Category: Thailand Golf Courses and Playing Conditions

To Rent Or Not To Rent – That is the Golf Holiday Question

To Rent Or Not To Rent – That is the Golf Holiday Question

One of the most frequent questions we receive before guests book their Thailand golf holiday with us is “Should I bring my own clubs” or “Are the rentals at the courses any good?”. The answer to this question has a lot to do with you as an individual golfer, but here is what I can share.

As far as the quality of rentals goes, the majority of Thai (and other Asian country) courses and resorts that we deal with will have new updated equipment from a top of the line club company. Most courses now days have a rental agreement with a top manufacturer where they will only rent that companies clubs and advertise the brand on their website, in turn the manufacturer will replace the equipment for the latest technology every year or at the most every two years.  So yes, the equipment is the top of the line but it is still used and a duffer may have been the first to use that driver and on his first swing roofed his drive causing a sky mark, so expect the odd blemish.

Now I stated that the decision is an individual one whether to bring your own clubs or not, here are some tips to help you decide.

Bring your own set if:

  • Playing multiple times at courses in a close proximately to each other
  • Going to continuously comment “I would have done much better with my own sticks”
  • Blame every single mishit on the clubs, ultimately driving your playing partners crazy
  • Have very custom-tailored clubs to your specs (a course is not going to have a 4” long 5up clubs)
  • Cannot putt without anything but your beloved “Scotty”
  • Are a raving club thrower (let’s face it, it’s not polite to throw other people’s clubs)
  • You carry a picture of your clubs in your wallet next to your family photos (You will miss them too much)

Try some rentals if:

  • You are in the market for a new set and would like to test drive some modern equipment on the golf course
  • You will be doing quite a bit of traveling within your holiday and don’t want the hassle of lugging around clubs
  • Are going for the pure joy of enjoying the scenery and experience and score is not your priority
  • Have a persimmon driver and wonder why your buddies keep out driving you
  • Usually comment “wow, those rentals are better than my own set” when visiting courses
  • Prior to your trip, your friends ask “You’re not really bringing those relics are you?
  • Would just like to try something new on the golf course and compare to your own clubs

With some horror stories of airlines losing golf clubs, as one US Open qualifier found out can be a serious inconvenience, many decide to leave their clubs at home for their golfing holiday. The pros of this is that many of the Indochina courses do have the latest and greatest with many of our Thailand courses carrying TaylorMade rentals and our Vietnam courses almost exclusively with Titlesist including Scotty Cameron putters. This could give you the ideal on course test of some of the newest equipment.  It can also give you the ability to blame the odd missed fairway, green or putt on the rentals, and hey, don’t we all want to blame something else other than ourselves? Or you may just want to feel free of the hassle dragging your clubs to and fro if you are playing several different courses or countries during your trip.

The cons are that the equipment is different than yours and may take a little of getting used to. The other major factor is the cost. Most courses charge $30 – $60 for a set of clubs per 18 holes and if you are playing a lot of rounds this can add to the cost of your golfing holiday. The equipment conditioning could also vary depending on the course. To be sure of what you are getting and to avoid any disappointing surprises, I would suggest checking ahead of time the price and type of rentals being offered.

I personally like to leave my blades at home and choose to rent graphite shafted cavity backs and swing for the fences while enjoying the beauty of the courses and the pleasure of playing abroad.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact a Golfasian representative and we will help you plan the ultimate golfing getaway.

*As a side note. I have had my clubs lost by airlines in the past, and even had to play an event with rentals, but my clubs were never truly lost but instead took a little vacation of their own and the airlines always managed to recover them and return to me.

Green Aerification…Spoiling My Golf Trip?

Green Aerification…Spoiling My Golf Trip?

In all likelihood it could spoil that day…it’s certainly not helping. A common question from clients intending to travel with Golfasian is; “While I’m there, will the greens have been aerated?”

Showing up to a golf course only to discover that it has recently undergone an aerification process is never a good thing. Clients have, after all, paid a relatively large sum to travel to play overseas. You were expecting the golf course, and especially its greens, to be in great shape. Instead you find them full of little holes or covered in sand or other topdressing. Golfasian understands that the golf course aerification process can be especially frustrating to golfers.

Aeration usually involves removal of half inch plugs that are subsequently filled with sand (topdressing); another word for this is coring. Other aerification techniques use machines with tines, or knives that simply poke holes through the soil; these have far less impact on the smooth roll of your ball but all in all a green isn’t at its best post maintenance of this kind.

But I can hear a great big “so what…I don’t want to play greens like that when I’ve travelled 2,000 miles to play golf, what are you doing about it?” The good news is that generally significant aeration takes place twice a year and at a time which is logical. When would you rest your soccer team….post and pre-season in all likelihood and greens get the same treatment. Thus in Thailand aeration takes place in April when the rains arrive and high season ends, and September when the course is gearing up for the new high season with maximum traffic starting November. Are you aware that Golfasian publishes golf course maintenance plans every month in its newsletter? Course inspections are also carried out to give notice that the greens may be particularly challenging. Bottom line, everything is done to guarantee the client a great day on the links.

Whilst trying not to be too tongue in cheek, does showing up to a golf course that is in the throes of aerification guarantee a bad time or a bad score? Consider the fact that PGA Tour legend Tom Watson shot a sizzling record 58 at his then-home course, Kansas City Country Club, just days after the greens had been aerated. Consider also that aerification is merely a short-term disruption that has long-term benefits for golf courses. When you see them, remember that without those little holes, the greens would eventually die…and with a more positive stroke a good score is still possible.

But rest assured, if Golfasian finds out that your best interests aren’t being served, everything will be done to resolve the problem, rescheduling where possible.

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.

Drought – A Golf Course’s Greatest Challenge

Drought – A Golf Course’s Greatest Challenge

We are aware that Thailand’s tropical climate has a rainy season (Apr-Nov, see https://www.thailandgolfzone.com/thailands-rainy-season-how-does-it-affect-our-golf) and the remaining months enjoy hot and predominantly dry weather throughout, resulting in a tourist “high season” especially in respect of golfing visitors. The 4 main golf areas, Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai all have to manage their water in this period in order to sustain good playing conditions throughout the year. When water is scarce, there is the added challenge that community demand takes priority. Thus, sustainability becomes paramount and stockpiling precious water in the rainy season essential.

Designers are very aware of this which is why water features abound in Asia and strategic reservoiring in the form of large lakes is no accident. A great deal of time and specialist expertise is invested in planning for water sourcing. We all want our courses to be lush and green and when conditions are parched, greens rock hard and fairways threadbare we notice; although every cloud has a silver lining and 40 yards run on your driver comes in very handy! Notwithstanding, drought conditions are bad for business…visitors expect the best experience and take good conditioning for granted so the 2015/16 dry season has been a significant challenge as genuine drought conditions prevailed for the first time in years. One prestigious golf course in particular suffered; Springfield Royal Country Club near Hua Hin. This superb Jack Nicklaus design was hit hard with its various lakes as low as 10% capacity and significant restrictions placed on water usage. Others in the area faired just as badly, but the 2 most prestigious local courses Black Mountain and Banyan weren’t impacted so severely, perhaps because they planned better or maybe they were just luckier. Black Mountain was of course hosting the True Thailand Classic in February and needed to be in prime condition in front of the television cameras but a few months later even they were seen to suffer “around the fringes”.

The drought was certainly bad with almost no rainfall from November until late May; just a couple of showers in January which made no impact. It was the worst drought in Thailand in almost a decade. The last was in 2009 but this year was more severe. An additional factor is that Hua Hin’s population is also expanding rapidly and the growing demand for domestic water risks outstripping supply completely.  There are rumours of water pipelines from outlying areas that support Hua Hin but as yet nothing concrete has been announced.

La Quinta, California

This isn’t a new experience for global golf. In the United States, in areas that suffer from water shortages throughout the year and experience high household demand, such as California and Arizona, the golf community has always struggled with its water consumption, environmental credentials and aura of exclusivity. When Californians can’t clean their beloved cars because of hosepipe bans and on the television and lining magazine shelves there are glossy pictures of pristine, fabulously green fairways with what appears to an extravagant use of sprinklers used to maintain this idyllic lifestyle for the wealthy and privileged, naturally there is a clammer to close the whole industry down.

Thailand doesn’t yet face this type of problem and water management is very clearly a challenging and complex issue as periods of severe flooding give way to drought. Nevertheless, the golf industry, which is an important and growing contributor to the country’s tourism offering needs to do all it can to plan for the threat of drought and manage its resources accordingly to minimise the risk of losing some courses altogether.

Springfield Royal Country Club
Springfield Royal Country Club

I shall end by saying that from what I experienced this past weekend, happily the staff and management at Springfield Royal Country Club have recovered their course to full playability which is good news for golf fans.

What makes Nikanti Golf Club an unusual golf course?

What makes Nikanti Golf Club an unusual golf course?

It seems like the golf architect Pirapon Namatra (Ope) of Golf East listened quite a lot to Tina Turner’s famous song ‘Break every rule’ when he designed Nikanti Golf Club, Asia’s first 18 hole, par 72 golf course comprising three six-hole layouts each with two par-threes, two par-fours and two par-fives. Thailand’s 291st golf course was opened in May 2014. The Nikanti Golf Club is almost adjacent to Suwan Golf Club.

When Pirapon Namatra (the designer of Banyan Club and part of the construction company responsible for Siam Country Club’s new Siam Waterside) invented and implemented his ‘triple-six’ concept, he introduced a new distribution of par-3, par-4 and par-5 holes. Rather than having traditional front and back nines, here there are three loops of six, each one returning to the stylish and soon-to-be sumptuously appointed clubhouse. The reason, flexibility. Don’t have time for a full 18? Just play 12. Want to have another go at the reachable but dangerous par-5 18th? Why not squeeze in that final loop of six?

Nikanti Golf Club 01

Nikanti is comprised of three six-hole layouts each with two par-threes, two par-fours and two par-fives. 6,789 yards from the back tees, each group of six holes is distinctive in look, design and play – offering several options of attack. Another example of uniqueness of the golf course is the focus on shot-making. This way, you will be able to test your ability to control the flight of the golf ball through adjusted swing paths.

Bangkok courses are often criticized for their lack of elevation change, but that’s not the case here. It seems like that the developer and the architect Pirapon Namatra of Golf East, had considered the 4 most important issues of golf course development during the evaluation of the property: acreage, topography, soil, and vegetation. A good example of topography is the incorporation of the area’s naturally rolling terrain. As well as this he did not neglect the environmental aspects. By incorporating the native vegetation, the course was given character and beauty.

Nikanti Golf Club 02

It is also interesting that Nikanti is a pay-to-play development; it does not offer memberships. The elegant clubhouse, modern and luxurious, feels sumptuous and classy.  The Nikanti team has paid attention to the details when instead of providing regular golf carts they selected Club Car’s GPS-equipped golf carts. You will love the Visage GPS technology that can not only manage your score, but also navigate easily on the golf course, order food and drink or simply book new tee-times via the touch-screen interface. Thanks to Nikanti’s all-inclusive philosophy guests not only get for their green fee and GPS-equipped golf cart but also the caddy and lunch.

What makes Asia’s 1st replica golf course unique?

What makes Asia’s 1st replica golf course unique?

The Gary Roger Baird-designed Royal Gems Golf City’s life and operations did not start smoothly (in the 1960s and early 1970s Baird worked as a senior architect with Robert Trent Jones). Right after the opening in 2011, it suffered significant flooding in December. However, they were able to reopen the golf club in 2012.

Royal Gems Golf City is Asia’s first replica golf course and combines 9 of the best holes in the world (see list below) like TPC Sawgrass, St Andrews and Oakmont. The back 9 of the golf course is the replica of Augusta National’s back 9 holes.

Royal-Gems-Golf-City-008

Thus, you will be able to experience Amen Corner yourself.  Hopefully, when the hundreds of young trees mature and reach their full height then it will really be like at Augusta. What makes this golf course unique is that each hole has its own individuality and will challenge every player.

This is the list of holes:

1- Oakmont #3 (Church pew bunkers)
2- Bay Hill #16
3- TPC Sawgrass #17
4- Doral #18
5- Royal Troon #8 (postage stamp)
6- St Andrews #17 (road hole)
7- Bethpage Black #7
8- Winged Foot #10
9- The Belfry #10
10-18- Augusta National #10-18

In its current form, Royal Gems Golf City is a par-72, 18-hole, 7,075-yard golf course. Royal Gems offers a combination of American, Scottish and Thai characteristics. Where we can play golf now, once there was a thousand rai of paddy fields. The remains of the paddy fields you can still see adjacent to the golf course.

The golf club is situated in pleasant, natural parkland to the west of Bangkok. The course has a few lakes, fast greens, narrow fairways, deep rough and enormous bunkers. Use of the club is restricted to members and their guests only but Golfasian has managed to gain access for its clients.

Royal Gems Golf City is one of the very few golf courses in Thailand to be an official member of the United States Golf Association and is approved for professional championships.

Royal-Gems-Golf-City-015

7 reasons to play on the Centara World Masters Championship

7 reasons to play on the Centara World Masters Championship

How do you decide on which amateur golf championship is worth to participate? Based on the positive responses from golfers from 23 countries who played in the first Centara World Masters Golf Championship in 2015, I can strongly recommend to you to come and play this year. The Centara World Masters Golf Championship is Asia’s largest and richest amateur week of golf.

Centara_4

The Centara World Masters Golf Championship will be hosted in the royal city of Hua Hin (Thailand), between 12-18 June 2016. Entry is open to all the male and female golfers over the age of 35 with an official handicap. All golfers play a 72 hole single Stableford event while “A” grade golfers are eligible to compete for the best stroke / gross. Over US $30,000 in prizes and lucky draws will be given away at the gala presentation dinner.

The Centara World Masters Golf Championship will be held in 4 golf clubs:

  1. Banyan Golf Club: 18 holes par 72, 7361 yards;
  2. Black Mountain Club: 18 holes par 72, 7343 yards;
  3. Imperial Lake View Resort & Golf Club: 36 holes, par 72/72, 6915/7015 yards;
  4. Springfield Royal Country Club: 27 holes, par 72, 7043 yards.

As you can see from the list, the organizers are providing the opportunity to play on different kind of golf courses where the quality of green’s and fairways’ conditioning are out of the question.

I have collected 7 reasons why worth to play on the Centara World Masters Golf Championship:

  • Banyan Golf Club: in 2011 was named as the 3rd best course of Thailand at the annual Asian Golf Monthly awards. In 2012, the club received the Asian Golf Monthly awards for Best Clubhouse in Asia Pacific.
  • Black Mountain Golf Clubit is the only course in Thailand ever named in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses Outside the US. The club has hosted 3 Asian Tour events. They were the “Best Course in Asia Pacific” in 2014 and 2015. The par-5 18th makes for a dramatic closing hole.
  • Imperial Lake View Resort & Golf Club: The club offers 36 holes with 4 challenging golf courses: Mountain, Lake, Desert and Link, designed by Roger Packard and Ronald Fream.
  • Springfield Royal Country Club: a TOP 10 golf course in Thailand ranked by Golf Digest; Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

Has something to add to this story? Share it in the comments!

Centara_1

Chiang Mai Highlands – Just got better

Chiang Mai Highlands – Just got better

This month I was invited by the General Manager, Derek Schade, to review Chiang Mai Highlands’ new nine holes which opened to the public on November 1st. Derek had only taken up his post at Highlands recently after a successful period running Lotus Valley Golf Resort. There was a “return of the prodigal son” element as he had previously managed the Golf Club and enjoyed working closely with the inspirational owner Khun Vichai who persuaded him to re-join the Team.  As I hadn’t played in the area for several years, and given Chiang Mai Highlands Golf & Spa Resort was in the running for the 2015 Asia Golf Awards Best Golf Resort in Asia Pacific (they subsequently won!), I took the opportunity to explore the whole facility and give readers an insight into what the complete package offers.

First, golf in the Chiang Mai area is a wonderful experience not just because of the spectacular backdrop of lush, verdant hills. It is also due to the general climate which is just that bit more forgiving than central and southern areas of Thailand with temperatures and humidity 5-20% more favourable. As its name would suggest Chiang Mai Highlands takes particular advantage of the locale and the designers Schmidt-Curley, who have delivered several projects in Thailand, notably the prestigious Amata Spring home to the Thailand Golf Championships, were eager to leave their mark yet remained sensitive to the beauty of the region. They were able to create something challenging and rewarding yet natural, sitting comfortably within its surroundings.
Lee Schmidt was the actual designer of the original eighteen and designed the new nine. Whilst subtly different in that the fairways on the new ‘C’ Course are wider and more forgiving, plus the greens much larger with distinct tiers, it is clear all 27 holes have the same DNA. Every shot requires an element of strategic thinking followed by sound execution in order to steer clear of hazards. These are natural in the form of young and mature trees or streams that meander throughout the course, plus bunkers that define the “smart” landing areas off the tees as well as approaches to the greens. These aren’t the only architect’s tools in use because the lay of the land allows for significant slopes and undulations, complemented by mounding that provides for a great or otherwise lie and/or line to the green.  Many greens have severe run-offs but they are a large target so it’s not all penal.

Hole 1 resizeJust like the original eighteen this nine exercises the brain and cannot be overcome by brute force alone. A case in point is the first hole; a 545 yard par 5 that doglegs left at a distance of about 300 yards from the blue tees. Standing on the tee you’ll straight away see the owner’s sensitivity to the environment because only 80 yards from the tee on the right sits a quite lovely tree that ever so slightly prevents a completely unimpeded view and on many courses would have been removed; I’m glad it’s there. Bunkers at 250 yards on the left dictate a drive that favours the quite open right hand side but then you wonder if the chance of getting on in two is out of the question.  It probably is for all except the likes of Rory McIlroy because once the hole turns left the ground climbs sharply to the multi-tiered green which slopes from front to back and provides for 2 very different pin positions. Even for a layup second the left side is peppered with bunkers such that the right hand side, and far right at that, is the only sensible option no matter how alien it feels. From a hundred yards with a sand wedge in your hand the perspective changes and for the first time 2 deep bunkers guarding the right of the green stare you in the face. In essence at every shot selection your decision process must be considered and measured, weighing risk and reward. Such is the case with every hole on the nine from a long par 5 to a short par 3.

One striking feature of the nine holes was how good their conditioning was; a credit to the fact the owner didn’t want to rush the opening but rather wait until the nine holes reflected the high standards of the original A/B course. I implore you to discover all this for yourself and am confident you’ll walk away delighted.

For information on Chiang Mai Golf Packages go to www.golfasian.com/golf-holidays/thailand/chiang-mai/ or contact info@golfasian.com

Pattaya Golf – Take the rough with the smooth

Pattaya Golf – Take the rough with the smooth

Undoubtedly Thailand golf is gaining in profile and quality thanks to a growing golf tourism market and increased television exposure of tournaments such as the Thailand Classic (Black Mountain) and Thailand Championship (Amata Spring). These 2 courses compare with some of the best in the world but understandably with that comes a price premium. I can see that someone arriving to play in Thailand probably will be looking for something special but perhaps they might wish to look further for an experience that is equally rewarding in different ways, but at a relatively bargain price.

Siam Country Club
Siam Country Club

First of all I’ll qualify this. If your home course is always in superb condition and that’s what your game is used to undoubtedly anything less than perfect might affect how you play and therefore how good a day you have. Standing on the first tee your eye may be drawn to imperfections instead of your target. If the greens you are used to are billiard smooth and 11 on the stimp then putting might be a frustration as your silky smooth stroke repeatedly comes up short or the ball takes the odd unfortunate hop. Pattaya has some tier one courses with excellent conditioning year-round, notably those of Siam Country Club which are always immaculate, but because of a different level of investment or expertise, the majority are most definitely good/decent rather than excellent and in high season get a lot of traffic.

The key is to take the odd rough patch in the fairway, badly raked bunker or slow green in your stride and adapt. Make the day about the experience from start to finish rather than anticipating the score; you might very well be surprised how things turn out.  For me it starts at the bagdrop where every single time I am treated like I have just arrived at Augusta National. The clubs are lifted from the boot (trunk) of my car by a nice lady and delivered to the first tee (or driving range) as if by magic. One of the things Thailand does very well is club houses which are generally very lavish even amongst tier 2/3 clubs. We change in a place that is spacious, well appointed and staffed such that clean shoes after the round are the norm for only fifty baht…this is lavish treatment.

Khao Kheow
Khao Kheow

When I’m ready for golf there are several venues where early in the round, if not the first tee, I can simply take in the view and appreciate how fortunate I am to be playing golf in the sunshine, with friends and in such surroundings: the Pete Dye-designed Khao Kheow springs to mind, as does the spectacular Wangjuntr (Highland Course) in the feature picture and Nick Faldo-designed Emerald which is a little off the beaten track. I have played all of these in good/decent conditions as well as relatively “agricultural” but enjoyed every occasion just because it was fun and incredibly affordable. What surprised me most was I tried to concentrate on taking the rough with the smooth, focusing on accuracy rather than power, positive chipping and putting rather than finesse and lo and behold the scores weren’t that bad at all.

Emerald Golf Club
Emerald Golf Club

To cap it all, when I’d showered and changed and was enjoying a drink and some banter with the group, usually on a terrace overlooking the 18th, I felt good about the day…as good as if I’d played immaculate Siam Plantation. The difference is I had more cash to spend on Pattaya’s nightlife so the day just got better and better.

Thailand’s rainy season – How does it affect our golf?

Thailand’s rainy season – How does it affect our golf?

Thailand’s rainy season runs from approximately May to November when it gives way to the cool season ending in the particular hot and humid month of April. Both terms are slightly misleading (we will deal with rainy) given Thailand has a tropical climate so temperatures are generally high throughout the year although the high ground in the north around Chiang Mai can produce genuinely frigid weather.

Rainy season is influenced by the south west monsoon, but Thailand does not actually experience monsoon conditions; persistent heavy rain. Due to a measure of protection from Myanmar, rather Thailand experiences late afternoon storms and significant downpours that may result in flash floods although lasting no more than 60 minutes.

So what does this mean for us golfers? First, let’s examine a fact…in 15 years of playing golf here, I have been rained off the golf course completely only once, mainly due to the rather impressive lightning at the time plus I was near the end of a poor round; interestingly, those braver than me with better scores finished much to my astonishment. Several rounds have been interrupted, some for up to an hour but that has been very rare.  The fact is, Thailand golf course designers took the climate’s impact into consideration. Thailand’s courses drain superbly, such that even in the face of a deluge they recover to full playability in only a matter of 10-15 minutes, particularly the greens (the bunkers do have the odd puddle). While back at home in the UK, if there was a downpour we’d huddle under some trees if too far from the clubhouse, here there is a drink/snack stop every 3 holes so not only is there shelter nearby, but also the opportunity to get to take a break with your companions. Interestingly, because it is the tropics, many of the storms are spectacular and an experience in themselves.

Bottom line, dealing with the weather as it affects our golf simply requires either planning or patience. First, the storms are extremely predictable, mostly occurring at about 4 in the afternoon so it is sensible to book rounds that end before then. Secondly, if weather occurs take it in your stride and be confident it isn’t the end of the day for you: accept the interruption and use the opportunity to discuss your round thus far or simply enjoy what inevitably is a spectacle.

2014 New Thailand Golf Courses

2014 New Thailand Golf Courses

Oftentimes I get asked about the supply and demand of the Thai golf courses. While I am no expert about the economics of golf courses and the Thai golf industry is some 20-30 years old, new golf courses are still coming online at a rate of around 5 per year. Some of these projects are completely new construction like Nikanti Golf Club in Bangkok and Katathong Golf club in Phang Nha. Others, such as Chiang Mai Highlands, are expansions, and lastly there are renovations. Laguna Phuket Golf Club and Gassan Lake City are two examples of the later that are being undertaken in 2014.

Nikanti Golf Club is located west of Bangkok and other than Royal Gems Golf City is probably the most unique Thailand golf course. Three six hole loops, each with two par-3, two par-4, and two par-5 holes make it play a par-72, but in a rather unconventional way. Also, the all-inclusive one price fits all is a new concept here. Green fee, caddie fee, golf cart, caddie tip, and food and beverages are included in the admission price for all golfers. It will be interesting to see how this price structure is accepted by locals and visitors.

Katathong Golf Club is also newly constructed in Phang Nha province.  The surrounding scenery is as nice as Red Mountain in Phuket, though the course design and conditions leave allot to be desired. Also, the location is a bit out of the way, however for Krabi golf visitors, it is the best option around.

The original 18 at Chiang Mai Highlands are already the best track in Northern Thailand. Now with an additional 9 under construction by the same architect, Lee Schmidt, who has also built Amata Spring Country Club, the Highlands new nine is sure to be a hit.

Laguna Phuket is set to reopen in January 2015. The same architect who designed the Laguna Lang Co course in Vietnam was brought in for the job and judging from the first 9-holes that were already remodeled last year; the course will come online as one of Phuket’s best.

Gassan Lake City will be renamed Gassan Legacy once re-opened later this month. Once again, Schmidt-Curley was brought in for the remodeling job. From what I hear the course will be more playable with better grass and bunkers. Let’s see!

Well that’s it for the new Thailand golf course roundup this year. With the new additions Thailand will continue to lead the rest of Asia as the prime choice for golf holidays in 2015 and beyond.

Laguna Phuket Golf Club Update

Laguna Phuket Golf Club Update

The recently redesigned Laguna Phuket Golf Club is both a strategic and memorable golf experience. The redesign by golf course architect Paul Jansen has highlighted the character of the existing property making for a memorable golf experience. Golfers are now asked to think their way around the golf course as each hole offers a multitude of shot options and both nines have good variety.

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Siam Country Club, Waterside – Comparison With Old and Plantation Courses

Siam Country Club, Waterside – Comparison With Old and Plantation Courses

Most golfers in Pattaya agree that the Siam Country Club Old Course and Siam Country Club Plantation Course are the two best golf courses in Pattaya. However, if there are any complaints about the two courses, it is that they are both quite difficult for high handicap golfers. Around the greens it is not uncommon for weekend golfers to take five or more shots to get up-and-down as the slopes, elevated greens, and bunker complexes require accuracy and precision in chipping and putting. Perch yourself one afternoon above the Old Course’s 18th and you will see what I mean!

With this in mind, the owners of Siam Country Club have given the design brief to IMG to develop a new golf course that is friendlier and accommodates a wider variety of golfers.

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Is Koh Samui Golf For Real?

Is Koh Samui Golf For Real?

Major golf destinations share several things in common. They include,

1.    Three or more golf courses of international standard
2.    A range of golf resorts to accommodate all levels of price and luxury
3.    Easy to get to/from
4.    Reasonable prices
5.    Non-golf activities such as cultural, gastronomic, spa, and/or beaches

Koh Samui has technically three golf courses, However, only Santiburi Samui Country Club is 18-holes and of international standard. The course is a spectacular example of a tropical island layout, perhaps even Thailand’s best. However without any comparable courses on the island one would have to play multiple rounds at Santiburi Samui to have anything more than an isolated holiday round of golf.

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Golf Holiday Destination Thailand

Golf Holiday Destination Thailand

Why golf in Thailand?   Thailand is probably the most spectacular golfing destination in the world, the beauty of her golf courses expresses it all.  We have lush greenery year round with palm trees and every other type of tropical flora and flowers creating a feast for the eyes.  Beautiful lakes and waterways, birds you’ve never seen before become a breathtaking walk in the park.  Churchill was so wrong when he said “golf is a good walk spoiled” – he never played in Thailand!

The challenge of golfing in Thailand is also an important aspect and I promise that you can never get bored.  Many of the courses are designed by the world’s most famous golf architects creating challenges that even the best golfers dream about.   For all levels of golfers from their respective tee boxes the challenges abound.   Even for the beginner it’s game on, but set up with wide enough fairways and safe passages around water.

Also great planning, as you get a refreshment kiosk twice every nine holes unlike other places where if you didn’t load up before the first tee you get one chance at the turn.  Cold drinks, chicken legs, sticky rice, fresh tropical fruit, and sandwiches – a quick bite before you move on.  Even a cold beer if you are so inclined.  Some of the courses even have a cold moist towel right out of the fridge at each stop (now that is refreshing)!  After your round the clubhouse restaurants provide some of the best Thai, Japanese and Western cuisine at reasonable prices.

A great part of the golfing experience in Thailand is the caddies.  Honestly, how many golfers have had a caddie along with them during their round of golf.  They are all women and speak a decent amount of English to make for good golf communication.  They know the golf courses like the backs of their hands, reading your putt lines (even lining up the ball), telling you distances, which club to use, sometimes even a little coaching – but always full of positive encouragement.  This makes for a great social golf day out with your added gallery and applause after your good shots.

Thailand has numerous courses that offer night golf with decent lighting, as many Thai’s prefer to stay out of the sun.  It is a challenge in and of itself, but adding golf and romance to the mix.   It is the perfect time to play with your partner on holiday. With warm weather, the stars above and perhaps a bottle of wine in your golf cart surely becomes a relaxed and romantic evening out.  Definitely let this be one of your experiences when golfing in Thailand.

On a final note; Thailand enjoys the best weather regardless the time of year.  Mid November thru March is optimal, where we have cooler and rain free days.  Green fee and caddy fees are very economical for the quality of the courses you can enjoy.  Come and experience the friendly hospitality of the Thai people and their superb golf courses.  Hope to see you out here for one of your most memorable golfing holidays ever!

Thailand Golf Resorts Offer Unlimited Golf Packages

Thailand Golf Resorts Offer Unlimited Golf Packages

Thailand Golf Resorts
Mission Hills Phuket

Nowadays golf resorts like Mission Hills Phuket and Bangkok Golf Club are offering unlimited golf holiday packages. These golf vacations are nothing new, but in fact they may be only a ploy to lure visitors to less than ideal courses.

Think about it, there are only 12 hours of daylight in Thailand and the weather is generally hot and humid all year long. Therefore, how many round of golf can you play in a day?
For most of us it is only two, and this is waking up very early and pushing it. So an unlimited golf package is in reality a 36-hole a day deal.

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Golf’s Great Legends In Thailand

Golf’s Great Legends In Thailand

Wherever and whenever you play golf in Thailand, you’ll find courses designed by some of the best golfers, including Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Peter Thomson, Greg Norman, and Arnold Palmer.

Jack Nicklaus is the great who left his mark the most in Thailand. Six Thailand courses are Jack Nicklaus designed. The two best by far are Laem Chabang International Country Club in Pattaya and Springfield Royal Country Club in Hua Hin. Coincidentally, both opened for play in 1993. Laem Chabang, a 27-hole complex, offers three 9-hole Courses, each challenging in their own right and all well-maintained throughout the year.

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Will Thailand Become The World´s Biggest Golf Destination?

Will Thailand Become The World´s Biggest Golf Destination?

Lately Thailand golf tourism has skyrocketed to an estimated 750,000 arrivals in 2012, up 50% over the past three years. This is worth an estimated US$2 billion in revenue to the Kingdom. There is no doubt that Thai golf tourism is riding on the back of a general tourism explosion, with total foreign arrivals doubling over the last seven years to more than 22 million in 2012.

While I personally would like Thailand golf to become the biggest golf destination in the world, I doubt that this will ever happen. Here is why.

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Golf In Singapore Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Singapore Versus Golf In Thailand

Here are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Singapore (8): For a small island state Singapore has allocated land for close to 30 golf courses. The quality ranges from good at course like Orchid and Raffles to world-class at Laguna National and Sentosa Island.

Thailand (7): Of the 280 golf courses in Thailand, 60 are up to international standards. Thailand’s best courses include Siam Country Club in Pattaya and Black Mountain in Hua Hin. Both have played host to major professional golf tournaments and have been heavily honored by major golf journalists.

Service (25%)
Singapore (6): Singapore is a well-developed international tourist destination and as such the service is generally good from those working in the service sector. The main thing missing from golf in Singapore are caddies as labor costs are prohibitively expensive to enable this.

Thailand (10): The Thai people are renowned for their friendliness and this shows on the golf course as well. Locals golf side by side with golf visitors and all Thailand golf courses include individual caddies as standard.

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Golf In Russia Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Russia Versus Golf In Thailand

Here are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Russia (5): There are only 20 golf courses in Russia and most are located in and around Moscow. The best golf club is the Jack Nicklaus designed Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club. The inaugural Russian Open and first ever European Tour event played in Russia was held at Tseleevo in 2013

Thailand (7): Thailand has 280 golf courses and many have won numerous “best of” awards including Black Mountain Golf Club (100 Best Courses Outside the USA, Golf Digest 2012) and Thai Country Club (Best clubhouse in Asia, Asian Golf Monthly, numerous years Ina  row).

Service (25%)
Russia (4): Service is missing when golfing in Russia. Caddies are notably absent and to date golf is considered an elitist game. Hardly any Russians know the proper golf rules or golf etiquette.

Thailand (10): Service with a smile is standard all over Thailand and the golf courses are no exception. You should plan on meeting friendly locals during your round and making many new friends on a Thailand golf holiday. Just don’t be surprised if you miss your Thai caddie when you return home and play without one.

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Golf In Portugal Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Portugal Versus Golf In Thailand

Here are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Portugal (9):  Even though there are only 70 golf courses Portugal is one of Europe’s best golf destinations. The Algarve region is the most famous golfing area and the best course there is Victoria Golf Vilamoura, home of the 2013 Portugal Golf Masters and tour stop for the European Tour. However, my course in Portugal is the Seve Ballesteros designed Porto Santo. This traditional links course plays along the Atlantic Ocean and is as good as golf gets!

Thailand (7): There is good golf cross the country with most of best courses in Thailand in and around Bangkok, Pattaya, and Hua Hin. Thai Country Club has hosted more professional golf events than any other Thai golf course. Black Mountain Golf Club is the only golf course in Thailand to be rated in the top 100 courses outside the USA by Golf Digest.

Service (25%)
Portugal (6): The golf in Portugal is good, but don’t expect much in the way of service on the golf course. There are no caddies, hardly any Portuguese play golf, and it is very difficult to find Portuguese workers who have a service mindset. However, the golf resorts in Portugal can be excellent. My most memorable experience was at the Four Seasons Country Club, Quinta do Lago.

Thailand (10):  Service, hospitality, and Thailand are synonymous with each other and golf is no exception. Thais golf as much as the visitors and you can always meet friendly locals on the golf course. Caddies are standard at all Thailand golf courses and will be missed by every visiting golfer on their first round back home.

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Golf In New Zealand Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In New Zealand Versus Golf In Thailand

New Zealand MapHere are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
New Zealand (10): With over 400 golf courses, New Zealand is a golfer’s paradise. My 2 favorite New Zealand golf courses are Cape Kidnappers and Paraparaumu Beach, both of which rival any of the best golf courses in the world. Many other great golf courses in New Zealand can be found around the big cities of Auckland and Christchurch and also among the smallest country towns.

Thailand (7): There is good golf available in Thailand, with the best courses mostly located around Bangkok, Pattaya, and Hua Hin. Riverdale Golf Club in Bangkok is a good example of one of the newer top courses while Laem Chabang International Country Club is a time tested Jack Nicklaus design in Pattaya.

Service (25%)
New Zealand (8): Golf in New Zealand is well developed and Kiwis are noted for being friendly and casual people. This leads to generally a good service standard wherever you travel to, albeit with more do-it-yourself approach than is found in Asia.

Thailand (10): The golf in Thailand is all about service. Friendly locals and caddies greet golfers from around the world at every golf course across the country. Try playing on your own when you get back from a Thailand golf holiday! It will be then when you really miss the Thai service.

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Golf In Laos Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Laos Versus Golf In Thailand

Laos MapHere are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Laos (5):  Laos is behind other neighboring countries with only 7 golf courses open for play. Most Laos golf courses are in the capital Vientiane and are only average in quality. However, Luang Prabang Golf Club, in Luang Prabang is the country’s best having hosted 2 Asian Tour events, with spectacular scenery, and excellent playing conditions.

Thailand (7): There are many championship golf courses in Thailand including Siam Country Club (home of the Honda LPGA) and Black Mountain Golf Club (Royal Trophy and Black Mountain Masters). Golf In A Kingdom includes all of Thailand’s best golf courses.

Service (25%)
Laos (4): Golf in Laos is a relatively new and as such finding trained service personnel at the golf clubs is difficult. Most staff and caddies hardly speak any English and are not familiar with the rules golf. This detracts from the otherwise good overall golfing experience.

Thailand (10): The land of smiles carries on its name onto the golf course as well. Friendly locals and caddies are everywhere at all Thai golf courses. Try playing when you get back from a Thailand golf holiday to really appreciate the Thai service!

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Golf In Korea Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Korea Versus Golf In Thailand

Korea MapHere are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%):
Korea (7):  Korea is a mountainous country with around 200 golf courses scattered from North to South. However the best golf courses are located on Cheju Island, sometimes called Korea’s Hawaii due to the year round temperate climate. My two favorite Korean golf courses are Nine Bridges and Sky 72, both of which have hosted numerous professional golf tournaments.

Thailand (7): There are many excellent golf courses in Thailand. Thai Country Club (site of Tiger Woods 1997 win) and Siam Country Club (home of the Honda LPGA) are two stand-outs. The best golf courses are all part of Golf In A Kingdom.

Service (25%)
Korea (6): Golf in Korea is a long but smooth process. Tee-times and pace of play are strictly adhered to as most of the better courses are full from sunrise to sunset. A round of golf can include a break for lunch too, which is good if you like Korea food.

Thailand (10):  Service on the golf course in Thailand is all about smiles. You meet friendly locals and caddies which are standard at all Thai golf courses. Try playing without a caddie after you get back from a Thailand golf holiday to really appreciate the Thai service!

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Golf In Japan Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Japan Versus Golf In Thailand

Japan MapHere are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Japan (7): The country has over 2,400 golf courses from North to South. Unfortunately, the best clubs are private, so make sure you call ahead to see if unaccompanied visitors are allowed. Some of my favorites that do allow visitors are the Fuji Course at Kawana Hotel and Taiheiyo Club Gotemba Course.

Thailand (7): The vast majority of golf courses in Thailand are open for daily fee play. Some of the best in this category include Siam Country Club (home of the Honda LPGA) and Riverdale Golf Club. The best golf courses are all part of Golf In A Kingdom.

Service (25%)
Japan (7): If you want to golf in less than 8 hours, then golf in Japan is not for you. Of course this includes 18 holes of golf with a 2+ hour break in between for lunch, sauna, and a change of clothes. Not bad actually if you want to experience real Japan.

Thailand (10): You meet friendly locals all over Thailand. A good example is the caddies which are standard at all Thai golf courses. Try playing without a caddie after you get back from a Thailand golf holiday and you will see what I mean.

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Golf In Hong Kong Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Hong Kong Versus Golf In Thailand

Hong Kong MapHere are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Hong Kong (6): There are some excellent golf courses in Hong Kong; many with great views over the surrounding South China Sea. The only public golf course is also one of the islands best. The 36-hole Gary player designed Kau Sai Chau Golf Course is set on an island just off the coast. Other standouts, albeit private, include the Hong Kong Golf Club’s Fanling Course; home of many professional PGA events.

Thailand (7): Golf in Thailand can be played across the country and of the 250 or so courses, 60 are worthy of visitors. The number one Thai golf course and only course in the 100 best courses outside the USA is Black Mountain in Hua Hin.
 

Service (25%)
Hong Kong (4): The island state is better known for shopping bargains than service and the same carries over to the golf clubs. Notably missing are caddies, which makes Hong Kong one of the few places to golf in Asia where one can carry his/her own bag.

Thailand (10): Thailand on the other hand is all about service excellence. Golf clubs are as visitor friendly as any place on earth. How hard could it be to play with a smiling caddie by your side through the whole round?

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Golf In Germany Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Germany Versus Golf In Thailand

Germany MapHere are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Germany (6):  Since the 1980’s many new golf courses have been built and the golf in Germany has flourished. There are now more than 600 German golf courses across the country including hundreds of excellent ones and a handful of outstanding resorts. The Sport & Spa Resort A-Rosa set among pine forests is one of the best examples with the Nick Faldo 18 being the best of the 4-course (63 hole) lineup.

Thailand (7): Thailand has 250 courses spread out across the country. Every major designer is represented and the Jack Nicklaus courses at Laem Chabang in Pattaya, Springfield in Hua Hin, and Mission Hills Phuket are among the most popular. Other excellent courses include Siam Country Club in Pattaya and Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin.

Service (25%)
Germany (5): Outstanding hospitality is far from synonymous with Germany. However, the unique character of each region makes for memorable golf trips nevertheless.

Thailand (10): Thailand sets the standard for service excellence and this extends to the golf courses as well. From the well-trained caddies to the bell boy at the hotels, outstanding service with a smile can be counted on. It is no wonder Thailand is nicknamed “Land of Smiles”.

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Golf In Egypt Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Egypt Versus Golf In Thailand

Here are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Egypt (6): Golf in the Egypt is widespread, especially in the resort areas such as Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh. Additionally, the Gary Player course at Soma Bay Resort is a sure standout. A high concentration of golf courses can also be found are in and around Cairo with the 27-hole Katameya Heights leading the pack.

Thailand (7): Over 250 golf courses in Thailand are spread out across the country. The best courses include Thai Country Club in Bangkok, Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin, and Red Mountain in Phuket. Chiang Mai in the north also has some top courses including Chiang Mai Highlands.

Service (25%)
Egypt (5): The golf courses in Egypt are generally self-serve with limited on-course service and no caddies. The resort courses attached to 5* beach resorts have better facilities, albeit Egyptian service is not the main reason why people travel to golf in Egypt.

Thailand (10): Golf in Thailand sets the standard for service. All Thai golf courses have caddies to assist visiting golfs in every task imaginable, except hitting the ball of course. Expect service excellence at all courses, whether the course itself is 5* or not.

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Golf In Cambodia Versus Golf In Thailand

Golf In Cambodia Versus Golf In Thailand

CambodiaHere are my rankings on the golfing in these 2 countries on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

Quality (30%)
Cambodia (6): Golf in Cambodia has been introduced only in the last 10 years and as such there are only 6 courses, 3 in Phnom Penh and 3 in Siem Reap. Although Phnom Penh is the capital the courses here are either private (Phnom Penh Grand) or in serious need of maintenance (Cambodia Country Club and Royal Cambodia). On the other hand the three Siem Reap golf courses welcome visitors and are in good condition.

Thailand (7): Golf in Thailand has been played since the early 1900’s. There are now over 250 golf courses in Thailand and the standard varies from average (Pinehurst) to world-class (Black Mountain, Siam CC, Thai CC). 

Service (25%)
Cambodia (8): Service levels at Cambodia golf courses are quite good especially considering how new golf in Cambodia is. Caddies are supplied at all courses and they help visitors navigating the courses for the first time.

Thailand (10): The best thing about golf in Thailand is the service. From the moment you land to the time you leave Thai hospitality is first class all the way. Some people say other countries might catch up to Thailand in the future. However, it is hard for me to believe as service is not learned in Thailand; it is a way of life.

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