Considering the glamorous location that Phuket is perceived to be, I have often though the quality of the 5* hotels are not up standard they should be. Many of the so-called luxury resorts are quite old and in serious need of renovation.
There are exceptions with hotels like the Andara, Paresa and Trisara resorts, but generally the hotels seem to be more geared for large corporate groups and lacking the intimacy of a genuine five star product. A common complaint is that the hotel rooms are small and in need of some care, Unfortunately the recession took care of the new Grand Hyatt and Shangri La projects, but the good news for Phuket is that a number of new top quality hotels are about to open in the next year including a Park Hyatt and the Kalima Resort & Spa which hopefully will raise the standard of the top end of the market.
Golfing in Phuket is great from May until July as the courses are not crowded, accommodations very reasonably priced, and the weather is generally overcast with little other than a late afternoon shower to cool things off. Therefore it is timely that Ian, our semi-pro Phuket resident, has for a bit of fun put together his Phuket “Dream 18”, which when you take time to think about the golf options, it’s not that easy
Hole 1, Blue Canyon, Canyon Course – Not the easiest opening hole and a fairly tight tee-shot. Hitting the fairway is a must if you want to get your second close on this severe undulating green.
Hole 2, Loch Palm – Good par 5 winding its way round Crystal Lake. Water in play all the way to the green, but reachable in two for the long brave hitters
Hole 3, Red Mountain – Spectacular par 3 where the designer had made the very best of the rocks and the natural surrounds
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!
A Phuket golf vacation includes playing on some rounds in one of the world’s most beautiful locations and golfing on seaside courses should definitely an experience to savour, whether it’s a windy links course in Ireland or over the ocean golfing in Bali.
Golf in Phuket Thailand for most golfers entails heading straight for Blue Canyon or Red Mountain, both of which are inland tin mining courses. However, shouldn’t a seaside golf course be part of the Phuket golf experience?
For this, most expect the Nicklaus designed Mission Hills Phuket Golf Resort and Spa to fit the bill. Only ten minutes from Phuket International airport and around 40 minutes from Patong, the Phuket golf resort is located right on the banks of the Andaman Sea. In fact, the Mission Hills signature holes run right up to the coastline and literally play alongside the local fisherman with a few exotic birds as partners too!
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.
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.
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.
Those who have visited Thailand agree that it is almost impossible to explain for those who haven’t. Different. Even just plan weird. The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s official slogan of ‘Amazing Thailand’ sums it up fairly well though comes off as just another cheeky marketing slogan until you’ve actually experienced it. Even among Asian cultures it stands out as unique.
Thailand is one of the few places in Asia that has never been under the rule or dominance of a western country, which may explain some of its’ uniqueness. Also the country has little war history other than long ago border conflicts with Burmese, Khmers and Laotians. The rulers of Thailand have long been able to avoid war and outside rule by deftly playing off leading world powers against one another to remain on good terms with all.
The weirdness begins from the moment you land in Bangkok, whose airport name is written Suvanabhumi but pronounced “Sue wanna boom’“. Even pilots and flight attendants frequently get it wrong during in flight announcements.
Fly up to Chiang Mai. Or is it Chiangmai? Or Chang My? As there is no official transliteration from Thai script to the Roman alphabet you can spell it anyway you want. Street names get really weird as different maps spell the same roads differently while the actual signs on the road may vary from any of them.
Hua Hin is the winner here, with Phuket’s north and west coasts posting an honorable challenge. Until recently the golf in Hua Hin was mostly ‘so-so’ quality, though that has changed with some of newer venues which are up to world class standards. Banyan Golf Club won the “2009 Best New Golf Course in Asia” award, while Black Mountain Golf Club, only 2 years old, was voted as the second best Thailand golf course, just behind Thai Country Club. Both courses are located in the foothills above Hua Hin, which make for spectacular après golf views from the clubhouses overlooking vast and fertile valleys below.
The old favorites like the Nicklaus designed Springfield Royal Country Club and Palm Hills Golf Club along with the newer Hua Hin golf courses mentioned are all only around 15 minutes from town, which makes golf in Hua Hin also the most convenient in Thailand.
Mature couples in particular are drawn to Hua Hin specifically because of the ‘quieter and gentler’ nightlife here, and it continues popular as a weekend retreat for Bangkok residents as well. The “downtown” area is populated by boutiques, shops, and quaint restaurants and in comparison with the other Thailand golf destinations like Pattaya and Patong Beach on Phuket, practically free of beer bars and discotheques.
The Hua Hin golf area is located 2 hours from Bangkok by road or 2.5 hours from the new Suvarnabhumi airport.
4. Siam Country Club is situated just 10 minutes from Pattaya. The original Siam Country Club, built in 1971, is now called Siam Country Club Old Course, after a two- year renovation. A traditional shot-makers layout, this is one of the more well known tracks in Thailand and hosted the 2007 LPGA Honda Thailand upon re-opening. The new Siam Country Club Plantation Course boasts a more challenging design with 27 holes of tremendous views toward Pattaya and the Gulf of Thailand. The course recently hosted the 2009 LPGA Honda Invitational and received high praise from the world’s best lady pros. The same event is planned for February 2010. Both have very modern clubhouse facilities perfect for relaxing after the round.
5. Burapha Country Club is located about 30 minutes outside of the tourist friendly city of Pattaya. The four nine holes are referred are Augusta, Belfry, Cypress and Dunes, referred to as A, B, C, and D. The designers are famed architect Gary Panks and Australian touring professional and former US Open Champion David Graham. All four nines offer scenic views, elevation changes, challenging greens and a mix of long and short holes. Located just outside Pattaya I suggest staying at the Woodlands Resort, which provides an excellent choice for overnight fun in between playing all 36 holes.