Category: Hua Hin Golf

Amazing Asia Golf Double-Header: Vietnam & Thailand Combined

Amazing Asia Golf Double-Header: Vietnam & Thailand Combined

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

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

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

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

Banyan GC
Banyan GC

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

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

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

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

Pattaya Golf Named Best in Asia/Pacific for 2012

Pattaya Golf Named Best in Asia/Pacific for 2012

The memory of the brutality of a course landscaped by burrowing
animals makes playing a well-maintained course that much more spiritually
uplifting. And this is why Thailand’s golf establishment has once again been
honored by the International Association of Golf Tourism Operators (or the
IAGTO) as they have named the coastal city of Pattaya Asia/Pacific’s number 1
golf destination for 2012. The whole country actually received the award in
2010.

At the top of the list this year is Pattaya’s own Siam
Country Club
, which was named the best maintained course in the region. But
that isn’t all. Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin was named the best
championship course in the region and Thai Country Club right here in Bangkok
was named the second best layout in the region.

Green~57But ratings and accolades aside, there are a lot of beautiful
unsung courses in Thailand. Some part of me believes that there is an effort on
the part of local golfers to keep a few courses to ourselves. Of course it is
my business to let the cat out of the bag about this sort of thing, so here it
goes…

Khao Yai is a good place to start, as it doesn’t see as much
traffic as Pattaya or Bangkok. First let’s look at Mountain Creek Golf Resort
and Residence. The 27 hole course designed by Seve Ballesteros is laid out over
3 9 hole loops, each designed to take the best advantage of their natural
setting – highland, creek, and valley (also the names of the loop). The courses
layout is so harmonious with the natural landscape that the experience is truly
transcendental, it’s also a great course for a very short, or a very long
round, if you don’t have much time or have too much of it.

There are more there in the Khao Yai National Forest area,
and lots of great golf in Thailand (obviously Pattaya is a good spot to hit and
Bangkok’s golf offerings aint to shabby either) but you’ll have to wait for the
next article or check out the Golf
Thailand
site to learn more about those!

 

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.

Caddie Championship in Thailand

Caddie Championship in Thailand

Thailand is well known as a hot golfing destination with over 260 great golf courses and those ever smiling Thai Caddies.

Thailand Golf Caddies Come rain or shine they read the greens, give you the yardage, hold your umbrella and if you are lucky even give your shoulders a quick massage too.

After putting up with us holiday hackers, you would have thought they would have had enough of the golf course, but a large number actually like to play a round themselves.

Smart thinking General Managers encourage them to play on Monday’s or late in the evening, as it improves their knowledge and understanding of their course and the game overall.

Taking this a step further they now hold a series of Caddie Championships in various regions around Thailand sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Singha.

The hunt is on to find Thailand’s best lady caddy golfer.

The TAT – Singha Caddy Championship 2011 consists of six qualifying rounds leading to a grand final at Siam Old Course on September 26th.

All the rounds take place on a Monday rotating across six venues- Putalong Navy in Pattaya, Singha Park in Kong Kaen, Narai Hills in Lopburi, Majestic Creek in Hua Hin, Royal Hills in Nakon Nayok and Burapha in Pattaya.

There are 144 places at each venue and the top 24 golfers will qualify for the grand final. The sponsors’ support allows the caddies to play for a small entry fee that includes green fee, dinner and a lucky draw.

The Grand Final at Siam Old Course will see 144 qualifiers battling for the title of Thailand Caddy Champion, with a first prize of Baht 55,000.

What started out as a simple idea seems to be catching on as a team of Korean Caddies will fly to Thailand later in the year to play a team of Thai Caddies. Later on the will hold the International Caddy Championship in 2012 with teams from China, Japan, Korea and Thailand competing.

Maybe we can expect to find the future Michelle Wie or Yany Seng from these events.

Bottom line is the golf vacationers will now be getting some expert tips which has to be good!

All of this is great news for golfers and caddies alike. Next time you see that smiling face on the first tee, stop and think whether she might be a future LPGA champion as a result of this special opportunity.

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

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.

 

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.

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.