Category: Golf Advice

Are You In The Right State of Mind To Play Your Best Golf?

Are You In The Right State of Mind To Play Your Best Golf?

We all want to play our best golf, whether at home, or especially if we are away on a Golfing Holiday in Asia.  The one thing that can bring a sour type mood to a beautiful Golf Vacation is playing poorly, as this not only upsets your day on the golf course, but all of a sudden, the food does not taste as good, the bed is not as comfortable, the sights and sounds all feel a little off. Yes, playing poorly affects us in many ways as we feel frustrated and wonder if this vacation was the right idea.

It doesn’t have to be this way if you play your own game and fully embrace being on a fabulous golf course away from home.  What do we have to do?  Well a lot of it has to do with some of your thinking, belief in yourself and commitment to the shot. We can sum this up by three things: See it, Feel it, Trust it.

See It

Before we ever try to hit a shot, we have to have some idea of what we are trying to do, especially if we are in a bad lie or a spot of trouble off the fairway and amongst some trees or shrubs. We need to be able to see and visualize the shot we want and are capable of hitting. Seeing it goes beyond merely picturing the shot in our head.  We have to be realistic and actually be able to see ourselves hitting this particular shot. What does this mean? Well, I can close my eyes and picture myself jumping completely over my entire car, but the fact is that I do not have the skill to do this. Seeing yourself hit the shot means visualizing something that you are actually skilled to do, something you can see yourself hitting successfully.

Once you assess the lie, the window or gap in the trees, the amount of curve or carry you need, the entire situation, then you need to see the best shot that you are capable of and a shot you can see yourself pulling off.  Try to get the clearest picture in your mind’s eye, the shape, the curvature, the flight, the ball landing and rolling or spinning back, whatever the shot, if you can see yourself hitting it, this is the time to picture the complete shot. See it.

Feel It

Now that you have a picture of the shot you want to hit and can see yourself hitting it, we need to get some kinesthetic feel involved. We need to feel the shot. This can be done in several ways. Some players like to take a full or rehearsed practice swing, some like a slow and smooth motion of practice, some might just take it to a position on the backswing as a check point, and others may just need a waggle or simply feel the shot in their hands, or adjusting their feet to feel something. Whatever your method, try to get your body in sync with the picture of the shot that you are seeing. Try to completely feel the shot with as many senses as you can. It goes beyond just a practice swing for practice swing sakes, it is to feel the shot with your entire being that you want to hit.

The great Canadian Legend Moe Norman once told me he could not only feel the shot he could taste it. He could taste the ball in the air going directly where he wanted it to go. I believe it was Paul Runyon (who possessed one of the greatest short games ever) that said he could taste the bottom of the cup before putting. Now these are extreme cases of what I like to call heightened awareness and we may not be able to actually taste or smell the shot, but it gives us an idea of what is possible by the best players in the world. What you need to do is to try to match your feeling of the shot with the shot that you are seeing. Get you mind and body in sync and your success rate will rise.

Trust It

This is the most important step before pulling the trigger. We need to be in complete trust in ourselves to execute the shot that we have pictured or see and that we have felt. We need to clear our head with any doubt and be fully committed to the shot. Try to avoid the “anyways”. I thought I might have had the wrong club but I hit in anyways.  I heard something before I started my swing but I hit it anyways Something didn’t quite feel right but I hit it anyways. These ‘anyways’ are not being committed and trusting the shot and will lead to poor outcomes.

If you can clearly see the shot and feel the shot, then you can trust the shot. Here is the time to stop being modest with yourself and believe in your abilities to hit the perfect shot that you want. You have hit enough great shots before, the ones that you and your friends talk about after the round and years to come. Now is the time to believe in your abilities and fully trust and commit to the shot. The more you can believe in yourself, the better swing you will make and the better outcome you will receive.

The late Payne Stewart once said “A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing” and Sam Snead mentioned “Of all the hazards, fear is the worst”.  These two quotes show you the need to get into trusting what you are about to do. Never go into any shot with fear or doubt in your mind. If you truly cannot trust yourself executing the shot you are trying to picture, think of another shot as this negative trust will more than likely sabotage your chances of success. Trust yourself and your abilities.  See it, Feel it, Trust it and let it go.

Seeing it, feeling it and trusting it of course is not a 100 percent guarantee that we will hit every shot exactly the way we want, but what it will do is increase our percentages of success.  If you can go through these three simple steps before any shot, you will have your body and mind more in sync and this is the way to better course management and saving those important shots that keep the round more enjoyable. Play to your game, know your strengths and weaknesses and manage yourself around the course the best of your ability and you will be having a lot more fun on your Asian Golf Holiday.

Play until you’re Old and Grey? Nagging Golf Injuries – Ignore at your Peril

Play until you’re Old and Grey? Nagging Golf Injuries – Ignore at your Peril

Bobby Jones said “The best exercise for golfers is golfing” and I know what he means. In general it’s a pastime which involves getting out in the fresh air, walking for several hours and loosening up with some aerobic “swinging”…gotta be good for you right? Unless you are doing it for a living or it’s your dedicated sport, you probably took it up as the exercise for your twilight years, whenever they may have started. The snag is, because you might be playing in later life, you are more susceptible to the risk of stresses and strains that golf can present and you’re probably unprepared for them.

The reason I am writing about golf injuries is because it is now 6 months since I played a round due to a knee injury, made worse by playing golf and ignoring the problem. The eventual outcome was surgery, and now, with perhaps another 4-6 months before I play again, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the matter and perhaps prompt some readers to consider any nagging pains and what they might do about them. Better still, some may be in the peak of health and rather than take their chances on what might be on the horizon, head any issues off at the pass.

First, a disclaimer…I am not a physician (sports or otherwise) of any kind, just someone who has had a lot of time to deal with a golf injury, researched the issue for many hours, and endeavoured to fix myself so that I can return to the links better and stronger as a golfer. I’m also not going to talk about general fitness, health and well-being (diet, exercise etc) because all of us are bombarded daily by the common sense of leading a healthier life; it’s something we either adopt willingly or not.

When we talk about golf injuries, if you are someone of a “certain age” I’m sure you know to what I’m referring, but for younger readers here are some common problems they might not yet be experiencing:

  • Back Pain– Poor posture causes mechanical stress leading to disc related problems
  • Golfer’s elbow/Tennis elbow– An inflammation of the tendons attached on either side of the elbow
  • Shoulder pain– Several conditions such as rotator cuff tendonitis, impingement, or tears pain
  • Knee Pain– There are many conditions that affect golfers including torn meniscusligament tears, and osteoarthritis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome– Repetitive stress in the hands causing numbness and pain
  • DeQuervain’s tendonitis– Inflammation of the tendons at the base of the wrist that control the thumb
  • Trigger Finger– Causes the finger to lock up from a swollen flexor tendon catching in its sheath

I’ll focus on my own particular experience; meniscus tears, cartilage degradation and general deterioration of the left knee…it’s worn out!

If you look at the attached picture of the knee’s anatomy, it’s quite a simple but ingenious structure. In Layman’s terms, the knee connects the lower leg bones to the upper and allows the leg to hinge. A joint, it is stabilised by ligaments (strong “elastic bands” either side), cushioned by cartilage (in this case a disc-like pad called the meniscus) plus a layer of cartilage on the end of the bones, and protected by the Patella (knee cap) a triangular bone at the front. Completing this clever piece of kit are the leg muscles and hamstrings that provide strength and support.

Now remember I described it as a hinge, I did not say it is designed to swivel, hence its incompatibility with the game of golf. Awesome for walking and running, the knee is badly designed for the rotation of a golf swing; remember your left foot is at right angles to the target at address, and more or less pointing at the target on completion of the swing…what stress was applied during the transition? In essence, when playing golf you are grinding the knee’s insides together applying both longitudinal and worse still, significant lateral forces on those “elastic bands” and cushions.

Now lots of golfers play all their lives and appear to survive the rigours of the golf swing. However, factor in a contact sport when young (mine was rugby), or a simple twist or dislocation from time to time, plus add general wear and tear over 50 years and the trap is set.

So what do we do about it? Golf is a great sport for later life but it takes some maintenance to keep your body pain free over time. Stretching may be better than practice for enjoying a pain free game.  Most players need to make some time to stretch before playing or even spending time on the range. No-one’s body wants to be torqued and twisted without a little warning. While many players arrive right before tee time to play, a fifteen minute stretching routine can make a big difference.

Note, you can’t stretch enough! First, warm muscles, sinews and ligaments are more elastic allowing better stretching, therefore walk to the range to get your heart rate up a little for a warm up. Perhaps work from head to toe so you remember to stretch the whole body. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds. Don’t bounce or stretch to the point of pain. There are literally dozens of stretching regimes (golf-specific) on websites such as YouTube so I won’t go into particulars here. What about after the round? The clubhouse is a great place to relax and retell the stories of your round but after you’re done, a hot shower and a few more stretches should prevent the next day stiffness and keep you ready to play again. Of course in Thailand you have cheap and effective massages on your doorstep after every round!

Finally, if the signs of problems are already there don’t ignore them, whether back, knees or shoulders. Do not play through any pain! Educate yourself about measures you can take to heal yourself (the Web has significant self-help information), or seek medical advice and discuss with someone who has/is experiencing the same thing. Don’t allow a nagging pain to grow into something that deprives you of a game you love for a whole year…learn from other’s mistakes.

Does Phuket Need to Reconsider Its Golf Strategy?

Does Phuket Need to Reconsider Its Golf Strategy?

GreenPhuket Golf has always been a major attraction for tourists from all over the world who love to spend their time staying in first class resorts on this beautiful Thai island.

The same can be said for golf, and even the likes of Tiger Woods and Greg Norman have played here at the islands only true Championship course the famous Blue Canyon.

For such a small island, it is unusual to find such a wide variety of golf challenges, from seaside to mountain layouts, and all within a maximum of 45 minutes from your hotel.

The Phuket golf courses are: Phuket Country Club (27 holes); Blue Canyon (36 holes); Lock Palm (18 holes); Red Mountain (18 holes); Laguna Phuket Golf Club (18 holes); Mission Hills Phuket (18 holes); Phukana (nine holes, floodlit.).

The majority of these courses are in good condition and certainly they offer some great memorable holes, especially the 14th at Blue Canyon and the 17th at Red Mountain.

The problem is that most of the green fees are extremely high compared with similar standard courses in other parts of the country.

Here you could be looking at little change from Baht6, 000 once you have tipped your caddie at the end of the round.

Chanwut Hongyok the GM at the island’s busiest course Phuket Country Club has recently said in a local magazine that Phuket needs to start to look at its golf courses and to begin to be more competitive. He explained that it is now unlikely that there will be any new courses built ever again, as the land prices are just too expensive. Therefore he said the existing courses have to rethink how to fill more tee times.

I agree with him that things need to change otherwise the existing clubs will start to loose business.

That said, the Island is still home to one of my all time great golf experiences, Red Mountain, which is expensive, but delivers on all fronts. A great layout, well trained caddies, wonderful modern club house, top class clubs for hire and a certain magic.

Definitely worth booking through a golf travel operator here, and save on both green fees and hotels, then you can enjoy this part of the World’s golf paradise!

 

Playing and Staying on a Thai Golf Course

Playing and Staying on a Thai Golf Course

There is no better feeling than waking up to the sound of wildlife and knowing that you are about to experience a great round of golf.

Golf 2Many of the 250 golf courses across Thailand offer first class accommodation along, with sports facilities, bars, swimming pools and restaurants.

With the high cost of golf course maintenance many clubs now also rely on real estate to help their cash flow, and several courses offer luxury villas and condominiums beside the course too.

Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin is a good example where you can book one of their golf club suites.
The club house has four very exclusive and comfortable suites available with infinity water features and spectacular views across the entire golf course.

All their suites are equipped with luxurious interiors which include, en suite facilities, 42" flat screen TV's, DVD player, music system, satellite TV and mini bar.

It is hard to beat the beauty of having breakfast on the terrace overlooking the front 9 holes or a night cap in Mulligans!

Banyan Resort about 15 minutes away has 75 villas with pools and restaurants as well.

Over at the Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Club up in Chiang Mai, they have a number of villas known as The Resort at Chiangmai Highlands. They are only a short walk away from our clubhouse, yet are privately set amongst the trees, along the creek flowing through the course.  The resort offers Superior Resort Villas, larger Deluxe Resort Villas and Family Villas.  Resort Guests have access to the swimming pool and fitness facilities and receive a preferred green fee rate during their stay.

This Award winning course meanders along the mountains of this Northern region of Thailand, and offers a great golfing experience.

If you prefer the night life then head for the city centre hotels, however you will certainly enjoy the privilege of staying at two exceptional golf courses in Thailand. Check out www.golfasian.com for or more information.

Wildlife, Scenery and Outstand Golf…Khao Yai Thailand

Wildlife, Scenery and Outstand Golf…Khao Yai Thailand

When considering a golf vacation in Thailand it would be fair to say that most of us are likely to end up going with the flow to head for the popular destinations namely Phuket, Hua Hin , Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

02_golf02 Naturally Bangkok has the largest selection of championship courses, so it is a great place to start your vacation. However one area which is gaining a lot of attention is Khao Yai., approximately 2 hours north of Bangkok.

Khao Yai National Park, approximately 2 hours north of Bangkok, is situated in the Sankambeng Mountain Range, the southern prolongation of the Dong Phaya Yen Mountains.

The park is the second largest in Thailand. It covers an area of 2,168 square kilometers, including evergreen forests and grasslands. Its altitude mostly ranges from 400 to 1000 m above sea level.

Khao Yai National Park has three main seasons, with an annual mean temperature of 23 degrees Celsius, though this varies greatly with the seasons.

Rainy Season Is from May to October. During this season most days have high rates of precipitation. The atmosphere is humid with average temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius during the day dropping to 13 degrees Celsius at night. Good waterfalls for travelers.

Cold season is from November to February, with clear skies, sunny and cool. The average temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius during the day and 10 degrees Celsius at night. Good time for hiking.

Hot Season Is from March to April. Humid with day temperatures of 20-30 degrees Celsius and 17 degrees Celsius at night.

Apart from the fabulous wildlife, this region is also the home to a number of first class golf courses, each one offering great golf, in spectacular scenery.

A brilliant setting for a coveted lifestyle, Toscana Valley Golf Club offers diverse range of recreational activities. The 18-holes Toscana Valley Golf Course at Khao Yai ascribes its handsome design to renowned golf course architect Bob McFarland.

Complimented by the stunning Khao Yai backdrop, the charming ambience resembles the environment of Toscana Valley, Italy.

Toscana Valley Golf Course was developed by the same team of experts responsible for creating world-class golf courses such as Green Valley Golf Course (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Rayong; Thailand), Windmill Country Club (Bangkok), Saint Andrews Hill 2000 (Rayong), Lotus Hill View Golf Club (China) and Guangzhou International Golf Course (China).

Apart from the golf Toscana offers equestrian facilities, where you can take advantage of professional instruction in horseback riding. For those who are already experienced, there is access to numerous riding paths through breathtaking Khao Yai scenery. If residents would prefer to casually stroll or have a vigorous walk, a vast network of hiking trails can be explored on foot.

Another club to recommend is Kiri Maya an exclusive 18-hole championship golf course – designed by Jack Nicklaus. It is set within natural surroundings with panoramic views of Khao Yai’s lush greenery and mountains. The course ranges from 4,875 yards (ladies) to an incredible 7,115 yards (tournament) and with its single-track layout, golfers feel as if they are the only ones on the entire course for a truly memorable golf experience.

Panorama Golf & Country Club is set amidst the meandering hills outside of Nakorn Ratchasima also in the Khao Yai area. This Thailand golf course offers some challenging play in simply striking natural surroundings. Although it offers relatively few hazards, this challenging, breezy course is nevertheless difficult, relying on the natural lay of the land rather than man-made obstacles. In addition to the immaculately maintained course, while playing Panorama G&CC only on two holes will you ever see another golfer on a different hole, 16 of the 18 holes has its own separate corridor of natural beauty and stunning scenery.

Most of the area does not cater for mass tourism so forget the 400 bed hotels. Check out http://www.golfasian.com/ and I am sure they will find you some wonderful small villa style hotels to stay in.

If you crave for something different, and are fed up with playing your golf back home next to a motorway or nearby a city centre, then please head for Khao Yai. You will not be disappointed.

Secret Thai Golfing Gem

Secret Thai Golfing Gem

Kanchanaburi is perhaps better known as the centre of Thailand’s gem industry, where mining has been going on for a number of years.

Many tourists also head there to visit the River Kwai and the railway made famous in World War 2.

08 However soon Kanchanaburi will add a new attraction, when the Blue Diamond Resort opens next March.

The brainchild of Dr Prachin Eamlumnow, who has made his fortune organizing the Bangkok International Motor Show, Blue Diamond, is a huge 2,000 rai project, with a five star golf course to be known as Grand Prix Golf club.

I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to play the front nine holes and it will definitely become one of Thailand’s top courses. Thongchai Jaidee and host of other professionals are due there soon to try the course too.

This new addition to Thailand’s 280 golf clubs will definitely lift the appeal to head for a few rounds to the Kanchanaburi region. It is only a 2 hour road trip West of Bangkok and it already boasts several courses.

These include Blue Sapphire Golf Club, Dragon Hills Golf & Country Club, Evergreen Hills Golf Club & Resort, Grand Garden Resort & Golf Club, Green World Hot Spring Resort & Golf Club, Mission Hills Kanchanburi Resort & Golf Club, River Kwai Golf & Country Club, and Royal Ratchaburi Golf Club. Nichigo Resort & Country Club is also a great course but apparently it is currently closed.

Nearest to the River Kwai is River Kwai Golf & Country Club. Many golfers are keen to play the course which bears the name of this famous region. There may be better designed and presented courses in the River Kwai region, but the jungle-lined fairways of this sometimes hilly course, will certainly provide your game with a challenging and exciting workout. The course is located alongside the banks of River Kwai Noi. With water in play on most holes, and several long tee shots to make this is both a very natural and at times testing course.

This is an 18 hole, 6564 yards Par 72 golf course designed by Art-Anan Yomchinda.The elevated clubhouse is large and modern, with wide ranging views and comprehensive facilities.

Another popular course is Blue Sapphire next door to the new Blue Diamond Resort. This 36 hole course meanders through a working gems mine with hills and lakes to challenge all types of golfers. There is the Canyon and the Ocean Courses to tackle.

Mission Hills Kanchanaburi Resort & Golf Club is owned by the same team who run Mission Hills in Phuket. It is a Jack Nicklaus designed 18 hole course which according to their website will test your mind, spirit, swing and soul! You have been warned.

If you have played golf in Hua Hin, Pattaya, Phuket or Chiang Mai then Kanchanaburi makes an excellent two centre stop when starting your golf vacation in Bangkok. Check out www.golfasian.com for more Thailand golf vacations.

 

Golf Comes With a Big Smile in Thailand

Golf Comes With a Big Smile in Thailand

Having played my short golfing time in the UK, the Middle East and now in Asia, I have to say there is a definite magic in the air when you tee off at a Thai golf course that is hard to find elsewhere.

IMG_6929 Perhaps our definition of what makes a great round of golf may slightly differ from continent to continent.

I have never experienced playing golf in Scotland and I am sure getting a good Scottish breakfast after a round at these historical courses must be awesome.

Also it is hard to beat the quality of the rock hard greens at most of the top UAE golf courses, and their club houses definitely offer everything for the pampered oil execs.

But as Thongchai Jaidee Asia’s golf super star has said, ‘What makes playing a round here in the Kingdom is the warmth and friendliness you receive by everyone from the taxi drivers to the locker room attendants.’

Certainly the smiles from the beautiful caddies can go a long way to making your round of golf in the Kingdom of Thailand an extremely pleasant experience. They know how to read the greens like a popular paperback novel, so you may with their help, break your record too!!!

This coupled with the huge variety of courses…280 in all across the country… makes taking a golf vacation in Thailand a true challenge for all levels.

Add the shopping, spas, cultural temples and palaces and the 5 star services in the hotels and restaurants and Thai golf vacations are hard to resist.

The Thai government is fully aware of the appeal its course hold, and they have created a number of excellent golf tours offered by a number of leading golf travel such as Golfasian.

You can play golf all year round even during the green season (rainy season) as the course have fantastic drainage systems so play is really delayed that long between showers.

If you like the links of Scotland or the seaside courses of Abu Dhabi, then don’t worry these types of courses and more can be found all across the kingdom… but the smile comes free.

What Makes a Great Golfing Experience in Thailand?

What Makes a Great Golfing Experience in Thailand?

I read recently that a large percentage of golfers in Europe don’t feel they are getting their monies worth during their round of golf.

High green fees, poor quality of locker rooms, badly maintained greens, slow playing conditions. These are a few of their gripes.

Muang Kaew 0611_H4_3184 Here in Thailand I think playing golf is a lot more laid back than playing say in Europe, so maybe we don’t expect too much. But we all expect our round of golf to go smoothly.

Bangkok is in fact spoilt for choice when it comes to first class golf clubs. There are approximately over 60 clubs within the Bangkok metro region, several that can be called Championship courses.

Most of them are very well run, and your experience can be extremely memorable.

But of course you do need to avoid some of the rush hours such as national holidays, when the courses are busy with part time golfers.

I am sure that there have been occasions when you have had to wait on the tee boxes while a five ball ahead slowly putts out. Then they decide to play a game of cards, and grab a full course meal. I have known a round to take up to 5 and half hours which is painful.

The clubs that are popular however seem to adopt sensible policies with a maximum of four players per round and a good course marshal will cleverly move along the slow coaches, even giving their caddies a lift in the golf cart.

It is very rare to find a hold up at the Thai Country Club in Bangkok, where they still manage to push through over 55,000 rounds a year. And of course their facilities are top class being part of the Peninsula hotel group.

Maung Kaew Golf Club is another popular 18 hole course near to Bangkok’s airport that seems to work. They have great greens and very professional caddies who politely move the players along.

Of course every club will tell you they have a quite time. Maybe it is on Thursday afternoon’s or early on Monday’s. It’s worth asking the receptionist at the club, or even the caddies themselves, as they can give you the real information.

During the summer month’s some clubs have twilight rates starting at 3pm , so it is possible to play up to 7pm getting in a full round when it is not busy.

While the rest of the world seems to be announcing a golf recession with golf clubs closing down, it seems nobody told the golf course owners here in Thailand.

Every year we seem to have new courses opening. In the past 12 months we have had Riverdale Golf Club in Bangkok, brought to you by the same team that built Phuket’s Red Mountain Golf Club. Then there was the Royal Gems Golf City with a replica of the back nine holes at Augusta.

Both these clubs offer the golfing experience, and of course playing a round in the warm weather and to be assisted by a smiling Thai caddie helps too! Enjoy your next round in the Kingdom of golf and smiles!

Thailand Golf in the Summer

Thailand Golf in the Summer

Now we are well into the summer months, there are real advantages of playing golf in Thailand.

The temperature is still bearable, and although there are rain storms, you can cope with a bit of planning.

It amazes me how a major downpour back home in the UK can wash out a whole days play, as the British courses just were not built to handle a major storm.

Golfasian-Thailand-Super-Golf-Fam-Trip-2010-Chiang-Mai-048 In Asia and especially here in Thailand, apart from creating some great courses, the designers spend as much time on the drainage. It obviously seemed to have paid off, as I have recently experienced a few short downpours, and within minutes we were back on the fairways.

Storms here tend to announce their arrival with cooler temperatures and darker skies, which actually makes playing more comfortable. It can take up to an hour or so for them to arrive, so you have plenty of time to grab a few more birdies.

Most storms start around late afternoon, so book a round at 11.00hrs and you hopefully will be back in the clubhouse before it rains.

Most clubs have numerous food and drink stations dotted around the course, so when it does rain, we normally enjoy a bit of social chat while having a beer or two.

All pro shops sell waterproof covers for your golf bags, which the faithful Thai caddies will be happy to use. Although most clubs do not offer any rain delay compensation, you should be able to complete your round.

Another big advantage of playing in the summer is that some courses are not that busy, so sometimes you can be the only four balls on the front nine. Great if like me you hate waiting to take your next shot.

They also tend to offer special summer rates too. Various regions also promote ‘golf festivals’ so watch out for the Hua Hin festival which normally starts in August. A great chance to play some top class courses such as Banyan Golf Club or Springfield.

Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand is perhaps a bit cooler, especially if you head for Chiang Mai Highlands.

Perhaps another plus factor is if it does rain, in Thailand it is still warm. Beats trying to drag your golf trolley back to the clubhouse on a windswept links course in Ireland!

Pineapples, Bananas and Thai Golf

Pineapples, Bananas and Thai Golf

Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin has all these and more, being one of Thailand’s new natural golf courses.

Pirapon Nimatra is one of the few top Thai golf course designers who first saw the property as a mountain plantation.

I actually started work on the course in 2005 although we didn’t open until 2008.

IMG_8745 I remember driving up a small road and then we walked the rest of the way, and what I saw was a fantastic piece of property. The contours of the land was excellent, however I was worried about the water shed, as it is on a hill and there was not much water running through.

The owners were also keen not to disturb the natural environment, and they told me that I was not allowed to cut any trees. It took us a long time to route the course and in the end we only had to move one tree. All the young trees you see now actually came from the owners own housing estate nearby.

It is quite a long course, but it seems to play shorter due to the firm conditions. We used a local grass that takes less chemicals and water that was essential.

It is a fun course and I am pleased with the opening dog leg par four. As I say in my course notes just aim for the coconut tree and off you go. It’s good starting hole and it all flows very well. Some people like the front nine, but for me the course gets really interesting on the back nine.

10th is a fantastic little par 4. You can either hit a 3 wood or iron off the tee to the fat part of the fairway, or use the driver to try to get half way up the valley with an iron onto the green for your second shot. It has a raised tee down to a valley with the green way up on the other side surrounded by boulders. That was one of the toughest holes for us to create as it initially did not stand out as a typical golf hole. I am really pleased as it turned out to be a thinking hole to play but fun at the same time.

LIML5178 I think what makes the course enjoyable, especially for golf vacationers are the unusual surroundings. On several holes if you miss the fairway, your ball can end up in a pineapple plantation. Those were the original plantations and we just left those areas which intrigues are foreign guests, many who have never seen pineapples growing before.

The owner also told us to keep the Banana tree next to hole number eight as he explained that Europeans may have never seen that type of tree before.

Our signature hole is a short par 3. It’s weird how hole 15 become our signature.

I walked the property on my own and I caught a glimpse of the sea even though the Dutch owner did not know there were any sea views at all. I then worked out where to build the tee and the green to focus on the view, so that was a nice little surprise.

A lot of people talk about our last par 3 the 17th, which is perhaps the most hated or frustrate hole on the course.  Most modern course don’t have many par 3 uphill now, they usually bulldoze the green down a few metres. Well we decided to keep the natural contours there, the hole sits there like that…that’s the Banyan!

The final hole heads down to the clubhouse, which in itself has won several design awards. We decided to position the clubhouse there, so you can almost see the entire course from the terrace. It is a very traditional style which I think works very well.

So to sum up Banyan, if you want to play a an old style course that takes you back a bit in time,  with not wall to wall green, not too manicured, natural feeling with funky greens and bunkers then come and have a try. And watch out for the pineapples…they are sharp!!!

The Banyan Golf Club in Hau Hin is a member of the Golf in a Kingdom experience. For more details check out www.golfinakingdom.com

I would like to play golf! What is the best way to learn fast?

I would like to play golf! What is the best way to learn fast?

Nobody is the same, but it’s like riding a bicycle, it looks hard to start with, but with practice and once you have grasped the principles, then it comes easier.

PICT3631 Whereas most sports can be played when you are younger, the beauty of golf is that a 15 year old can have a competitive game with a 50 year old. So any age can start to take up the game of Golf.

Here in Thailand clubs actually encourage beginners to play.

Apart from being a great sport for every one of both genders and all ages, you are always trying to improve your game.

So how do you get going?

In a recent survey by a number of golf professionals and golfers in Thailand, they were asked is there a fast and easy way to learn to play golf? Well I have selected a few of their replies….

‘I would highly recommend that once you have the basics down by learning with a pro, you spend some time on the golf course with the pro. I find it very frustrating when I cannot figure out what is going wrong on the course, especially when it seemed to be working just fine on the range. Someone knowledgeable can diagnose a problem quickly to allow you to try to correct it whereas fixing your own problems on the course can be next to impossible.’

 ‘I also suggest that you begin your learning from the smallest of shots and gradually increase the size of the shots and length of the club. Those who try to learn with a driver are about as likely to do it as if one were to try to learn juggling by using nitro glycerin. As the length of the shot increases body movements are added one at a time. Thus each new short game shot teaches more of the body actions. The elbows are trained after the hands, the shoulders movements are then added to the actions of the hands and elbows etc, until all of the body motions have been learned.’

 ‘There will always be room for improvement, and so once you are feeling comfortable with what you are doing, try to keep records of scores i.e. score card, and set yourself challenges each time you go out to play.’

‘I have been playing for 3 years and I've got every book, DVD, CD, all the gear and still got no idea ! All this stuff just mushes your brain up, information overload.
What has worked for me is a regular lesson each week, trust and practice what you have been taught and play at least once a week on the course with good players who have the patience to play with a starter. Ask a few friends to recommend a PGA pro and use him and stick with him. Don't keep changing instructors. Most of all have fun playing golf and don't take it too seriously. Just when you think you've mastered it, it all falls apart, that's why all the tour players still have coaches and keep changing their swing and equipment. It's a continuous learning process no short cut.’

‘Join a country club! There is a significant difference between daily fee golf and private clubs. My game improved 20 strokes in six months by playing regularly at a club. A private club is a liberating experience; you can play more often, in a more flexible playing environment, under better course conditions, with other like minded enthusiasts. You won't feel pressured to play 18 just because you paid a greens fee, so you can slip in an hour or so of play when your schedule permits. Only time for five holes? As long as you don't interrupt play, have a go at it! If a country club is not an alternative, try an annual membership at a daily fee course so you can play more often. You'll learn why golf often becomes one's passion!

‘The best way to learn to play golf and the best way to learn correctly is to learn the game from the green back to the tee. By this I mean be willing to learn how to putt, chip and pitch the ball, be willing to take the time necessary to gain control of the ball in these areas of the game. Why? Skills in golf are learned, earned and acquired. Learning the short shots using short swings greatly accelerates this process. Find a PGA professional who is willing to instruct you in this manner.’

‘Contrary to what most pundits will tell you, start at the hole and work your way back with the help of a willing teacher. Get a good feel for putting first, then chipping and pitching, and move back to 100 yards, then all the way back to the tee. It's a target-based game that relies on accuracy. Starting by blasting balls on the range, like I did as a kid, will set you up for a long learning curve, fraught with frustration. Most strokes are taken within 100 yards. A good short game will build confidence, and the game is a lot easier and more fun if you're confident.’

‘If you have never picked up a club before I would say go to a driving range borrow some clubs grab a bucket or two of balls and imagine you are ten years old and have some fun.’

Well there are few of their suggestions. OK from my point of view, too many lessons can feel like you are back at school. When I started to learn, I went out to a par three course such as the Bangkok Golf Club, with a mate who was also learning and we took just three clubs…an eight iron, a wedge and a putter….and just went around those nine holes for two months. Then we felt confident to hit the big time by venturing onto our first 18 holes. Just like riding a bike, just a bit more expensive. For a full list of golf courses across Thailand, why not check out Golfasian.

Why is Golf Different in Thailand?

Why is Golf Different in Thailand?

Thailand’s leading golf course designer and builder, Pirapon Nimatra, is responsible for designing and renovating numerous courses in Thailand.

Therefore who better to explain why playing golf here in Thailand different from the rest of the World?

‘First of all we have great weather and you can pretty much play golf all year around. Secondly the caddies do make the experience playing here just that much friendlier and fun,’ said Pirapon.

Saturday Play 116 ‘However from my perspective as a golf course designer, what makes Thailand different is the variety. For example you can play on a 100 year old course like Royal Hua Him, where the greens and bunkers have that old style, or you can go to the other end of the scale to Siam Country Club which is very modern looking with new grasses and flashy bunkers. ‘

‘Then of course you have the variety of locations from sea side courses in Phuket and Hua Hin to mountain courses in Chiang Mai, similar to what you might play on in Hawaii. So the overall mix is what I think is special about playing in Thailand.’

Recently several international golf professionals found the greens were totally different at the Maybank Open in KL compared with the Masters at Augusta. How would you describe the actual playing surfaces here compared with US or European courses?

Pirapon explained,’ Well in America especially North of Florida you have cool season grass similar to Europe, where as we have warm season grass and they are two totally different animals. Warm season grass is a lot grainier, and it also grows a lot faster, but it also adds another dimension. When you are reading the putts here, you don’t just need to look at the slopes, but also which way the grass is actually growing. Also if it is hot and windy and depending on the time of day they could be playing to a difference of a foot on the stimp metre.’

Thailand has nearly 280 golf clubs. Is that a lot for the number of regular golfers?

‘Well they say that there are over 1 million players, but it is still good news for us golfers. There is a lot of competition to attract the players, so the rates are quite reasonable.’

You earlier mentioned caddies adding to the fun. As a golf course owner yourself, what do you think are some of the most important things the caddies need to know, especially as they meet lots of golf vacationers?

‘Well the caddies are expected to know our golf course and all the yardages, and as the grasses are likely to be a lot different from back home, so they can help by reading the lines too. Also it can be quite hot here sometimes, so one thing we train all our caddies is to keep your bosses cool! They will carry the umbrella and they also have little fans, so when you are waiting on the tee, they will keep you cool.’

They don’t do that at St Andrews in Scotland?

‘No they have a slightly different attitude, and they are not nearly as pretty too!’

Finally as a Thai based designer and builder of golf courses, what would you sum up is Thailand’s number one asset?

‘Apart from the huge variety, it is the people that make it so special. You are in touch with the caddies, the people at the club house and in the locker room, and it is their friendliness that brings back foreigners here to play golf again and again.’

Golf in Thailand is Still a Game to Enjoy

Golf in Thailand is Still a Game to Enjoy

Sometimes I think we forget that the game of golf is all about getting out in the fresh air to hit some balls and then have a cool drink with your fellow golfers afterwards.

However golf in the 20th century seems to be all about one upmanship, and this is being fuelled by the manufacturers with their massive marketing campaigns.

The ball will give you distance and this club will give you control and this putter is very responsive.

I was actually put off even considering lifting a club at an early age, when my Uncle tried to take around in the cart at his golf club in leafy stockbroker belt of Surrey. ‘No children’, said the stuffy club manager. We do not allow children on the course on weekends!

P1020405 Now of course everyone is thinking of schemes to actually encourage youngsters to take up the game. Here in Thailand there is no such stuffiness. Clubs love to encourage kids to play, and even go out of their way to hold tournaments as well.

Of course there is the friendly banter among mates and the occasional wager on the match, but in general I have found playing golf in Asia a very friendly and enjoyable experience.

Sure we would all love to play at St Andrews, Troon or Augusta, but it’s a lot more fun to have four attractive caddies telling you that you have 190 yards to go or to aim one cup left on the green. Not sure if they all know why it is called ‘a dog left or right’, but at least they add glamour to the round.

The other big plus point here in Thailand, is that you really do get a variety of courses to test your game. It is not only challenging but also exciting to drive off a raised tee down across a valley of pineapples onto an undulating green surrounded by palm trees.

Thailand is in the business of providing the ‘WOW’ factor. And the good thing is that there are so many good golf clubs within easy driving distance. In fact it is not unusual to have three clubs all within a mile of each other.

Check out the 17th at Red Mountain in Phuket - it is literally 140 metres down a mine shaft. Disused thank goodness!!!

Chiang Mai Highlands mountainous holes are not only beautifully but are also very tricky.

Monkeys, pelicans, giant lizards….it all adds to your golfing experience in Thailand.

Seriously though, golf in Asia is all about experience, and let’s not forget it is all done with a big SMILE.

Matteo the World Golfer

Matteo the World Golfer

Matteo Manassero’s been in Asia, the Middle East, off to the States, then to Europe and now back in Asia all since January.

I caught up with him this week at the Maybank Malaysian Open where he had arrived on Monday to really taken in playing back on the slower greens.IMG_1467

I first asked Matteo what were his recollections of playing in his first Royal Trophy?

‘It was amazing. Nobody expected us to win and we as a team were on a high and felt we could win. Everything went right from the beginning actually, and we were up after three holes right to the end. It was fantastic really!’

That was Matteo’s first time in Thailand and he told me he really enjoyed the trip.

‘I enjoyed staying in Hua Hin and I liked Thailand. Everyone there does not have any problems, and you don’t see anger in Thailand. Everyone is smiling and that’s what makes Thailand such a great place.’

I then asked him what he thought about playing at Black Mountain.

‘I think it is a good course. It was fantastic. It was always in good condition and is a well shaped course and the greens are pure. The shape of a course is what makes a great course. It’s quite a long course but I enjoyed that week. The par 3 hole 11 is fantastic with the lake and it is one of the tough holes there. I know Johan Edfors and a few of the other guys actual practice there in the winter and it is definitely a good idea.’

Compared with us weekend golfers and even the Asian Tour players, you guys at the Royal Trophy were getting onto the greens on a few of the par 4’s.

‘Yes we were able to get close with the following wind, so it was worth the go,’ he told me.

Finally I asked him if he plans to keep Asia on his schedule in the future.

‘Yes definitely. I am a great fan of a worldwide tour, as you want to play in Europe, the States, the Middle East and here in Asia. If there is a chance of playing a Worldwide Tour that would be good. It is just a great experience.’

He’s currently ranked 57 in the World and with a good showing in KL where he lead the first round Matteo could be soon in the top 50 at the age of 17 years old.

 

Masters Means Armchair Golf This Week

Masters Means Armchair Golf This Week

With the low season here in Thailand just started, the green fees are now reasonable, the weather is still very pleasant and the courses are exceptionally green.

RM16-4 This is a great time to get the clubs out of the cupboard and head to one of 280 wonderful golf courses dotted around this beautiful country.

The Koreans have returned home to play in the own back yard so the courses are also not too busy.

But I am afraid this will not be enough to entice me away from my home this week.

No I have filled the fridge, checked that the beers are cold and from Friday onwards I will be glued to my flat screen….yes the Masters are back and so don't call me unless it is life threatening.

Not sure where you are but here in Bangkok we will get live coverage starting at 02.00hrs on Friday. For wimps there will be delayed coverage during the day, but somehow it just is not the same.

I hope I can stay awake until 06.00hrs on Monday April 11th.

This year Thongchai Jaidee has dropped out of the World's top 50 so like me he will most likely be watching on his TV set too.

My hopes are for a European victory with a wild card bet on Ross Fisher to win, and who can leave out Luke and Lee as well.

Anyway if you don't enjoy the tension on the screen, then I am sure you will find the odd hacker out on the course, wondering why the course is so quite! Enjoy.

Bangkok Weaves It’s Magic Spell

Bangkok Weaves It’s Magic Spell

I have now lived here in Bangkok for over a year, so perhaps do not class myself as a ‘tourist’.

Golfasian-Journalists-Thai-Country-Club However last week some international media descended into Thailand and I was invited to join them for an evening of culture. I therefore became a tourist for the night.

First stop was Siam Nirimit billed as ‘The Must See Show in Thailand.’

Siam Niramit is a world-class performance of Thailand's arts and cultural heritage. Set in the heart of Bangkok it is close to the MRT and major thoroughfares.

This is truly a must-see spectacular which is performed on the gigantic stage, now listed in the Guinness World Records.

Imagine a west End stage and then treble it….65 meters wide, and 40 metres wide and a very high proscenium. It really dwarfs the 150 performers, who have as many as 500 costumes.

On top of this, enhanced special effects with the world's most advanced technology are used to produce a stimulating, very realistic and inspiring experience. The lighting was superb!

Goats, Elephants in the auditorium and even a river and rain are all part of the extravaganza.

Afterwards our party was whisked away to experience a private river cruise up the busy Chaophraya River in Bangkok.

Run by the Marriott Spa and Resort, their small boat can comfortably sit over 20 guests in style as you glide up the Chapophraya, known as the ‘River of Kings’.

The food is typically Thai ranging from dips to soups and spicy main dishes, followed by sticky rice and mango.

Many famous sites are illuminated at night and it is wonderful to see the temples glittering in all their splendour. Bangkok beats the river Thames any day!

Of course most tourists will take in the Grand Palaces and the night markets, however my personal palace to add to your list is Thaniya Plaza, a shopping centre near Sala Daeng BTS Sky train with over four floors of golf equipment at very reasonable prices. Possibly the must see attraction at the top of the list before you head for your next Thailand Golf Vacation.

It’s not all golf you know…..well almost

It’s not all golf you know…..well almost

Golf for many of us is a very serious addiction. We have to have our regular fix!

Come rain or shine, business meetings or trade exhibitions, we will make all the excuses needed to arrange that very crucial meeting which just happens to clash.

That is our ‘speak’ for sod it I am going to play a round of golf anyway.

Golfasian-Thailand-Super-Golf-Fam-Trip-2010-Pattaya-008 Here in Thailand a lot of business is conducted on the golf course and in some companies, it is seen as an actual asset if you can play golf.

There are corporate tournaments, amateur tournaments, club tournaments, Pro Ams, weekday shotguns, expat clubs and night golf, all where you can do some serious networking.

Expat golf is huge particularly here in Asia, and in Bangkok they have several clubs. Perhaps the biggest is called the Wanderers, who have over 300 members and play shotguns every weekend.

The Asian Tour visits Thailand several times a year along with the LPGA. It’s amazing how many places on the tournament’s Pro Am are not taken up by the local prime minister or the CEO of the main sponsors. One enterprising travel agent managed to arrange for 20 of his clients to play in a recent Pro Am, an experience they are unlikely to forget.

Eithad Airways recently ran a very successful Corporate Golf Tournament in several countries, with all the individual winners flying business class to Abu Dhabi to play in the grand final at the Yas Links course. Surprisingly the eventual winners for 2010 came from the Bangkok round.

Many of the hospitality industry also use golf to act as networking events. You have a chance for four of you to mix work with pleasure over 4-5 hours on the course, followed by a slap up meal a few beers and some speeches and awards thrown in too. The Hyatt group had their own get together recently down at the Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin and the winner flew to Dubai and stayed at the Park Hyatt and played the wonderful Dubai Creek and Golf Club as well.

I would much rather spend a day at the golf course assisted by a smiling Thai Caddie, than stuck in a ballroom listening to the CFO of some company telling us how brilliant they are.

Perhaps instead of that company outing to the next big horse race, why not suggest to your CEO, that you should take some clients over to Thailand for a week’s worth of golf and networking.

But one tip to remember.

It is better to let your clients win, just by a whisker, and then you stand a chance of winning that new order. You may also get a pat on the back from your Managing Director who may even utter those immortal words…’Jones, we’ve got those Korean buyers in town and all they want to do is play golf. I don’t suppose you could….’

What Makes A Great Golf Vacation In Asia Even Better

What Makes A Great Golf Vacation In Asia Even Better

For a lucky few of us, vacations are taken several times a year. But for most of us we can only grab the odd week or maybe a fortnight away to play our golf.

Not everyone in the family is going to get excited, when you tell them you plan another family vacation, where you will travel miles to find your ultimate 18 holes.

OK I think we have found the answer to your predicament, the Kingdom of Smiles, namely Thailand.

Swinger I am positive it will not be hard to persuade you to experience Thailand’s marvellous Championship courses. However, first you need to let the rest of your tribe exactly what you have in store for them too.

Firstly there is the climate which is hard to resist, especially lying by the pool with a cocktail and you’re I Pod.

What female can resist a bit of retail therapy? Well if you include Bangkok in your itinerary, they can shop almost 24/7 and find local Thai designer ware at very reasonable rates. From swanky air conditioned shopping malls to the massive weekend markets they will be spoilt for choice and it won’t break your bank balance either!

If there are teenagers involved, I am sure a bit of river rafting, bungee jumping or checking out the DVD’s for sale at the night markets will keep them happy.

Through in the odd elephant trek, a visit to the floating market and add the fabulous Thai cuisine, and you will have a very satisfied family.

They will not even notice you quietly creeping out of your hotel suite at 7am with your golf bag, as they will all be exhausted and sleeping soundly.

Thailand is a golfing country and the sport is taken very seriously by the local tourist board, as they can see that overseas players are an important income earner for their hospitality industry. We golfers spend money and naturally they want you to spend your dollars here in Thailand.

Having said that, golf across Thailand is actually very reasonable, and according to a recent survey, their green fees are 29% lower than all other Asian and Middle East golf clubs.

Tour operators such as Golfasian, run a very well oiled operation, so you the golfer can just enjoy the game, while they look after getting you to the course and handling the payments.

Tour Operators are the life blood of most golf club’s income, as the will be able to fill a substantial number of tee times over a twelve month period. Hence you are likely to benefit from some good tee times and at very competitive rates too.

Many of Golfasian‘s staff are also crazy about golf themselves, and like you, they try to play as many courses around Thailand as possible. If you need to know where to play, bearing in mind your type of golf handicap, they can advise you.

If during your fortnights family holiday, you want fit in around 6-8 rounds of golf, don’t worry. I am sure the rest of the family will be too busy to even notice you’re away enjoying some first class golf on some great Thailand Championship courses.

Remember if you could do with some family bonding, you can always suggest that everyone goes to a Thai Spa. I am sure your back swing will improve after a deep tissue sports massage, and they rest of your brood should also enjoy their Thai massage as well.

Enjoy and happy golf vacation to you all!

Playing Golf in Thailand

Playing Golf in Thailand

We all like to experience playing a round of golf in a different part of the world, so if you are used to playing in the cold regions of Europe or the States, then you are in for a treat when you arrive here in the Kingdom of Thailand.

Greg1 Their tourist adverts promote Thailand as the Land of Smiles and they are very proud to promote vacations in their country, especially golf holidays. It’s not surprising as there are over 250 golf course scattered across the country.

You cannot beat playing a round in the tropical sun of Thailand, when back home the local club is two feet under snow!

Now according to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is the world's hottest city, being located just 14 degrees north of the Equator, However Bangkok is sunny at any time of the year with temperatures over 30°C (86°F).

Thailand is a fairly large country so you can experience cooler weather in the north in places such as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, while there are cool sea breezes on the islands such as Koi Samui or Phuket.

The most pleasant time for example to visit Bangkok is the cool season that lasts from November till February. It is both the coolest and driest period. Even the Emerald Buddha statue in Wat Phra Kaew even wears a scarf during this period! Don't think that's necessary though — daytime temperatures still hover around 30°C (86°F), but it does cool down into the lower 20s as it gets dark (lower 70s in Fahrenheit).

March and April represent the hot season, and hot it is — 35°C (95°F) on average, but don't be surprised to see temperatures rising into the 40s °C (around 100 °F+). So plan in a lot of air-conditioned shopping mall visits and get a hotel with a swimming pool.

Then there's the wet season that runs from May till October. Expect massive downpours resulting in floods all over the city, and spells of thunder at times. It's not all bad though — the afternoon showers are actually a pleasant way to cool down from the heat, and while they may last all day, usually they're over within an hour. Extreme rainfall happens in September and October, so these months are normally to be best avoided.

Your travel agent such as Golfasian will be happy to advise you on the best area to enjoy the favourable climate. Whatever season you're visiting, so long as you well prepared it is no big deal.

In fact many locals like to head for their favourite golf course for an early morning round. Therefore you may find that playing a round starting at around 13.00hrs will be fine. The course will be a lot quieter, and you can still play up to 18.00hrs in the cooler afternoon temperatures.

Dress lightly for the weather, as shorts are the norm on the golf course. But remember that even on cloudy days you can get sunburnt, so bring plenty of factor 30, plus mosquito repellent is also useful.

Once you have asked your travel agent to select your hotels and golf clubs, all you need to do is get ready to enjoy some of this Thai magic. Have a great golf vacation.

Why Do I like to Play Golf in Thailand?

Why Do I like to Play Golf in Thailand?

Why?

Because I can get out into the fresh air, hit some balls and enjoy the company of some friends, for maybe five hours.

OK maybe we don't always want to be with them all the time, so if they are fading their drive to the left, maybe if I want some peace and quiet I will drive purposely to the right.

But that is being a bit extreme!

DSC01280 Golf is just the right type of sport, where we can play badly, but still feel it was all worth it, and enjoy a drink at the clubhouse afterwards. Perfect!

Perhaps what makes playing around of golf here in Thailand, is it's all just a bit more relaxed. In fact it can be very relaxed indeed.

As soon as your car drives up, you really don't have to lift a finger. All is required is a greeting to your caddie and they take over.

Maybe after changing into your trendy Loud Mouth outfit, or your Ian Poulter Tartan Trousers, you can indulge in a pre round snack in the club house.

No cups of tepid tea here…..how about some chicken Satay, washed down by a fresh young coconut. OK and a cold beer perhaps too.

Then outside where the golf cart awaits, with your smiling Thai caddie ready and willing.

She tells you her name is Beer! Oh really I thought she said did I want another drink!

She already has your tees and golf balls ready for the battle ahead, so off we head for the first tee, a Par 4, 350 yards.  No problem!

Beer tells you it is a 'Dog red reft'.  (I think she meant 'Dog leg left' but no matter…. ),  with bunker at 240 yards ahead. Aim 'light', she kindly explains.

Golfasian-Thailand-Super-Golf-Fam-Trip-2010-Pattaya-013 No matter, anyway as your ball sails off in the direction of the lake on the left. Caddie gives me a smile as she realises that maybe I did not take her advice.

Cheers from the Thailand Ball Manufacturers Associations, as my ball drops in the water, and they see their turnover doubling before their eyes!!!

Trying to impress Beer now, so completely miss hit my third shot and end up getting a miserable seven. Not a great start.

By the time we reach the back nine we have stopped at some very pleasant rest stops, wolved down numerous beers and enjoyed some excellent snacks to boot. My caddie now realises that I am no Tiger Woods, more like in the woods!

We then decide to involve our four caddies in some betting. Whoever gets closest to the pin on the next par 3, gives their caddie a chance to putt for a birdie or par. All other players chip in to pay if she succeeds.

Caddies all join in the fun, and we are now eight merry players wobbling up the 15th.

Must say it is a bit much when you tee off again over a lake, to find three scantily clad Thai men waiting to dive in and get your ball….I will probably buy it back a few times in the club's pro shop over the next few months.

Luckily I make it to the green, much to Beer's delight and she putts in two to win a few more baht.

I think we have maybe let two groups through, laughed when the caddies tried to tell us about their favourite movie 'Hally Potter', and had a thoroughly enjoyable four hours of good fun….called golf!

Of course I forgot to mention that we had played amongst some fantastic scenery, saw a few cheeky monkeys, some lizards, a number of colourful birds (feathered variety) and it did not snow!

Playing in Thailand is a unique experience not to be missed, and it is all done with a big smile too.

Yes, now I can remember why I like to play golf!

Why We Like to Play Golf in Thailand?

Why We Like to Play Golf in Thailand?

Apart from over 280 wonderful golf courses to select, the fantastic variety of layouts from seaside to mountain tracks, plus those smiling caddies, Thailand also has on offer a great climate too!

When I lived in the UAE, only Mad Dogs and Englishmen would venture out to play a round of golf between June and September, when the temperatures rose to 52 degrees centigrade. Russian and Korean golfers also have a limited number of months to play due to their severe winters.

Thailand is luckily different!

Now having lived here in Bangkok for over a year, I am easily able to cope with a round of golf during almost all months.

Thailand has an all year round climate, that can best be described as tropical and humid for the majority of the country during most of the year.

The area of Thailand north of Bangkok has a climate determined by three seasons whilst the southern peninsular region of Thailand has only two.

Chiangmai Highlands 01 In northern Thailand the seasons are clearly defined. Between November and May the weather is mostly dry, however this is broken up into the periods November to February and March to May.

The later of these two periods has the higher relative temperatures as although the northeast monsoon does not directly affect the northern area of Thailand, it does cause cooling breezes from November to February.

For example last week we played a round in Pattaya at Burapha Golf Club, and we actually experienced there seasons, dull, wet and sunny all in one round. Great fun!

The other northern season is from May to November and is dominated by the southwest monsoon, during which time rainfall in the north is at its heaviest.

Maybe back home it takes time for your local course to recover, whereas here they are used to the odd sudden downpour, and with excellent drainage, most courses are playable almost immediately after the storm moves on.

The caddies all have large umbrellas to protect you from the sun or rain, and you can buy golf bag waterproofs before you start your round.

The southern region of Thailand really has only two seasons — the wet and the dry. These seasons do not run at the same time on both the east and west side of the peninsular.

On the west coast the southwest monsoon brings rain and often heavy storms from April through to October, whilst on the east coast the most rain falls between September and December.

Generally speaking, the best time to visit Thailand is from November to February when the northeast monsoon is blowing cool, dry air which serves as a respite from the heat.

During this cool season, the temperature ranges from 18ºC to 32ºC in Bangkok, while in northern and northeast Thailand, temperatures can get quite cool with morning temperatures as low as 8º C to 12º C with the occasional 20º C day.

Nights can be particularly chilly and at high altitudes the temperatures can and do drop below freezing.

The summer period, or hot and dry season, is from March to June. At this time temperatures in Bangkok average around 34º C, but can often reach 40º C with the humidity levels of 75%.

Try and avoid April, unless you plan to be permanently submerged in the ocean, because this is the hottest month across the country.

Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort 0611_H12_0853 From July to October is the monsoonal season when most of Thailand's annual rainfall is accumulated. The humidity averages just under 90%, with temperatures averaging around 29º C in Bangkok.

The monsoons finish when the wind direction changes, bringing dry weather from the northeast. At best this season can be described as unpredictable and not the constant downpour of rain like you would expect. The middle months of this season may hold particularly heavy rains for the north of the country.

This is all great information to have, but in reality it's still possible to avoid the mid morning heat in April by booking an afternoon tee time say at 13.30hrs. The course will be a lot quieter and if you do happen to get caught by a storm, then you can always shelter at the many food and drink stops.

The rates are also slightly lower after April / May so you not only will find the courses less hectic, but you will also have some more cash to buy those cheap golf clubs in Bangkok.

Try a visit to the cooler courses in the North when a round at Chiang Mai Highlands can be very pleasant in the summer.

With sensible planning and friendly advice from your golf travel specialists you can really enjoy golf here in Thailand all year round.

Festivals Abound in Thailand

Festivals Abound in Thailand

There are amazing festivals held annually around the World, that most of us would definitely add to our list of must see events to see.

There is the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Rio Carnival in South America, the Notting hill Gate Carnival in London, to name a few.

Here in Thailand we are very fortunate as they have many festivals each year, and some are actually quite unusual.

If you are planning a golf vacation here in Thailand and want to bring the family, it is definitely worth checking out when the best festivals are taking place.

While you can enjoy some extra tee times on some of Asia’s best golf courses, the rest of the family will be busy enjoying many Thai traditions.

Here are a few of the more unusual events!

There is the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, an ancient royal rite held in Thailand to mark the traditional beginning of the rice-growing season. This year it is on Tuesday, 10 May 2011.

Loy Kratong is a major celebration in November when Thais pay respect to the goddess of the waters by floating candlelit offerings on any and all waterways around the kingdom.

North east Thailand's most popular – and certainly most visited festival – is the annual Surin Elephant Festival. This is always held, come what may, on the third Saturday of November. Whilst undoubtedly it has become a tourist and commercial spectacle, the festival is also a fascinating tribute to all things "elephant"!

In this very well patronised tribute to the Buddhist kingdom's best loved animal, over two hundred of the giant beasts are assembled to entertain and thrill the huge crowd, which gets larger year by tear. Few visitors are disappointed with what they see.

The island of Phuket’s has several of its own festivals and perhaps the most distinctive event is their Vegetarian Festival, held annually over 9 days in the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar.

A colourful event, it celebrates the Chinese community's belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar will help them obtain good health and peace of mind.

One of my favourites however, is the quaint Thai festival in April called Songkran. This festival celebra Thailand-golf-festival tes the start of the Buddhist New Year as well as the end of the dry season.

Traditionally, Buddha images are bought out of their chapels and ritually washed. This ritual bathing has evolved in larger cities to out-and-out water warfare.

For three crazy days, Thais and foreigner’s alike splash around the streets in a friendly water fight. This is the time to wear your swimwear, and just get wet or just sit on the sidelines and soak up all the fun.

Songkran is now extremely popular with tourists, to the extent that the Tourism of Thailand now is heavily promoting Songkran as a great time to visit Thailand. This year the festival takes place on April 13th-15th across Thailand.

Playing golf in Thailand is a kind of festival of sorts as well. Although there are no specific dates, we all like to celebrate a great day on the golf course, and helped by your smiling caddie, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Westwood to join Jaidee in Asia

Westwood to join Jaidee in Asia

Asian golf legend and three-time Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand will compete in the inaugural US$750,000 Indonesian Masters next month, joining world number two Lee Westwood of England in the elite field at Royale Jakarta Golf Club.

22_VMA06_Winner_Thongchai Jaidee_resize Organisers announced today that PNTS, one of Indonesia’s fastest growing off shore bulk cargo handling companies, Garuda Indonesia, the national flag carrier, and Mercedes-Benz have also signed up as sponsors of Indonesia’s newest Asian Tour tournament from April 21 to 24, 2011.

Normally if you are planning to catch the stars playing in Asia, they only used to fly here at the beginning of the season. Now as Asia is seen as the growing market, more and more sponsors are prepared to open their cheque books, and there are now several tournaments in the spring and autumn.

 Black Mountain here in Thailand has hosted two championships in the past quarter, and there are several Asian Tour and One Asia tournament due in Thailand shortly.

India’s rising star Gaganjeet Bhullar, a two-time Asian Tour champion and no stranger to success in Indonesia, and Thai standout Chapchai Nirat, a three-time winner, will also feature in the Indonesian Masters which will be beamed live throughout four rounds to over 40 countries and 440 million homes worldwide.

After writing several pages in Asian golf history with his exploits, Thongchai is determined to become the inaugural champion of the Indonesian Masters.

“I am looking forward to the Indonesian Masters next month, especially when it will be played at Royale Jakarta. I have heard it is a fantastic golf course and I believe it will contribute to a very successful week of golf,” said Thongchai.

 The 41-year-old Thai is presently the most successful golfer in Asia following an unprecedented three Order of Merit triumphs in 2001, 2004 and 2009. He also holds the most number of victories on the Asian Tour with 13 titles and is the leader of the career earnings ranking with over US$4 million in winnings since breaking into the scene in 1999.

 In 12 seasons on the Asian Tour, the former paratrooper has finished outside the top-10 of the merit list only twice to cement his reputation as one of the most consistent performers on the region’s elite circuit.

“I owe my success very much to the Asian Tour and it is tremendous to see new tournaments like the Indonesian Masters coming up on our Schedule. I will always support the Asian Tour,” said Thongchai.

 Thongchai is perhaps Thailand’s number one ambassador promoting golf in the kingdom wherever he goes around the globe.

 ‘I love to come home and experience some of the great variety of golf courses across Thailand. And of course with our wonderful caddies you cannot beat their infectious smiles’ said Thongchai.

Thai Golf Balls Launched

Thai Golf Balls Launched

Well do you have a favourite golf ball, or do you just tee off with any old brand?

Of course if you are lucky to be a professional on the PGA, European or Asian Tours, the manufactures are keen to give you loads of their balls for free. Maybe that's why they theatrically like to throw a brand new golf ball into the lake after a double bogie.

Thailand-golf-bals However for us happy weekend hackers here in Thailand, golf balls can be a very personal purchase. Maybe you get sucked in by the manufactures marketing, or perhaps you like the actual design, or maybe you really do get more spin…or like most of us, you are governed by price.

Across Thailand there are approximately over 250 golf clubs, ranging from the top Championship courses like Bangkok's Suwan Golf Club and Thai Country Club, to the flat field style public courses out in the countryside.

In fact the other day I played a round at Thai Country Club, and my caddie took out an old ball for me to tee off at the treacherous par three, their 3rd hole. She knew that with the wind blowing, that it was pretty likely that my ball would end up in the lake. True to form, yes it did go down to meet the fish, and luckily she kept my new Titleist dry in my bag!

I then began to wonder exactly how many balls like mine, end up lost on the busiest day of the week, Saturday, at all 250 Thai golf clubs?

Let's assume that the average number of Thai golfers playing 18 holes on Saturday would be say 100. Therefore 250 clubs x 100 players = 25,000 rounds of golf.

Then assume that the average handicap is 26, that it is fair to predict we loose on average of two balls per round (if you are honest probably a lot more!) which means 50,000 golf balls are lost every Saturday. That equates to staggering 2.6million golf balls every Saturday in a year.

Therefore including seven days a week, we are likely to lose between 12-15million balls a year. Maybe the casual tourist in Phuket or Hua Hin's courses this rate could be a lot higher!

No wonder the golf ball manufacturers  spend big bucks on TV and in the press, encouraging you and me to pop down to our friendly golf store, to hand over our hard earnt cash.

Luckily help is at hand, as many golf courses in Thailand  employ golf ball fishermen to collect all these 12 million balls, lost in the water.

In fact, it is a sobering thought that you may therefore find you are actually buying back your own original golf ball, from the friendly chap outside the club entrance or even at the club's pros shop.

Maybe it's worth putting one of those extractable golf ball catchers in your bag in future.

 

You Are Never Too Old to Play a Competitive Game of Golf in Thailand

You Are Never Too Old to Play a Competitive Game of Golf in Thailand

For the majority of sports, age definitely does become a handicap.

For example it is highly unlikely that a 58 year old can easily have a fair chance of beating a 20 year old at tennis. The youngster will most likely run circles around the older guy.

Although an older player maybe able to score a great goal in soccer, he is most likely to run out of steam and will ask the manager to take him off after half an hour for a breather.

Whereas Golf is one of the sports that is truly a game for all ages.

Certainly with the handicap system in place, Granddad can really enjoy a fair competitive game with his 16 year old grandson.

Even on the professional circuit, the old guys are still up there winning trophies.

Look at Spain's Miguel Ángel Jiménez, the oldest player on the European Tour. At the age of 47years he is still a regular with the Ryder Cup squad, and won three tournaments last year.

Also 40 year old Dane Thomas Bjorn beat the World's number one and two Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, to win last week's Qatar Masters.

Tom Watson's round at the British Open is proof that the oldies are not out of it by any means.

In fact someone asked me last week if their 65 year old uncle was too old to take up the sport, now he was retired and living in Bangkok?

Bottom line is it is never too late to pick up a club, you just need to hook up with a friendly club professional who can quickly give you the basics.

Thailand Golf Recently two 50 year old mates of ours decided they were fed up with hearing another golf story, of how we had all birdied the 17th at Red Mountain (down an old disused mine shaft!) or how we had broken our best record at Thai Country Club's treacherous 18 holes.

So they both said they wanted to see what all the fuss was about and give golf a go too.

Being impatient they wanted to start straight away. However first we took them to the driving range for an hour's worth of practice at Bangkok's La Luk Ka Golf Club. Driving, irons, chipping and a bit of putting followed.

They then said they were up for a game, so they just both jumped into a buggie and drove over to the 10th hole on the club's East Course.

We had already explained to the caddies that they really were very green, and starting on the 10th green on a Tuesday afternoon, meant the course was fairly quiet and we would not be pressurised by other golfers following us.

Amazing both teed off and there balls went around 100 yards in the right direction and they were off on their new adventure.

We told them to use their tees on the fairways to help their driving, and they moved their balls away from any obstacles when needed. Also the caddies were very patient, and entered into the spirit, by sneakily moving their balls nearer to the pin on several greens.

Overall both new recruits did remarkably well and afterwards we had to sit there in the club's bar, listening to how they nearly shot a birdie at the 3rd hole. The boot was on the other shoe now, and so we had to put up with their boring golf stories now!

If you feel you want to get out and get some fresh air, then a walk around an 18 hole golf course is definitely great exercise, but it's also a lot more fun than running about in the gym.

Most clubs will have a friendly and patient club professional who will take you through all the shots.

Red Mountain 13 Golfasian the leading golf vacation specialists, now have several European pros who like to escape the chilly winters by flying over with their students for a week's worth of lessons. The only difference is that they can teach you by taking you to play on some of Thailand's wonderful courses, and you are playing in the sun.

Golf in Thailand is for locals, expats and tourists alike, so you don't have to be a member at most clubs.

If you want to just sneak out on your own to hit some balls on the back nine, then that's no problem. Maybe the caddie will give you a tip or two as well.

By playing golf you also get to see a bit of the wonderful countryside around Thailand, from seaside to mountain courses, it's got the lot. And let's not forget golf is also a great way to meet new friends.

So maybe now you are ready to take on your son, grandson and even your granddaughter too!

 

Mike Bridge   Editor Thai Golf News       Golf blog No 5   Feb 2011

Media Scrum at Royal Trophy Press Conference!

Media Scrum at Royal Trophy Press Conference!

Interest in the Royal Trophy is already extremely high, with over 250 journalists from Europe and Asia keen to get their pictures and stories, at yesterday’s press conference.

Although Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie OBE is here in Thailand, along with a host of top stars, the media’s attention was focused on super star Rio Ishikawa, the Japanese pin up boy.IMG_6826

In 2010 Rio made a World record closing round of 12 under par 58 and is returning to represent Asia at the Royal Trophy for a third successive time, and he is still only 19 years old.

Europe not to be out done, have invited their very own super kid, Italy’s Matteo Manassero. Matteo won his first European Tour title at just 17 years old, claiming the Castello Masters last October. He was also recently named European Tour’s Rookie of the Year 2010.

Latest team news is that Eduardo Molinari has had to pull out of the European Team due to injury and Fredrik Andersson Hed has flown in last night to take his place.

Peter Hanson, Thomas Bjorn, Johan Edfors, Matteo Manassero, Henrik Stenson, Pablo Martin and Rhys Davies make up the rest of Monty’s team.

Asia has ten of their players in Thailand to choose from, as Jeev Milka Singh is still recovering from a back injury. He told the media yesterday that he would eventually decide if he was fit to join the team after today’s pro am at Black Mountain Hua Hin.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, who is the only player to have taken part in every Royal Trophy match said’ He felt that the Hua Hin course was tougher than last year’s host Amatar Spring Golf Club, and that everyone will need to be aware of some of the greens.’

European team member Rhys Davies from Wales, who is known as the World’s Best Putter, maybe has an advantage, but everyone is predicting a very close fight to the finish on Sunday January 9th at Black Mountain Hua Hin.

The enormous media interest in this event is great for sponsors Tourist Authority of Thailand, as it is promoting golf in Thailand to the masses of fans around the World.

Smiling Caddies, Sunshine & Great Golf!

Smiling Caddies, Sunshine & Great Golf!

Living here in Thailand perhaps we take for granted the pleasures of playing a round of golf.

Back home in Europe, the snow has put paid to the pre Christmas round with your golf buddies. Can’t get the car out of the deep drifts!!!

Here we are experiencing our own milder weather… still a beautiful 25c with a cool breeze!

No panic with the traffic to get to the course on time here though. Just relax in the back of your limo, while your driver takes you directly to a Thailand golf course.

Open the car door and immediately a smiling caddie says ‘Sawadee Ka ‘ and will take your clubs from you, and will even offer you a welcome drink and a cold towel.

DSC01281 Once you have registered, changed and found your buggy, it’s off to the practice range to hit some balls. Here the caddie will hand you your clubs, and even pick up your balls from the pitching area.

When it’s time to go, the starter will check your ticket, and then you are all ready to go.

If you have never played with a caddie before, the experience can be a bit daunting to begin with, however you soon realise that they are there to make your round that bit more enjoyable.

Most of the caddies at Thailand's golf courses are girls aged between 18-25yrs old and they make their living by caddying maybe 4-5 times a week. The club normally charges the golfer a caddie fee of around Baht300 and then it’s up to you to give them a tip at the end.

If you ask them how much, the normal response is ‘It is up to you.’ Probably Baht300-500 tip for 18 holes is the norm, although if you go round in a low score or get a hole in one, then their tip can increase.

Not only are the often very pretty and fun to be with, they know each hole as they see everyone play the course all year round. So they can give you the best advice on where to aim from the tee box, and how to read the greens.

They will also hold your umbrella and fan you to keep you cool. If you stop at one of the drink stops, its often nice to offer them a drink too.

Most caddies have nick names like Beer, Oil or Chop. Easy to remember!

At the end of the round, your caddie will ask you to count your clubs before taking them back to your car. They will often give you a card with their name and number on. You then slot it into the box marked poor up to excellent! 

If you liked your caddie, make a note of her number, in case you return and want the club to book her for your second round there.

Here’s just another reason why playing golf in Thailand is such a great experience.

Mission Hills Phuket….Golf by the Sea

Mission Hills Phuket….Golf by the Sea

If you are fortunate enough to be able to take the odd Thailand golfing vacation, then playing on some rounds in some of the most beautiful locations in the world has to be your goal!

Playing besides the sea is definitely an experience to savour, whether it’s a windy links course in Ireland or over the ocean in Bali.

Coming to Phuket in Thailand most golfers will head for Blue Canyon or Red Mountain. However you should also add the Nicklaus designed Mission Hills Phuket Golf Resort and Spa to your list.

Golf Course 020 Only ten minutes from Phuket International airport and around 40 minutes from Patong, the golf resort is located on the east coast side of the island.

Opened just twelve years ago and designed by the legend Jack Nicklaus, this 18 hole course has several signature holes running right up to the coastline. You are literally playing alongside the local fisherman with a few exotic birds as partners too!

The 6,806 yard course features several lakes, some island greens, a few well placed bunkers and some fairly generous fairways!

The course is fulfilled with the best selected grass, Paspalum Sea Isle 1 for the fairways and Paspalum Sea Isle 2000 for the greens.

The whole experience starts with the welcoming club house, with a magnificent see through archway, directly overlooking the 9th hole, with the sea in the background. You can’t wait to get out there.

The 1st hole is next to a covered bar, so there is time for a cool drink before you tee off. This hole is fairly straight forward par 4, 344yards with a slight dog leg to the right, with the green is surrounded by bunkers.

The whole course is relatively flat, however Nicklaus has still managed to create some interest with some raised greens, lakes and a few well placed bunkers.

Very unusual is Hole 2, a par 5 that green ends on a manmade island, that also doubles as the green for hole 5.

Their signature hole and the one you are most likely to ask the caddie to take your picture, is the par 3 hole 4. You are literally teeing off over a large expanse of sand onto a slightly raise green with the sea in the background. Hit too far and you may knock the local fisherman out of his boat!!!

There are four par fives and the longest is the 584 yard hole 13th a dog leg to the right with masses of sand left and right with bunkers and water around the green.

The final hole is a beautiful 382 yard par 4 with water down the entire right hand side. You have to hit an iron onto an island green, a great way to complete your round.

Golfing in Thailand

Golfing in Thailand

Dubai I had a chat the other day with my friend Mark Siegel of www.thailandgolfzone.com about golfing in Thailandand he started with a very surprising comment – if any one just wants to play golf, he suggests they stay at home and play golf and not come to Thailand because really it is just the same so what is the point.

 

 

However if you want to immerse yourself in a new culture, experience eating food from a different continent every night, spend $1 on dinner one night then $500 the next THEN you should come to Thailand to enjoy a golfing holiday no other country in the world can offer.

 

 

OK so now he has my attention and what he talked about was so true. You are simply treated like a king from the minute you arrive at a golf course till the minute you leave. Staff at golf courses around the world can spend all the money they like on staff training – it will not compare to 1000’s of years Thai culture where they are brought up to be respectful. As Mark put it, the,Thai-ness of the people here is some thing special.

  

 

Most people that live here have a massage every week, usually for me and my friends it is the day after our golf game. But this is not excessive as it costs under $10 and it is part of the culture here. Most Thai’s have a foot or traditional massage each week, it is just what they do. So coming to Thailand and having a massage (or a couple) is much cheaper than at home, it is very good for you mentally and physically and it is getting yourself in to the local customs.

 

 

There are of course what you immediately imagine when you hear the word Thailand – some of the best beaches in the world. Combine this with world class diving, some excellent trekking, fabulous cooking classes and you have all your non golf days jam packed with treats. Compare that holiday to going to Valderrama which is world class golf destination, but what else can you do? Who wants to learn how to cook paella anyway!

 

 

Caddie 1 Then of course the clincher – the world famous Thai caddies. Some people feel a little uncomfortable at the start when having a caddie, having a person one who quite literally does everything for you on the golf course except hit the ball (sometimes I think I should let them do that as well). But by the end of the week they are dreading going home and playing with out a caddy in the future. Mark Penfold of Thailand Golf tours laughs when he recalls the time he returned to Australia after 3 weeks of golfing in Thailand, tees of on the first hole and walks down to his ball only to realise he has left his clubs on the tee box, no caddy!!!

 

 

The caddies are happy smiley, laughing, they are your friend and often can read a green better a scratch golfer. Whilst in Thailand you are more likely to enjoy the company of your caddie than you are talking about your score card which is why the caddies are often the highlight of your day.Caddie 3

 

So there you have it for combination of golf, value for money, world class locations, incredible weather year round, resorts that are anything upto are 5* plus, a wonderful culture and of course the unique experience of Thai caddies there is now only one choice for your next golfing holiday, it has to be Thailand

Should you go to Phuket or Hua Hin (or both)?

Should you go to Phuket or Hua Hin (or both)?

 

SI 2  A not uncommon question I am asked is where a person/couple/family should head to – Phuket or Hua Hin – for their golfing holiday. There are a number of issues to look at before the best answer is uncovered.

Firstly when do you plan to go? Hua Hin is the driest place in Thailand of all the golfing destinations and is often a better destination to give yourself every chance to play under bright blue skies. Most of Thailand gets a good drenching at some point or another during the year and you always want to Google a good rainfall chart before you book a trip anywhere.

The next point to consider is what (if any) activities you plan to do on your non golfing days (probably blasphemy on Golf blog to suggest such a thing). If you are a diver then Phuket is probably a better option during the dry season as it has truly world class diving destinations nearby. Phuket also has excellent surfing waves during the summer months.

For nightlife and eating both cities have their share of very (very) good restaurants, active clubs and bars and all the ‘extras’ that are associated with Thai night life. Patong is Patong and you either want to go there and see it or you don’t but Hua Hin doesn’t really have anything like that.

For purely golf – it is just about a dead heat. The best two courses in each area are world class. Banyan Estate and Black Mountain golf course in Hua Hin are true delights to play on, the respective club houses and restaurants are 4* for both service and culinary delights. I could go to Hua Hin for a week and only play these two courses and be VERY happy with my golf trip (so long as I scored well!). Similarly in Phuket the new Red Mountain and the famous Blue Canyon (sometimes it seems you NEED to have a colour in the name of a golf course in Thailand) Canyon Course where Tiger won the Johnnie Walker Classic in 1998. Both are fabulous courses, the Canyon Course, probably the toughest course in Thailand with its tricky greens and difficult layout whilst Red Mountain has huge altitude changes and uneven fairways, some very tight holes  but you are rewarded with the best putting surfaces on the island of Phuket – once you get there!

From there each destination has its next level of courses. Hua Hin has Majestic, Palm Hills and Springfield, all these courses where involved in the professional Asian Tour’s qualifying school process in 2010, great courses, very playable and kept in good condition. Phuket has the Blue Canyon Lakes course, my favourite course on the island, very playable, a good honest test of your golf game, you are rewarded for good shots and penalised (heavily) for the bad ones. There is also Loch Palm with its short but very tight course with lots of water. Laguna is quite long and rated one of the best resort courses in Asia. Needless to say on courses that have Lakes, Loch and Laguna in the name there are plenty of water hazards. Red mountain

Perhaps for many the final deciding factor is money and here Hua Hin definitely has its nose in front. For the overall package I would say Hua Hin is about 35 percent cheaper for hotels, food and golf.

Of course the best answer just might be to have a two city stay whilst in Thailand. Spend the first 4 days in Phuket play, Red Mountain and Blue Canyon – both courses – then fly to Bangkok transfer down to Hua Hin and play Banyan Estate and Black Mountain. That way you really cover the best 4 courses in Southern Thailand. 

See you on the tee box