Is Thailand Golf Good for the Blood Pressure?

Is Thailand Golf Good for the Blood Pressure?

Two things have happened to me in the past several days, neither of them very good and both I regret. First I became frustrated that a Golfasian client wasn’t appreciating Thailand golf for what it is, an overall experience rather than the ultimate golf environment, like say Myrtle Beach in the States. Then stupidly I fell into a very similar trap albeit subtly different, even after 15+ years of playing here and almost 8 living in the country.

The ingredients for the client’s frustration were not getting what was expected in terms of quality of golf, and not being allowed to tee off when they had booked because the course starters wanted to bring groups forward and they had people to fit in.  I can empathise with the frustration but because people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones I’m not going to criticise!  My frustration was far less forgivable and entirely self-inflicted…I became agitated at the level of traffic on my way to the course (it’s my road after all isn’t it??) compounded by the totally unhelpful behaviour of a great number of drivers who made the situation worse than it needed to be (as far as I was concerned), and finally the police-operated traffic lights (don’t even go there).  This didn’t get better when arriving ready for golf in a bad frame of mind already and heading for the 1st tee I saw a group of 5 golfers ahead of me chatting away merrily with an empty fairway in front of them then, after an age, each “bonked” 2 balls off the tee in various directions and at various distances accompanied by much laughter…these guys didn’t have a care in the world while I was re-living my hour of hell in the car.

Both the client and I have lessons to learn. In terms of Thailand’s golf offering this blog aims to provide a wider perspective on golf in Thailand, espousing how wonderful it is, yet it also tries to educate all those who care to visit about the vagaries of the experience.  I’ll aim to do a bit of this now.

So let’s lay it on the line…there are some generally accepted great courses here (I’m thinking Alpine Bangkok/Nikanti {?}/Amata Springs/Black Mountain/Banyan/Siam Plantation amongst others), some excellent ones (Chiang Mai Highlands/Thai Country Club/Springfield/Santiburi {both of them}/Red Mountain), a huge selection of decent ones and a plethora of also-rans. What puts them in the latter category: generally they are let down by sub-standard conditioning of playing areas throughout and if that’s the case they are probably badly managed in all sorts of ways and also lack investment for all sorts of reasons?  However, the Pete Dye designed course in Thailand is rarely going to be of the standard of its US counterpart but its genetics are the same. The lesson here is, if you want US-style conditioning you are going to pay for it and even then it isn’t guaranteed; rather bizarrely I have played Alpine when it was immaculate and again when it was very “scruffy” and that’s being kind. Actually the real lesson is, if you want US-standard conditioning play in the US.

The advice here is look beyond the greens that aren’t running at 11 on the stimp metre and bunkers that have unseemly grass sprouting from their edges (check out Whistling Straits at the PGA Championship this weekend) and appreciate that you’ve paid a fair fee, can still hit the ball well and can very definitely have a good time, which is what it’s all about (see my other blog Pattaya Golf – Take the Rough with the Smooth).

On to the so called “contract” you think you’ve made with Thailand golf.  I have a reality check…the starter, if the course has one, generally isn’t really a starter (there are exceptions) and doesn’t have your exclusive rights in mind…that also applies to marshalls.  On the subject of 5-balls for instance (I can feel my blood pressure rising!), there are those that are at the golf course to have a convivial time with their friends and that is accommodated in Thailand because Thais “get” that it might be the case rather than we who are insisting on the 3 hour round and sprinting around like possessed maniacs.  As for stupid people like me who let the drive to the course set myself up for a dismal round, bear in mind that most of your fellow road users have never had a driving lesson in their life, many don’t have licences and sensibly the testing system isn’t very taxing to accommodate both anomalies.  Whether that’s a recipe for safe roads is another subject.

So why play here, as my wife reasonably pointed out? Because on the whole it’s great and no matter where you are from there is inconsiderate driving and bad traffic management as well as slow golfers blocking your way. The real question is how one copes with all this bearing in mind almost all of us aren’t getting paid to do this…IT’S A HOBBY as I try to tell myself!!!  My recommendation (I’m speaking to myself of course) is to somehow put everything in context: the traffic, the 5-balls, the course conditioning and realise that the most important thing is to have as good a time as you can which will be born of a slow, smooth swing and a slightly drawn drive that splits the fairway, hopefully followed by lots of similar shots.  In a nutshell, you can’t fight golf and you can’t fight Thailand.

Now I’ll excuse myself and head back to the asylum.

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