Last week I had dinner with an acquaintance who used to live here in Thailand, but who is now residing in Wales, where he is a member of his local golf club. He spent over 10 years living, working and golfing in Thailand but, before that, he spent a similar length of time in Hong Kong. I asked him how golfing in the three locations mainly differed. Here are his views.
The first difference is in membership. In Hong Kong it is exceedingly difficult and expensive to become a member of a golf club, and it can be a lengthy process. Unless you are wealthy enough to afford a debenture, or lucky that your employer has bought one or more for its employees, you face a long wait to get to the top of the waiting list to become a member.
I was in that fortunate position that when I was first in Hong Kong, my employer awarded me a debenture at the, then The Royal Hong Kong Golf Club. It was a further twelve years before I could become a member in my own right, and the joining fee was $6,000 US$, and that was in 1991! Apart from the HK Golf Club, which has three 18-hole courses and one 9-hole, there are only three other golf clubs, only one of which, the 36-hole Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau Public Course, is open to HK residents. This for a population of over seven million!
Throughout the UK, virtually every little town has at least one golf course, many being public courses, especially in Scotland. Apart from a handful of big name clubs, becoming a member is relatively easy and inexpensive. The one-time joining fee at my local club – established in 1891 and where Stableford was first tried out, and within walking distance of my home, is $1,200 US. The monthly subscription is GB£60 and you pay no green fees. Another local club has one day each month where you can play a round of golf and whatever you shoot gross is your joining fee in GB£! There is no trade in memberships, and many people hold two or three.
Thailand, too, has plenty of golf courses, at least in the main golfing centres, over 200 now. It is generally not difficult to become a member of a golf club, but it can be expensive – from $3,000 up to $40,000 US. Golf memberships in Thailand can be traded like an asset, although profit is not assured due to the heavy transfer fees levied by the clubs. Many golfers prefer not to become a member of one particular club but opt instead to join a golf society where they can experience a great variety of golf courses.
There also is a difference in green fees. In Hong Kong (if you can somehow get a tee booking), the green fee will be more than 1000 HK$. In the UK, at most golf clubs you can play for around GB£60. And in Thailand, 1,000 baht ($35 US) is the average green fee, this being less than half the costs of the other locations.
The third difference is the caddies. In Hong Kong, although there are caddies, they tend to be little more than bag carriers, and the fees are expensive. There are few young people still willing to caddie. In the UK, very few golf courses have caddies, most golfers either carry their own bags, or have pull or electric carts. Every Thai golf course, however, has its caddies. They are Thailand’s secret weapon in making golf such good fun. These brightly clad ladies, in smart uniforms and straw hats, know lots about the course, smile almost all the time, and can read putts far better than you.
So, where do I prefer? Well, on a fine summer’s day there is hardly anywhere better to be than playing a British links course. Only problem is, there are only about four such days in the year! When I am battling against wind and sleet, dressed like a Michelin-man, my hands too frozen to grip the club properly, I dream of golf in Thailand.
I would like to hear from anyone with their own opinions on golf in various parts of the world. Please feel free to leave a comment here of if you prefer drop me an email at my Thailand golf vacation company and I will take care of the posting duties.