Over the last several years I have rarely ventured to the Eastern Seaboard, and found myself quite out of touch with what is going on there. Recently this has changed and experiences over the last couple of months have reconfirmed three of my long-held beliefs, and updated my knowledge base:
- Pattaya is a great place to play golf. Period. Nobody does golf like Pattaya. The entire region is interconnected and is a golfer’s paradise. Not so long ago the hotels were a collection of a hit-and-miss independents, but in recent years the chains have accepted Pattaya as a viable location and most of the international brands now have a presence there, giving the tour operators a much wider range of options to satisfy the needs of their customers. Along with ever-present seaside vibe, the buzz of being an international destination and the legendary/infamous nightlife, the infrastructure is changing and becoming a higher-quality city. Along with a rapid growth in world-class shopping malls has come a growing number of really good quality restaurants in mouth-watering settings being run by really sharp people.
- Something for everyone. The beauty of Pattaya lies in the variety of golf courses on offer. Naturally, the higher the price, the better the course, the amenities, the conditioning, and all the little trimmings that make for a 5-star experience that draws the tourist golfer and discerning local.
At the top end of the price spectrum are places like the newly-opened Chee Chan, and stalwarts Phoenix, Laem Chabang and Siam Country Club with its 3 superb courses.
However, the real value lies in the many 2, 3, and 4 star courses in the region. Sure, the clubhouse may need an upgrade and the carpets are past their sell-by date, but if you are there to play the game with your friends and not be an interior design critic, they are magic. Clubs like Emerald in Ban Chang are an example of this – it is cheap, cheerful and rather tatty, but the course layout is fantastic and the walk with the regulars who play there is simply a delight. It’s a kind of symbiotic relationship – these courses generally play well, are user-friendly, and are remarkably inexpensive, making the game accessible and affordable. In return, these players help keep these courses financially viable.
In the middle of these two extremes are a wide range of tracks that carry some of the finest designer names in the game, many of them challenging and in great shape like Patana and Burapha, and all points in between. Simply spoiled for choice.
- October is a great time to play. A quick survey has shown that there is the usual low-season pain in the region right now with the predictable drop in the number of rounds being played. Added to this has been wildly fluctuating weather which saw bone dry courses three weeks ago suddenly have their reservoirs filled by torrential rain. The good news is that the courses have rebounded well and are back in good shape. With the Hua Hin Golf Festival ending on Sept 30, the Eastern Seaboard in October will be the place to get great value with great playing conditions, particularly if you can get there on weekdays.