Navatanee Golf Club, a Bangkok Thailand Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, is located just inside the outer ring road making it one of the closest golf courses to the Bangkok city center, and my home! The course made headlines in 1975 when it hosted the Golf World Cup and put Thailand on the global golf map.
Navatanee has it’s supporters as well as those who criticize this members only course. On the positive side Navatanee is, in my opinion, the best example of a Bermuda grass golf course in all Thailand, if not the whole world. The fairways are near perfect and carpet-like. The mature Bermuda greens roll as fast or faster than some of the newer exotic grass greens found at most of the better Thailand golf courses such as Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin or Red Mountain Golf Club in Phuket. The rough, as with all Bermuda grass courses, is thick and stringy, making well placed tee-off and approach shots a must to score well.
The course being 30 years old is characterized by large tree lined fairways. The trees themselves are more established than other Thailand golf courses, except for maybe Royal Hua Hin Golf Club, which dates back to the 1924. Some of the holes lined with pine trees remind me of older golf courses in Myrtle Beach or Charlotte North Carolina in the USA.
The layout and design is fair and challenging at the same time. There is less water than on most other Bangkok golf courses, a welcome change. The fairways are generally wide, which gives golfers of all abilities a fair chance. However, the greens are very well guarded, some even having deep bunkers on all sides, front, and back.
On the negative side, practically all locals and expatriates golfers in Thailand snuff at the thought of playing Navatanee due to the price. Green fees are in excess of $100 USD, making Navatanee on par with the likes of Blue Canyon in Phuket, and more expensive than even Thai Country Club and Alpine in Bangkok, all of which are regular PGA stops. As a local Thailand golfer myself, I can understand this point of view as there are better and less expensive choices for golf in Bangkok.
However, having played Navatanee this past Saturday, I have to say that once in a while it is good to splurge. Having near perfect fairway lies really allowed me to hone my game and not think about how the ball was going to come off my club. Playing out of properly sanded bunkers let me concentrate on making good recoveries and not worry about variable sand conditions through the golf course.
The group I played with all had caddies who had worked at Navatanee for 20 years plus, were born in Bangkok (not Issan), spoke near perfect English, were able to play golf, club their golfer, and read putts better than Tiger himself! That in my opinion is what it takes to be a truly helpful caddie, not just a friendly female companion or someone to rake bunkers/mark balls/tend pins.
Navatanee, while crowded as it was a weekend, still played smooth. We stated within 5 minutes of our appointed tee time and finished in just over 4 hours. Again, this is how golf was meant to be played!
I agree the green fees are high and may not be worth it to some, but as mentioned before sometimes it pays to play one of the best. Certainly for those on a luxury Thailand golf holiday, Navatanee should not be missed as it is one of the top 3 Bangkok golf courses.