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.
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.
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.
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.