Category: Golf Stories

Thailand Golf – Golfasian Regulars

Thailand Golf – Golfasian Regulars

Pacific Golf Club, Carindale

Hi, my name is Bill Donovan. I have played golf seriously for 34 years. My current handicap is 10 and I am a member of Pacific Golf Club at Carindale in Brisbane. Pacific is an 18-hole championship golf course in a parkland setting, with water on 16 of the holes. It is a very challenging layout.

This is my 6th trip to Thailand and my 3rd trip to Hua Hin. Our group, 6 males all from pacific Golf club, have been to Hua Hin 3 times, Pattaya twice and once to Chiang Mai. Hua Hin is our favourite golfing destination in Thailand. We have booked the last 5 trips through Golfasian and they have been fantastic. Our last 3 trips have been booked through Fai at Golfasian and she has done a terrific job. Many years ago, one of our friends went to Thailand and absolutely raved about how good everything was and this prompted us to organise a trip.

Most of our trips involve 6 games of golf. We play 2 games then have a rest day. We normally go there for 10 days. Thailand is fantastic, the people are friendly and always happy, the food is fantastic (even in the street stalls) and the beer is also relatively cheap. Accommodation is really good and we always try to get a hotel near the entertainment areas so it is an easy walk home. Through Golfasian, we always have breakfast at the hotel, then lunch at the golf course. The meals at most of the club houses are great and what better than to have a shower and change, then a cold beer with a nice lunch to recharge.

The Group with caddies at Springfield

Our group really enjoyed the golf courses, the caddies, the course designs/layouts; bottom line, there is nothing to not like about the whole experience. We have done trips to Singapore and Malaysia but prefer Thailand. We always schedule our trips in November hoping that it may be a bit cooler, and fortunately our last trip was really good, as it can get very hot. The caddies are great fun but also quite knowledgeable mostly. After a couple of holes they know your distances and what club to hit, and are also good green readers in the main. Our favourite Thailand golf course is Black Mountain in Hua Hin. It is just a great course in terms of conditioning, design and overall presentation. Realistically, we haven’t come across a ‘bad’ course yet. I was a bit disappointed with Burapha as my logic is, when travelling for golf, you want to play great courses and designs. I found Burapha a bit boring. The last trip we played mainly “ambrose” and “3BBB” stablefords, which made the trip very relaxing, and not too competitive. On one ambrose day, my group had 7 birdies in a row!!

After golf we always went for a massage. I usually had a traditional Thai massage and they are fantastic. We tell the masseuse that we are in Thailand playing golf so they tailor the massage more along sports lines. If we finished golf early, we would either go shopping or have a swim in the hotel pool. Each night we all went out for dinner at various restaurants and the food is great and not expensive. After dinner, we sometimes went to the markets shopping and some of the group continued on for a few drinks and games of pool, while the others went back to our hotel In Chiang Mai. We went on an elephant trek and some did the Tiger temple on a day off.

Despite all the visits we’ll be back for more…and always with Golfasian.

Thailands Royal Resort

Thailands Royal Resort

Hua Hin is the oldest and most traditional of the Thai resorts. It combines the attractions of a modern holiday destination, 5 star hotels, fabulous restaurants, gorgeous beaches, first class golf courses, with the charm and fascination of a traditional fishing port. Which is exactly what it was like when I first visited, more than two decades ago. While most other Thai holiday destinations cater mainly to foreign tourists, Hua Hin is a holiday resort for foreigners as well as Thai nationals. Besides it’s great 5 mile long beach Hua Hin provides the highest density of world class golf courses anywhere in Thailand while it’s yet virtually undiscovered as an international Golf destination. Green-fees and other costs are among the lowest in the world and course maintenance and services are kept to a very high standard.

Thailands Royal Resort - Black Mountain

Golf in Thailand was started in Hua Hin, with Royal Hua Hin being the first course, designed by a Scottish railway engineer no less. Hua Hin has another 9 fantastic courses, all worth a visit. Jack Nicklaus has Springfield Royal Country Club, which presnets the golfer with 27 wonderful holes, all beautifully designed. Sea Pines, a kind of links course, is the newest, opened just five years ago. The signiture 16th hole has that “wow” factor, with beautiful ocean views. Must plays are Banyan and Black Mountain. Black Mountain has held several PGA games over since it’s opening and has won many awards and honours.  The same can be said for Banyan, which has now been open for 9 years. It’s the course I’ve played most, not only for the golf, but the apres golf is perfect, sundowners are perfect.

The resort of Hua Hin was discovered in the early 1920s by King Rama VII as an ideal getaway from the sultry metropolis of Bangkok. The tranquil fishing village was turned into the Royal resort and consequently became popular among Thailand’s nobility and upper-class.

Thailands Royal Resort - Hua Hin BeachToday’s visitor to Hua Hin will still sense this special atmosphere and old world charm. Besides sun-filled days on the 5 mile-long beach there are leisure activities for the whole family from watersports and shopping to golf. The area around the town let’s you discover fabulous national parks with fantastic peaks, caves and waterfalls.

In the evening the winding streets have a great variety of shops and markets that make for a relaxed stroll, and the restaurants built on stilts into the sea offer superb seafood prepared in the age old traditional Thai way. Hua Hin has all the ingredients for a very special holiday experience.

So, why not enjoy the sites, sounds, tastes and, of course, the golf, in Hua Hin. Golfasian can take care of everything. For a full and comprehensive quote, or just for some advice, please don’t hesitate to email info@golfasian.com

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.

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.’

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.

 

Masteritist at Fever Pitch Here in Bangkok

Masteritist at Fever Pitch Here in Bangkok

23_VMA05_Winner_Shiv Kapur Well I did try everything to kick this dreadful disease…..but in the end the power of seeing a certain 21 year old from Northern Ireland win a green jacket, meant I woke up at 1.45hrs this morning in Bangkok and turned on the TV to watch the 75th Masters.

If you were a Hollywood script writer I don’t think you could come up with such a dream finish.

At one stage there were seven players tied for the lead!

Of course initially I was rooting for Rory McIlroy, but he seemed to disintegrate on the 10th hole and ended up losing it completely in one horrendous hole.

Meanwhile Tiger was playing for the USA as the only American on the first page of the leader board and it looked like a Tiger win was on the cards. Now, what a story that would have been. However after a couple of birdies went he finished with -10 and so can we say the Tiger is almost back on track?

Jason Day a 23 year old from Australia, fellow Ausi Adam Scott and Englishman Luke Donald all came within a whisker, with some gutsy shots on the final three holes.

However playing his usual solid and reliable game was South African Charl Schwartzel who came through the pack to claim the 2011 green jacket.

One could say that before his Major win, Charl was one of the up and coming European Tour players, who always was up there, but had not grabbed the limelight like his great buddy Louis Oosthuizen who won the 2010 British Open.

Well the golf tour moves away from the States this week as a mini Asian swing starts with the 50th Maybank Malaysian Open kicking off this week in KL, followed by the China Open and the Korean Open.

The promoters had paid for the big guns with Kaymer, Oosthuizen, Campbell and McIlroy to turn up at the KLGCC. Listed as a player this morning is a certain Charl Schwartzel playing under category B as a winner of a European and Challenge Tour event.

Now I would assume that the tournament promoter must be thinking he has won the PR coup of the year, by having the current Masters Champion in his field.

Asia is now attracting a lot of big name players over here on a regular basis and this has to be a great advert for our wonderful golf courses dotted about the South East Asian region.

Kaymer was the star turn in KL, Westwood will be teeing off the following week in Jakarta, and Els and co will join them in South Korea.

Behind the scenes I hear that there are plans to hold a major European and Asian tour event here in Thailand.

Asia and in particular Thailand already has a booming golfvacation industry.

With over 280 courses to choose, Thailand has numerous venues available. Watch this space?

Major Winners in Asia

Major Winners in Asia

Sometimes everything just falls into place and as a journalist, all the travelling and waiting around just pays off.

Being based here in Bangkok, the big names on the professional circuit tend to side step playing in our local tournaments, perhaps with the exception of the popular Royal Trophy.

Therefore twice a year I need to stock up with pictures and stories by covering the bigger events here in Asia. On Tuesday I therefore flew to Kuala Lumpur.

This week was very unusual, as the 50th running of the Maybank Malaysian Open could almost be termed as the Asian Major, having attracted three out of this year’s Major winners to participate.

World number 1 Martin Kaymer and British Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen, were invited some time ago by the sponsors, along with a certain Rory McIlroy.

Then much to the delight of the tournament organisers, Charl Schwartzel, who had actually been scheduled to play anyway, won last weekend the coveted green jacket, and the Maybank’s global TV audience had now skyrocketed. Great for the sponsors, even better for Asian golf!

In the space of 20 minutes last Wednesday at the KLGCC, I managed to grab all three Major winners for a quick interview. As they had all flown from Augusta, they were naturally all jet lagged, but were genuinely keen to get out on the course.

Both Charl and Rory travel over together from Augusta, and the airline had managed to lose their clubs; therefore both were starting their first rounds without even seeing the course before. Reminds me of all us weekend golfers who turn up and play at the 280 Thai golf courses without even having the yardage books or even a reliable caddie!

All three told me that they had played before in Asia, and in fact Martin had made his first cut here IMG_1513 in Asia in 2007, earning him his first pay check. Fond memories!

So far Thailand was still to be tested by them, but Martin certainly was keen to play and jokingly said ‘send me an invitation.’ He knew all about the end of season Asian Tour Masters and the Royal Trophy, and his manager admitted it would make a good end of season break for the World No 1. Maybe Black Mountain or Colin Montgomerie should take note?

The media circus then moved on and they were back on duty playing in the Pro Am.

This is a great time for me to grab those relaxed photos of the stars, so I managed to get a Media Golf Cart and waited at the start.

One of the organisers ran up and said would I mind taking a caddie and his player to the first tee, as they were late. Yes I said, and who should sit down next to me but Craig, Martin Kaymer’s Scottish caddie along with the great man’s golf bag. Martin hung onto the back and off we went for the four minute ride.

If only I had someone free to take a picture!

Not to miss an opportunity, when we got to the first tee, instead of a tip, I cheekily asked if I could have a picture with Martin. Craig the caddie turned photographer and duly obliged. Result was me the Editor with Number 1 …my own personal scoop!

As I say some days it all just falls into place. If Martin does fly over to play in Black Mountain in the next few years then I will have done the job and Thailand can experience why he is World Number One.

Hole in one – Thailand Golf

Hole in one – Thailand Golf

Thailand Golf Vacation

Arnold Palmer in 1986 got a hole in one during practice at a tournament, so a film crew turned up for the next day during the pro am, and told him they wanted to see if he could do it again. He got out his 5 iron and amazing Arnie got his second hole in one on the same hole. Two days running!

David Toms got one at a Major on and went on to win the PGA as a result.

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee aced the 181-yard, par-3 fifth hole Saturday for the seventh hole-in-one in five U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach. It's the 41st known hole-in-one in tournament history and the first since Peter Hedblom aced the 238-yard third at Winged Foot in 2006.

One of the top YouTube films is Tiger Wood’s getting his hole in one in January 2008 on the 16th at Scottsdale Arizona  in front of 20,000 crazy golf fans.

Thailand-hole-in-one The Postage Stamp at Royal Troon was where the great Gene Sarazen got one his holes in one. Not an easy hole by any means. Why not try your luck out the replica version at the Royal Gems Golf City here in Bangkok.

Felicity Sieghart, 76 years old at the time, is believed to hold the record for the oldest person to make two holes-in-one during one round

Even a seven year old got his hole in one on TV during the Junior Open in America.

Super stars Jack Nicklaus has scored over 23 holes in one and Tiger has 18 to date.

So it is possible to do it more than once !

In golf, a hole in one or hole-in-one (also known as an ace) is when a player hits the ball directly from the tee into the cup with one shot. This is most possible on a par 3 hole.

Longer hitters have accomplished this feat on shorter par 4 holes. Nearly all par 4 and par 5 holes are too long for golfers to reach in a single shot.

Holes in one are extremely rare, and while it depends largely on the golfer's skill, many instances have been recorded when a ball has bounced off a tree, a bird in flight, or even a passing car, before settling into the hole.

Well I think all of us think and believe we could join this illustrious club, but perhaps we hope it won’t be on Saturday when the 19th hole will be packed, ready for you to buy the round of drinks.

Maybe golf insurance is worth considering, especially if you are running a hole in one price like a car, a holiday or boat.

And, just imagine if someone actually wins! What a day to remember that would be! But because you have insured the prize, all it has cost you is the modest hole in one insurance premium!

However, with 100 amateur golfers, a 165 yard hole and £10,000 car as a prize, the cost is £255. Just £2.55 per golfer!

Here in Thailand there are a number of par 3’s that I think have the potential to make your dream come true!

Take the 17th at Red Mountain Golf Club in Phuket, literally teeing off down an old disused mine shaft, or the 4th known as the Ravine at Santiburi Golf Club on the island of Koi Samui.

Let’s add the 8th an island hole at Riverdale in Bangkok, or maybe the 3rd at Maung Kaew also in the capital of Thailand. All these holes have the potential for that special moment in your own golfing history.

But remember for most of us mere mortals, you might like to know that the odds of an amateur getting a hole in one is 12,500 to 1. So maybe it’s worth saving your cash on the premium and use the money to enjoy an extra round on your Thailand Golf Vacation.

Old Age Pensioner Breaks Golf Record In Bangkok

Old Age Pensioner Breaks Golf Record In Bangkok

Having written my blogs covering other golfers making news for the past few months, please accept my apologies if this time I blow my own trumpet.

Firstly I admit that I am not a good golfer. My handicap registered by the Emirates Golf Federation a few years back is a mere 28, although some of my friends call me a bandit.

Here in Thailand I normally average 105 on my card, and that is tough going as it seems I am apparently allergic to sand!

In fact as a journalist, I try to write my articles and reports based on my own abilities as ‘a fat older golf tourist.’

I do however love golf, and always try to improve my own game…..currently I am heavily into the course management of my game. No heroics here, just get round in one piece, and keep the score below three figures if possible!

Last week I was invited to join a number of editors and journalists from Europe and the United States at the fabulous Thai Country Club here in Bangkok.

These respected reporters were here on a week’s trip to check out exactly why Thailand is one of the top golf destinations in the World.

Partnering Peter from the UK, Wee from Thailand and Alice from the United States, our four ball started off at midday.IMG_8206 I am on the left.

I had managed to secure the services of one of Thai Country Club’s top caddies Khun Chob, who is also herself a mean golfer as well.

At the first two par 4’s I scored bogeys, and then I conquered my fears of the third, a tricky par 3, and made par.

Unfortunately my third shot on the 4th hole was one for the cameras (Heroics again!!!)and it went into the water.  I ended up with had a horrible 8 on this clever par 5, which some say it is possibly one of the top ten holes in Thailand.

By the time we got to the 9th hole, my caddie Khun Chob informed me I was on 46. My usual figure for the front nine has been 52-55 so nothing special here I thought.

By the time we got to the tenth she told me I had actually made it in 46. She had tried to explain that if I got five on the ninth my score would be 46. Maybe it was her tactics to make me more relaxed, anyway I felt a lot better, and made par on the par 3 11th hole.

By now Khun Chob was reading the greens like a James Patterson paperback, and my putter was getting hotter too.

Things were going well and by the time I reached the 18th I had scored five pars and I was doing well.

However my drive on the 18th went over the trees onto the 14th fairway, and I thought that was it. Chob told me not to play out back onto the 18th fairway, but to carry on down the 14th parallel with the 18th fairway instead. My third shot was over some small palm trees and my ball landed on the green. Two putts and I made five.

I had made 93 which you might think is nothing special, but for me it was my best round to date.  A record for me that felt like my own British Open title.

Thai Country Club has played host to the likes of Ernie and Tiger who played there in the 90's. Golf Digest in the States rates the course their number one in Thailand too. So not only did I break my own record, but at one of the more difficult courses in Asia.

Now I cannot wait to get on some more courses here across Thailand and try to break my own record. I am beginning to understand why the country is called The Kingdom of Smiles.

I am still smiling!

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!

Where to next? Young Golfers in Thailand

Where to next? Young Golfers in Thailand

In many countries around the world, golf is suffering from the global recession, and the industry will really begin to suffer unless it starts to focus on its future.

You can play a game of football with your mates after school with a ball and a couple of posts for goals. Same for Cricket, you can play the game just with sticks for stumps.

Heartland-golf But for kids to play golf, they first need to persuade their parents to actually take them to the course, and then they need to rent or maybe buy a set of clubs. All this can be very expensive.

Here in Thailand they have a very good system of encouraging youngsters to take up the game and big businesses are also helping too.

Singha and Chang both run academies where kids are groomed to eventually follow in the footsteps of the Thai legend Thongchai Jaidee.

Thongchai even has set up his own golf academy in Thailand to train girls and boys.

True Vision is another Thai company supporting golf. In fact there is still time to enrol junior golfers to compete in their 10th True Visions International Junior Golf Championships 2011   It's taking place at the end of March 2011 at Rayong Green Valley Country Club, &  St. Andrews 2000.   

Greg Norman and Gary Player are two legends of the game who have also called for a shift in the mindset of the golfing industry.

A longtime advocate of junior golf, Norman said: "We have to get more players into the game and be increasingly creative in the ways to attract them. Golf has to become more accessible and affordable. It has to open up."

One of the most active golf course architects in the region with ongoing projects in China and Vietnam, Norman said there is a need to "think outside the box" when it comes to golf facilities.

He cited a 12-hole course he has designed in South America as a potential model for Asia. "There's nothing to say that a golf course has to be 18 holes. Why shouldn't 12-hole courses be successful in Asia?" said Norman, adding that such facilities would encourage more people to participate and also would take less time to play.

Norman's concerns about the lack of newcomers entering the game also were voiced by Gary Player, who agreed that kids were too concerned with computer games, when they should be out there playing a sport. He thinks golf clubs should encourage more school visits during their quieter periods during the week. Give the kids a chance to hit the ball and maybe some will be hooked on the game.

 

Mike Bridge    Editor Thai Golf News

Royal Trophy Cliffhanger Ending!

Royal Trophy Cliffhanger Ending!

After the amazing scenes at the 2010 Ryder Cup with Greame MacDowell putting to win, I thought I'd seen it all!

Obviously not!!!

Black_Mountain_091115685 The Royal Trophy looked like a gimme for Asia, after Europe failed to win one of the four matches on day two at Thailand's Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin.  Asia were needing only two and half points from the eight single matches to clinch victory. Team captain Colin Montgomerie was shell shocked!

Monty bravely put on a good front at that evenings press conference, and said that they had been soundly beaten, but he still had faith in his European players.

The Asian team had most of their top players in Hua Hin, with the exception of Y E Yang and KJ  Choi, whereas Monty had decided to give some of his younger players a chance.

He made a very wise decision to send out his number one ranked player Peter Hanson the only member of the victorious Ryder Cup team at Black Mountain to play in the first rubber against China's number one Liang Wen-chong.

Joe Ozaki the Asia captain then announced his 4th player would be Ryo Ishikawa, and after a minutes pause while he looked at his notes, Monty paired Ryo with Rhys Davies , known as the World's best putter.

The battle commenced at 10.35hrs on Sunday morning, and Hanson went 6 up to eventually show everyone that the European challenge had teeth.

Ryo hit his drive on the second hole into the water, and Rhys putted in to go one up after two.

Much to everyones amazment the scoreboards around the Black Mountaincourse were turning blue for Europe who were up in 4 matches, all square in two with only Jeev Milka Singh and Thongchai Jaidee one up.

Rhys then won his match on the 15th and soon after was joined by Stenson who squared his match on the 18th green against Asian Tour No 1 Noh Seung-yul. Monty soon followed by winning at the 17th green, but with Asia still up in two, it was anyones title.

They were golf buggies flying all over the final four holes as both team captains and their players went to support the final pairings.

Matteo Mannassero, the Italian 17 year old, made an astonishing 2nd shot from 140 yrds straight to within two feet of the pin to clinch his match on the 17th, to the cheers of his team mates.

But still Pablo Martin from Spain, had to go to the last hole with Jeev one up. Jeev had a horrible second shot from the edge of the grass by the fairway bunker, which meant he could not reach the green. Pablo also laid up on this long par 5. However his third shot into the green was magnifcent under enormous pressure. He got to within three feet of the hole to go one up. The crowd errupted and Europe had won the 5th edition of the Royal Trophy.

Coming up behind was Johan Edfors against Thongchai who managed to square his match again on the 18th hole.

Seve Ballesteros set up the Royal Trophy to promote the game of golf and to encourage youngsters to take up the game. With so many of the World's top youngsters playing this week at Thailand's top golf tournament, I think Seve would have been very proud and pleased with a fantastic advert for golf.

I am sure that viewers in 250 countries who watch the tournament live would have been glued to their seats.

Well done everyone especially Captain Montgomerie OBE.

 

Back To The Sixties! – Titanium Club in Bangkok

Back To The Sixties! – Titanium Club in Bangkok

I have to admit I do like to relax after a day on the golf course, perhaps with a cold beer listening to some great music.

Once you have discussed all those great shots you thought you made around some of Bangkok’s many wonderful golf courses, had the massage, eaten, then it’s time to hit the town.

Bangkok's night life has literally hundreds of bars, night clubs and discos to choose from, ranging from a roadside vans blasting out the hits, to the swanky hotel clubs.

Personally I am not into drum and bass or garage music. In fact I’ve been known to panic when they say ‘Who is this Eric Clapton you talk about?’

Well for all you middle age hippies out there all is not lost. While Red Mountain maybe my golf course heaven down in Phuket, Titanium is now my music base when in Bangkok.

Titanium-disco-bangkok Located off Sukhumvit on Soi 22, Titanium Club and Ice Bar is one of Bangkok’s coolest bars with innovative lighting, creative drinks and great sounds.

Upstairs, check out their Ice Bar, where the temperature is down to minus 10degrees C and offers the most spectacular array of vodkas in all of Thailand.

There is a great house band called Unicorn, an all female group who can really play with passion.

But for me and my golf buddies, the star attraction undoubtedly is to hear at full blast Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd played to perfection by the club’s other house band, The Big Boy Band.

Five middle aged Thai guys who can achieve a perfect rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with all the harmonies is my type of music high.

They give it all and play all the old favourites from Dire Straits to the Rolling Stones.

They don’t play every night so best check out what’s on by calling tel +66 (0)2 258 3758.

Give the girlie bars a rest next time and head down to Soi 22. Apparently the club holds a Doctors and Nurses night once a month as well. Get your Vodka injections here, and watch your drive go that extra few more yards !!!

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.

Ryder Cup Fever Comes To Thailand!

Ryder Cup Fever Comes To Thailand!

The Royal Trophy, the brainchild of the great Seve Ballesteros, arrives in Hua Hin Thailand this month, with a steela cast of top golfers from Europe and Asia.

The European team’s captain is none other than the 2010 triumphant Ryder captain, Colin Montgomerie, and when he calls the players can’t wait to play for Europe.

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

Rhys Davies emphasised his eagerness to enjoy a taste of the action with Europe as he spearheaded the powerful force descending on the Royal Trophy.

BM Stock 080810096 The golfer hailed as the best putter in the world after just one season on the European Tour was the first player from either team to turn up at the stunning Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand.

And he was quickly experiencing the speed of the greens as he waited for Colin Montgomerie and the rest of his European team-mates to join him for the eagerly-awaited fifth edition of the Royal Trophy.

Davies commented: “I guess being here this early is a sign of how excited – and honoured – I feel to be part of such a prestigious competition.

“After witnessing Europe’s fantastic Ryder Cup win at such close quarters in October – as part of Colin’s support team – I was even more determined to actually play for a European team as quickly as possible.

“I never dreamed my chance would come this quickly, but having been selected I was determined to leave nothing to chance in terms of preparation, which is why I flew in to Thailand early on Sunday.’

The Asian team are perhaps as good as the US Ryder Cup team, with many of their team taking some big trophies in 2010.

Their team captain is Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki from Japan and his players include veteran Thongchai Jaidee Thailand’s super star, Japanese wonder kid Ryo Isikawa, Asian Tour Number one Noh Seung–yul, Kim Kyung-tae, Yuta Ikeda, Shunsuke Sonada, Liang Wen-Chung and Jeev Milka Singh.

Whatever the outcome, the billions of TV fans around the World and the thousands of spectators at Thailand’s Black Mountain Golf Course will be in for a treat.

 

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

Thailand Golf Blog is Back in Virtual Print

Thailand Golf Blog is Back in Virtual Print

Hey guys, we are BACK! After a 2 year hiatus the Thailand Golf Blog will become an active golf chat site again with a weekly blog by me, Graham the golfnut, and hopefully other posts from you the golfing public.

What can you expect from the new and improved – and well rested – Thailand Golf blog? I will be putting up a lot of new content about what happens on the golf courses around Thailand, where you have to play and where you must not. There will be a few course reviews on brand new courses (like the new Royal Gems 63 hole complex that is not even open yet), helpful tips for people coming to Thailand to golf for the first time, like the fact that you use your umbrella every day for either the rain or the sun, but it is always used.

We will be covering Asian Tour events, Thailand Golf Tournaments,  and now that the European Senior Tour is holding events here in Thailand, maybe, just maybe we are not far away from another PGA event here again.

Enjoy the new posts here, I will endeavour to maintain the high humour content that Niftee had going here and make this the best read and most enjoyable golf blog going. (Except maybe Thailand Golf Zone!)

Swing Straight, Shoot Low.

   

French Connection

French Connection

Storm This last weekend on satellite TV I caught the Golf Night programme – mainly to ogle the divine Di Stewart. Featured were two events: the European PGA Tour Open de France ALSTOM played at Le Golf National near to Versailles outside of Paris; and the US Women’s Open Golf Championship.

The French Open was won by England’s Graeme Storm, a former Amateur Open winner who holed Britain and Ireland’s winning putt in the 1999 Walker Cup match against America. Otherwise, he is best known for creating history in 2000 when his mother, Jane, caddied for him in the Masters. The 29-year old Storm lost his tour card in 2003 and spent the winter in a cream cake factory, cleaning baking trays to pay for his trips to the European Tour Qualifying School in Spain. I suppose he could not have chosen a more apt place than Versailles to capture his first Euro Tour event since it was there that Queen Marie Antoinette famously said of the French population, "Let them eat cake" – before she was guillotined. To continue the analogies, in the final round Storm did not lose his head and went home with a 666,660 Euro slice of the prize pie, thus guaranteeing himself a place in The Open at Carnoustie. The runners-up were left with only crumbs of comfort.

What I had not realised was the long history of the Open de France. It was inaugurated in 1906 and is the oldest national open in Continental Europe. Hard to imagine now, when you can fly from London to Bangkok in under twelve hours, but the top British pro’s in the early 1900’s used to consider the tournament as a ‘major’, travelling for a couple of days to reach the venue.

Massy_1 I was particularly fascinated by an item on the tv programme about Arnaud Massy, one of the great characters of golf in its early days. The son of a sheep farmer, Massy worked on a sardine boat and supplemented his income by caddying at the new Biarritz golf course where a great many of the best professional golfers from Britain came to practice during the off-season in the warm climate of southern France. Blessed with natural abilities, he learned from these pro golfers and in 1898 Sir Everard Hambro (a philanthropist from the Hambro banking dynasty, and no mean golfer himself) sponsored and took him to North Berwick, Scotland to develop his skills for a professional career. As a self-taught player, he had started off playing left-handed. In Scotland he then had to rebuild all his technique to play right-handed. In 1906, Arnaud Massy won the first edition of the French Open repeating the success the following year, defeating a strong contingent of British players including the great Harry Vardon. He followed up by becoming the first non-Brit to win The Open Championship (British Open) in 1907 at Hoylake. On being presented with the Claret Jug, he learnt that his wife had given birth to their baby girl christened Margot and they gave her the second name of Hoylake.  His victory raised the profile of the game in his native France, and with three other major players, Massy put on exhibition matches in various European cities that contributed significantly to the increased popularity of golf on the continent. In 1910, he won the inaugural Belgian Open and in 1911 was the runner-up at the British Open to Harry Vardon, conceding only on the 35th play-off hole. That year, Massy completed his book on golfing that was successfully published in France then translated into English for the British market – certainly the only example of a French golf book translated into English! In 1912, he won the first Spanish Open ever played. Massy’s golfing career had to be put on hold as a result of World War I. While serving in the French army he was wounded at Verdun but at war’s end was able to return to golfing. At age 41, he had lost four prime years and struggled to compete. Remarkably, in 1925 at age 48, he won the French Open for the fourth time and then won back-to-back Spanish Opens in 1927/28. He participated in the first matches against the USA. When his career finally wound down he worked as a pro at courses in England, France and Morocco. Married to an English woman, he lived in Edinburgh, Scotland during the Second World War. Arnaud Massy remains the only French golfer ever to have won any of golf’s four majors, and was also the only golfer from Continental Europe to win a major before Seve Ballesteros won The Open Championship in 1979. This swashbuckling character was France’s greatest golfer ever.

My take on the US Women’s Open follows in the next posting. Play fast, swing slow.