days, neither of them very good and both I regret. First I became frustrated that a Golfasian client wasn’t appreciating Thailand golf for what it is, an overall experience rather than the ultimate golf environment, like say Myrtle Beach in the States. Then stupidly I fell into a very similar trap albeit subtly different, even after 15+ years of playing here and almost 8 living in the country.

The ingredients for the client’s frustration were not getting what was expected in terms of quality of golf, and not being allowed to tee off when they had booked because the course starters wanted to bring groups forward and they had people to fit in.  I can empathise with the frustration but because people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones I’m not going to criticise!  My frustration was far less forgivable and entirely self-inflicted…I became agitated at the level of traffic on my way to the course (it’s my road after all isn’t it??) compounded by the totally unhelpful behaviour of a great number of drivers who made the situation worse than it needed to be (as far as I was concerned), and finally the police-operated traffic lights (don’t even go there).  This didn’t get better when arriving ready for golf in a bad frame of mind already and heading for the 1st tee I saw a group of 5 golfers ahead of me chatting away merrily with an empty fairway in front of them then, after an age, each “bonked” 2 balls off the tee in various directions and at various distances accompanied by much laughter…these guys didn’t have a care in the world while I was re-living my hour of hell in the car.

Both the client and I have lessons to learn. In terms of Thailand’s golf offering this blog aims to provide a wider perspective on golf in Thailand, espousing how wonderful it is, yet it also tries to educate all those who care to visit about the vagaries of the experience.  I’ll aim to do a bit of this now.

So let’s lay it on the line…there are some generally accepted great courses here (I’m thinking Alpine Bangkok/Nikanti {?}/Amata Springs/Black Mountain/Banyan/Siam Plantation amongst others), some excellent ones (Chiang Mai Highlands/Thai Country Club/Springfield/Santiburi {both of them}/Red Mountain), a huge selection of decent ones and a plethora of also-rans. What puts them in the latter category: generally they are let down by sub-standard conditioning of playing areas throughout and if that’s the case they are probably badly managed in all sorts of ways and also lack investment for all sorts of reasons?  However, the Pete Dye designed course in Thailand is rarely going to be of the standard of its US counterpart but its genetics are the same. The lesson here is, if you want US-style conditioning you are going to pay for it and even then it isn’t guaranteed; rather bizarrely I have played Alpine when it was immaculate and again when it was very “scruffy” and that’s being kind. Actually the real lesson is, if you want US-standard conditioning play in the US.

The advice here is look beyond the greens that aren’t running at 11 on the stimp metre and bunkers that have unseemly grass sprouting from their edges (check out Whistling Straits at the PGA Championship this weekend) and appreciate that you’ve paid a fair fee, can still hit the ball well and can very definitely have a good time, which is what it’s all about (see my other blog Pattaya Golf – Take the Rough with the Smooth).

On to the so called “contract” you think you’ve made with Thailand golf.  I have a reality check…the starter, if the course has one, generally isn’t really a starter (there are exceptions) and doesn’t have your exclusive rights in mind…that also applies to marshalls.  On the subject of 5-balls for instance (I can feel my blood pressure rising!), there are those that are at the golf course to have a convivial time with their friends and that is accommodated in Thailand because Thais “get” that it might be the case rather than we who are insisting on the 3 hour round and sprinting around like possessed maniacs.  As for stupid people like me who let the drive to the course set myself up for a dismal round, bear in mind that most of your fellow road users have never had a driving lesson in their life, many don’t have licences and sensibly the testing system isn’t very taxing to accommodate both anomalies.  Whether that’s a recipe for safe roads is another subject.

So why play here, as my wife reasonably pointed out? Because on the whole it’s great and no matter where you are from there is inconsiderate driving and bad traffic management as well as slow golfers blocking your way. The real question is how one copes with all this bearing in mind almost all of us aren’t getting paid to do this…IT’S A HOBBY as I try to tell myself!!!  My recommendation (I’m speaking to myself of course) is to somehow put everything in context: the traffic, the 5-balls, the course conditioning and realise that the most important thing is to have as good a time as you can which will be born of a slow, smooth swing and a slightly drawn drive that splits the fairway, hopefully followed by lots of similar shots.  In a nutshell, you can’t fight golf and you can’t fight Thailand.

Now I’ll excuse myself and head back to the asylum.

Don’t get carried away

Don’t get carried away

It’s all relative, but we’ve all had that “banner” golf round, when everything clicks…when we’re “in the zone”. It may be scoring less than a hundred for the first time or breaking par, but all of us had to keep going right to the 18th to reach that milestone, keep the concentration, the rhythm and the focus.

I was engrossed by Eddie Pepperell at the Open Championship on Sunday. One of England’s brightest new talents, he was having a fabulous day, remorselessly chasing down the leader’s score of -10, “peppering” the pin and rolling in everything he looked at.  He reached the 17th tee having just had yet another birdie and now tied for the lead; so far a blemish-free round. Admittedly, the famous St Andrews 17th, the Road Hole, is one of the most fearsome holes in golf, but to these guys the drive isn’t that challenging, albeit requiring about a 300 yard blow there is lots of room both right and especially left where most bale out.  Clearly, Eddie suddenly felt he was bullet-proof and picturing a birdie even here taking the lead on his own, he lashed at the driver, came out of the shot and sprayed it right into the grounds of the St Andrews hotel and out of bounds. To my mind, he didn’t put the shot in perspective, recognise the danger or just take stock…he was “pumped up” having tied the lead.

The point is, we are all subject to the same thing, losing focus. Pepperell wasn’t under pressure, he just let adrenalin take over and didn’t take a moment to consider that this was an important shot in his round which required his full attention.  The lesson for all of us, whether a par at 18 is required to break 90 or holing a six footer means we shoot 68, is we need to continue what has been a fabulous day’s golf by staying in the moment as much as possible and not get carried away. Probably it will be nerves that we have to deal with, but whatever it is, we must find a way to continue our momentum and go back to basics with our pre-shot routine and good fundamentals; that’s what got us to this position, this moment of glory. Good luck, and reach that milestone!

My Kanchanaburi Adventure

My Kanchanaburi Adventure

By Ian Morgan –  Golfasian’s Hua Hin & Phuket Manager

Having played golf all around Thailand over the last 11 years, there are very few areas I haven’t seen. So living in Hua Hin it’s amazing I have never taken the road north to look at Kanchanaburi and the surrounding area. The main attraction was to see Grand Prix Golf Club which so many of my friends have talked about; surely it wouldn’t be as good as they said? On this occasion my journey started in Bangkok and I decided to play a new course called Nikanti on the way to Kanchanaburi. Only 6 months old, it was in immaculate condition and a very unusual concept of six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. A really enjoyable experience and it’s one of those courses that makes you want to go back.

So on to the Grand Prix Hotel before playing the new course. The views, the condition and the whole set up was wonderful and certainly in the top six courses I have played in Thailand. No expense has been spared to make this one of great golfing experiences in Thailand. After golf I was lucky to be invited to lunch by the owner Dr Prasad whose dream to build something special has come true. Sad to leave this set up, but it’s a 40 minute drive south to the Ancient Town of Kanchanaburi and the famous River Kwai. The scenery in this area is magnificent and I am surprised by the quality of the courses and the amazing value. My favourite was Nichigo, a picturesque parkland-style course on the banks of the River Kwai. Wonderful views from all three nines, and looking around made me feel like I was in the mountains and rolling hills of Chiang Mai. Evergreen Hills Golf Club was another good golfing experience and again some wonderful scenery, but beware they do allow 6-balls, so it could be a slow round.

So back to Hua Hin, and I decided to play Royal Ratchaburi to break the journey on the way back home; this was a truly Thai Experience. Not much English spoken in these parts, but I loved the old style course and to see the monkeys running down the fairways was an unusual experience.

Overall I was expecting Kanchanaburi to be a little run down and the courses not in good shape, but apart from Mission Hills the courses were in excellent condition and for those golfers looking for a different, typically Thai experience….try it!. Not just for golf either, and although I didn’t have time on this trip there is so much to see. The River Kwai Bridge, Hellfire Pass & the Memorial Museum, Death Railway and the Erawan National Park with its famous waterfall to name just a few things worth seeing here.

You won’t be disappointed and I will be returning very soon.

 

    

What do you think about golf in Thailand?

What do you think about golf in Thailand?

My name is David Rendall. I recently travelled to Thailand with a golfing party of 12, the majority from Scotland & Ireland, however a couple of our group are based in Dubai and Thailand.

Pumpherston GC 16th
Pumpherston GC 16th

Most of the guys are members of the same golf club, Pumpherston, which is 10 miles from Edinburgh. Pumpherston is a lovely parkland course but also features a lot of water; it’s a very modern design considering its age. I have been a member for the last 25 years and currently play off 12, however our group’s handicaps range from 5 to 18.

Ready for the match
Ready for the match

Our group have holidayed in Thailand for the last 6 years, initially for a friend’s 50th birthday celebration. We have golfed all over the world; America, the Caribbean, China, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and the Canaries. Finding that the cost of golf in mainland Europe had become very expensive prompted us to venture as far afield as Asia. We love the quality of the courses in Thailand with Hua Hin a favourite (Thailand’s “Myrtle Beach”); in particular, Black Mountain, Banyan, Majestic Creek and Sea Pines are some of our favourites. We have booked with Golfasian for the last 5 years through a mutual friend and have never looked back. Golfasian’s attention to detail is superb…they never let us down.

In Hua Hin, where possible we always stay in a small 3 star hotel right in the centre of town, La Maison, which has rooms that are a good size and a first class breakfast. The staff are always delighted to see us, perhaps because our group of 12 fills the bar each early evening while we exchange stories after our round, prior to heading out to dinner. We tend to play a Ryder Cup-style event every day teeing off around 10.30am

Royal Hua Hin
Royal Hua Hin

We love all the courses but have a soft spot for Royal Hua Hin which is a great test of golf and is designed by a Scotsman. The caddies’ knowledge of the greens is amazing; your eyes tell you it’s three holes right but the caddy says half a grip left…an oft-repeated phrase follows “why you not listen” but always with a twinkle in their eyes. My favourite day was last November. I started with a triple bogey 7 on the 1st at Banyan, par at the 9th saw me out in 35 gross and 7 up. I didn’t play that well on the back 9 but won the match 6&5 so happy days. The weather in November is perfect, just before we return home to the bleak Scottish winter.

After golf we normally have lunch at the course (losers paying the bill) and enjoy a few beers before Golfasian’s Khun Noh (best driver in Hua Hin and a very good golfer) returns us to the hotel. Some of the guys go for a nap or do some shopping prior to us all meeting in the hotel bar at 7pm for a few drinks. Hua Hin has some wonderful restaurants from the Moon Smile (Thai) to some great Italians. The French restaurant next to La Maison, La Paillotte, is fabulous. We have even found a very good Indian restaurant so everyone is happy with the quality of the food.

All in all Thailand golf ranks amongst the best in the world as an experience as far as we are concerned. If you haven’t tried it, I thoroughly recommend it and am confident you won’t be disappointed.

The Opening Tee Shot – Some trickier than others

The Opening Tee Shot – Some trickier than others

I can’t remember when I lost my first tee traumas. I remember having them; feeling super conscious about people watching and living in fear of a top, shank, massive slice (probably) or a huge pull. But they’ve gone, not because I’m a superb golfer but rather I have definitely gained in confidence since those days and as a single figure player I’m not supposed to have traumas…nerves maybe but not traumas. Importantly, I have also conditioned myself to be more positive in my approach to any shot, particularly that of the opening one.

Nevertheless, things aren’t that straightforward and with all the positivity in the world some shots are more intimidating than others.  In general terms I’d rather not have a long par 3 to start with simply because long irons are the weakest part of my game and there just seems to be less margin for error and more likelihood of a bogey which isn’t the ideal start; plus my short game needs “warming up” as it’s the second weakest part of my game!  When I asked colleagues at Golfasian there was definitely a theme…water left and right of the landing area are a big psychological issue no matter how generous the fairway, particularly with a strong crosswind, although a long water carry off the tee wasn’t worrisome and personally I’d rather grip it and rip it anyway.  Let’s look at some examples and perhaps you can post some of your own.

Alpine (Bangkok) 1st

Alpine Bangkok 1st

About 400 yards this isn’t a straightforward opener. Rolling hillocks left and right, water to the right and well placed bunkers all command your attention. You need to stay just right of the centre fairway and get the ball out there at least 250 yards to launch your day in the best possible way. Easy as that?

Royal Golf Lat Krabang 1st

Royal Golf & Country Club 1st

Why is this tough? Because a fade is a no-no and almost always goes in the water if the shot is over 220 yards. Easy for you natural drawers of the ball but I have to work at it and the first tee isn’t where I want to start. Trees immediately left block starting things out there so basically it’s a draw or very straight hit…terrific.

Pattana 1st

Pattana 1st

Water left and right with a tight-ish fairway; take a look at the picture for goodness sake. Brings me out in sweats.

Red Mountain 1st

red-mountain-golf-course-hole-1

 

It’s like a cobra; beautiful and deadly with jagged hills left and right. The fairway pinches in at a crest with lots of danger lurking beyond that’s all blind. First time there and you are relying on your caddy’s words of wisdom and a very smooth straight shot.

Banyan 1st

banyan-golf-club-06

 

This picture is taken from above the the fairway looking up towards the green; much easier from here. You tee off from 240 yards directly right of here. You can see the lake at the corner on the right and everything slopes down towards it so basically it’s a magnet. In truth a well-placed iron would do the job but likely leave a long shot into the green. Hit something long and the fairway shrinks to nothing. I like a 3 wood left centre and let the slope feed the ball towards the corner. Be confident and it isn’t that hard but who’s confident on the 1st?

Got any to add?