Thailand golf rivals the world’s greatest golf destinations with challenging layouts by ‘A’ list designers. If there is a difference in Thailand, it is the value. Thailand golfers enjoy championship golf at greens fees of around $100 – $150 USD which is typically less than you’d pay in Hawaii, the Caribbean, Scotland, South Africa, and other premium golf destinations around the world.
But world-class aside, here is a novel idea for the adventurous. Thailand also has many off-the-beaten-path, local muni types of courses, where you meet John Q. Public (e.g. local Thai golfers and expatriates) who know where to go for the best value-for-money and some real local fun. Now, this is not for everyone, to be sure. The greens can be tricky; fairways might use local grasses; and tee boxes are probably not perfectly flat or closely mowed. You don’t play these courses for their modern clubhouses and stately locker rooms and the dining room is likely to be a large covered patio rather than a posh air-conditioned restaurant.
You play these tracks for the cultural experience of encountering people living their daily lives, not catering to the every whim of tourists. You will be treated like a local. You’ll pay $12-$16 USD for eighteen holes with a caddy, not including tip. You’ll feel just like everybody else and that is part of the charm. Well, it is if you find it charming to be paired with community Thai folks and local expatriates that engage you in pleasant conversation and become new friends after 18 holes; or probably 19.
If you arrive in Thailand with a group of your golf buddies or as part of a planned Thailand golf package, you wouldn’t march out to a local course in Thailand en masse to play golf. This opportunity is for two, maybe three golfers at most, or possibly a single who slips away for an afternoon of cultural immersion. If possible you should accompany a local Thai golfer the first time. In fact, you might find yourself playing Thailand golf with an ex vice-governor; with a retired lawyer or a cardiologist; an army general or a former minister of agriculture; a hotel general manager; a telephone company executive; or, with an FBI agent.
Many of the local muni type courses are owned and operated by the Thai Army. Some are owned by EGAT, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. Others are local golf clubs or privately owned layouts in big housing estates. The golf is good, the beer is cold and the food is home cooked fare, Thai style.
Some of my favorite local Thai courses are Plutaluang Navy Golf Couse in Pattaya, Muang Ake Golf Club in Bangkok, Mae Moh Golf Club outside Chiang Mai, and Rajjaprabha Dam Golf Course between Phuket and Koh Samui.
Give any one of these a try and you will see what I mean. It might just be the most fun you have on your Thailand golf holiday.