Welcome to Thailand Golf Zone

Hua Hin in 2022: Outlook bright for Centara World Masters host

The return of the Centara World Masters Golf Championship to Hua Hin is a boost for one of Thailand’s most popular beachside getaways, coming amid the broader easing of entry requirements and an ongoing pick-up in international tourism in 2022.

Golf travel: Seven little things that can stay with you (and keep you coming back for more)

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make all the difference when traveling. It’s the small touches that together combine to make a lasting impression and stay with you long after you’ve arrived back home.

Thailand’s golf appeal is as simple as ABC

By Mark Siegel
Why do golfers from all over the world choose Thailand over other destinations? The answer is as simple as ABC.

It’s Back in 2022! Reasons to get Excited About This Year’s Centara World Masters Golf Championship

The Centara World Masters Golf Championship returns to Hua Hin in 2022 (8-14 May), and there’s a good many reasons to get excited about this year’s instalment.

End of Term Report on Golf

With the current Google generation, golf has been competing with families, whose main source of exercise is using their fingers on a computer or mobile.
How many Dad’s these days are shouting upstairs to their teenagers…Who wants to join me for a round of golf?
So where is golf going into the next decade? Will we even be playing golf in 50 years’ time? So, let’s look at some facts.
33,161 Golf Courses
Golf is available around the globe, and according to a recent R & A survey, there were 33,161 golf facilities in 2008 of the world’s 245 countries.
The majority of worldwide supply is located in the western hemisphere. North and South America are home to 55% of world supply; The U.S. alone claims 45% of the world’s total courses.
Europe has the second largest regional share with 22% of the world’s total, followed by Asia with 14% and Oceania with 6%.
With 60% of the world’s population on 31% of the earth’s land mass, Asia is home to 4,570 golf facilities, representing 14% of the total count.
But with 176 golf projects in various stages of design, development and construction, Asia now claims 32% of all new undertakings currently identified worldwide.
Resort Golf
Although in the past club membership financed the clubs, today that mix is shifting decidedly towards the resort side, with the vast majority of new projects intended to attract tourism. To pay for these expensive projects most golf resorts will also come with a real estate element as well.
Development in the last twenty years there has been phenomenal growth in Asian golf, with Thailand (250 golf facilities), India (267) and China (383) now among the top-20 countries in course supply.
Vietnam now boasts around forty golf courses, with many more in the construction stages. With its varied topography and long coastline, Vietnam has also become a serious golfing country.
Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
Golf today is a sport that transcends entertainment, lifestyle, health and community. However, it is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is experiencing some of its most tumultuous times.
Everyone in the industry is fully aware that they need to attract youngsters to take up the game. Luckily a new generation of players are making it at the top of leaderboards around the world, providing an enticing new dynamic for fans, broadcasters and sponsors.
It is estimated that there is a total of 60 million golfers in the world. Despite some recent dips in participation, golf continues to attract new players. It’s estimated that the number of golfers will increase by 3 million through 2020.
In 2012, Thailand was ranked as the third largest golf destination in the world, behind only the United States and Spain. That may be surprising, as the United Kingdom is regarded as the home of golf and boasts many famous, ancient destination courses.

Asian Kids Winning Tournaments

South Korea and Thailand are starting to see more youngsters playing golf. This is partly due to the excellent teaching courses available at a lot of the schools. But also, because both the Asian men and particularly the young Asian female stars on the LPGA are winning, and therefore are becoming local heroes.
Thanks to programs like First Tee, more children are getting in on the game. In 2010, there were 2.5 million junior players between the ages of 6 and 17.
It is an expensive game to take up, however with the help of governments and associations, more and more free golf equipment is being donated, to encourage kids to play.
It will not be easy; however, all the tours, associations and individuals are talking up the game, so we can all live in hope!

What is the Hardest Hole?

Have you ever wondered about the stroke index shown on your scorecard? A common misconception is that stroke index simply gives an indication of a hole’s difficulty. Learn more.

Steeped in Tradition

Golfers like tradition, and who has dreamed of playing St Andrews in Scotland, arguably the home of golf.
Well as the British empire expanded across the world during the 19th Century, the Scots were being employed to build new factories, bridges and railroads, and in their spare time, decided that Asia could do with a few of its own golf courses.
Now according to the records, the oldest course built-in South-East Asia was The Royal Calcutta Golf Club back in 1829. Apparently, it was the oldest anywhere in the world outside of the UK and the second oldest outside of Scotland.
It has now had a third routing and that layout was opened in 1910. I am therefore not sure if there is an older course in Asia.
In this new decade, according to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, there are more courses currently under development and construction in Asia, than in any other continent—207 of them, in fact.
However, if you like to follow tradition, there are still plenty of old courses across S.E Asia open for play.

Some Old Favorites
Renowned as the oldest golf course in Vietnam, Dalat Palace Golf Club is situated in the South-western highlands, 1500m above sea level in the temperate highlands of Dalat. Home to the French when they were governing the country, the cooler weather makes it a perfect place for playing golf in a tropical country.

Royal Hua Hin is the oldest 18-hole international standard course in Thailand, and is only 5 minutes from downtown Hua Hin. It was established in 1924 by a group of Scots building the railway and the club house is still next to the existing railway.

Cambodia Golf & Country Club is the oldest golf courses in Cambodia. The first nine holes have wide fairways and are dotted with palm trees and other local trees while the second nine feature numerous water features. It has a Colonial-style clubhouse, and is 35km from Phnom Penh city.

City Centre Golf

Royal Selangor Golf Club, right in the heart of busy KL, is the oldest golf course in Malaysia, which was has been around for about 100 years now. This course has two 18- and 9-holes courses respectively. Its located in the prime section of the golden triangle against the back drop of the famous Twin Towers.

In 1891 they opened the Singapore Golf Club, agreeing that golf could be played on Tuesday’s and Wednesdays on the grounds of the city’s racecourse. They then decided to moved to Bukit Timah, and in 1938 it was renamed The Royal Singapore Golf Club after King George V1 became the patron of the club. By the 60’s membership had declined so in 1963 they merged with the Royal Island Club to form The Singapore Island Club, still open to this day.
It is worth booking a round at these classic clubs, as you could never afford to buy such prime real estate ever again, and then play 18 holes right in the centre of these amazing locations.
Written by Mike Bridge
Online Editor of Thai Golf News and a member of the International Golf Travel Writers Association.

The Thrill of Teeing Off on a New Course

Back home, you get used to playing regularly at your local golf club. Just arriving on the 1st tee at an Asian golf course feels so different.

Train Adventure from Bangkok to Penang…

Photo by Robert van der Sluijs on Unsplash

Local airlines often see us golfers as rich pickings when we check in with our golf bags, happily to charge us the excess baggage charge just for a 90-minute flight.
So recently I decided to combine my short vacation to Penang, with an overnight train trip from Bangkok. Instead of flying decided to let the train take the strain.
Therefore, adding to the adventure, and saving a bundle as well, I decided to travel from Bangkok Thailand to Butterworth in Malaysia and back on the express train known as Ekspress Antarabangsa.

Sleeper Cars

Photo by Sandip Roy on Unsplash

I booked their 2nd class air-conditioned sleepers on train number 35/36 which are provided by the State Railways of Thailand. At Hat Yai they uncouple the two sleeper cars and a Malaysian loco takes you down the track to Butterworth and the short ferry to Georgetown, Penang.
During the day you have a wide seat all to yourself. You can slide your case under your seat.
If you think ahead and take a small travel golf bag, then you could slide it under your seat as well or give it to the friendly cabin attendant to look after, with a small tip.
The sleeping car waitress comes around at 6pm and you can order lots of wonderful Thai dishes washed down by cool beer served at your seat.
After dinner the stewards will create a very comfortable queen size bed with clean sheets and a blanket, by cleverly folding your day seats.
Curtains provide privacy and you can also curtain the window too or like me watch the world drift by at night. It is a good idea to ask for a low berth as the top bunks are a bit small with no window.
When the train reaches the Thai Malaysian border, you just to go through customs before trooping back onto our two-coach train for the final run into Butterworth arriving around 1pm local time the next day.
Some passengers were getting off at Surat Thani and Chumporn to catch ferries to Koh Samui and further afield. You can break your train journey, but need to buy separate tickets.

Hilly Course in Penang

Penang Golf Club

Georgetown was great and it is good idea to hire a bike as it is fairly flat.
I also managed to fit in some golf at the hilly Penang Golf Club. A fairly hilly 18-hole course, it measures 6,393 yards with Bermuda grass on the fairways and Tif Eagle on the greens. First opened in 1984 the new owners re opened it in late 2012 after a major face lift.
If you have time there is another course on the mainland 20 minutes from Penang Bridge, called Penang Golf Resort. It is a 36-hole golf resort designed by Graham Marsh.

Travelers of All Ages
On the return trip, the train left at 2.30pm from Butterworth and eventually rolled into Bangkok the next day at 12.30pm.
I met people of all ages from European back packers to a retired executive from Arizona, and actually swopped stories about the general art of travelling around South East Asia.
Great adventure and very cost effective for a side trip.
Written by Mike Bridge
On-Line Editor of Thai Golf News, The Pattaya Golfer and Member of the International Golf Writers Association (ITGWA).

An Unique Region in Thailand

For many golf vacationers, they are used to playing in Phuket, Hua Hin, Bangkok and Pattaya. However, Khao Yai with over seven golf courses, is also a very special golfers paradise.
Its National Park is only just over two hours north of Bangkok and covers more than 2,000 square kilometers of forest and grassland. Here there is more than 50 km of hiking and biking trails, plus twenty waterfalls including the 150m-tall Haew Narok and 20m-tall Haew Suwat.
But apart from the road signs stating Beware of Wild Elephants, within a one-hour radius there are also seven unusual and exciting golf courses to discover.
Here we recommend you try two courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and another two by another American Bob McFarland.

Khao Yai Golf Club
Kirimaya a Nicklaus Country Track
Meandering around a tranquil 5-star resort is an 18-hole course, that includes lily pond hazards, a few well placed bunkers and some undulating greens. With a mountain backdrop and wonderful colorful flora at each hole, this is a very magical experience.
Jack’s other 18-hole layout is at The Khao Yai Golf Club, nestled between some large rocky mountains. This is one of the oldest tracks in the Park and has sloping fairways and fun greens. Incredible views add to the experience.

Rancho Charnvee Resort & Golf Club
Even a Private Landing Strip.
Rancho Charnvee Resort & Golf Club designed by McFarland, is perhaps the nearest to Bangkok and has hosted several Championship events. Teeing off over a lake with a large motor cruiser moored, this can be quite a windy 18 holes. For jetsetters you can land your plane by the 11th hole and grab your clubs for a memorable round.

Toscana Valley
Am I Really Playing Golf in Italy?
I have left the best until last, as there is always a thrill to play a golf course for the first time, and Toscana Valley is no exception.
This 18-hole course is considered very special, as not only is it located within in some stunning scenery throughout this UNESCO world heritage site, but you are also playing alongside a unique multimillion-dollar Italian styled village.
Their signature 12th hole, tees off high above the valley with two water hazards below, then up to a raised green. This is to a backdrop of a full-sized replica of the iconic leaning Tower of Pisa, now a new hotel.
Yes, definitely a kodak moment here, and beware of bogies here as it has an unforgiving green!
Sometimes it is hard to believe you are playing on a Thai golf course, instead of around an exquisite Italian mountainside village in Tuscany.

Golfers Tip: If you are not lucky enough to own one of the beautiful homes at Toscana Valley, you can still use Toscana Valley as your base for a wonderful golf vacation. Here they have three excellent hotels on site, namely the Town Square Suites, Hotel La Casetta and Toscana Piazza.
Written by Mike Bridge
On-Line Editor of Thai Golf News, The Pattaya Golfer and Member of the International Golf Writers Association (ITGWA).

Jazz Is Flying the Thai Flag

In just a few short years as a golf professional, Jazz Janewattananod has jumped into the top 30 in the World Golf Rankings, and he is only 24 years old.
Jazz as he is known lives in Hua Hin and is sponsored by Black Mountain Golf Resort, also firm favorite among Golfasian vacationers.

Banyan Winner
I first met Jazz at Banyan Golf Club also in Hua Hin when he won the MENA golf tour. He told me he wants to get his card on the Asian Tour and amazingly he managed to chip in on his last hole at Q School to grab the last card for the Asian Tour Season.
Soon after he started winning tournaments and against all the big names won the 2019 Singapore Open at Sentosa. This opened up the world to him and he was able to play in the Masters and the British Open.
It also earnt him a coveted spot on the 2019 PGA Championships. Here Jazz found a local caddie who knew the course, and by day three he was tied 2nd and the American TV started to follow this golfer called JAZZ!!!

Asian Tour Number 1

He eventually came in tied 14th, but the experience had been worthwhile as he went on to win the Asian Tour order of merit for the year.
Not to rest on his laurels I met up with him just before Christmas when he turned up for his 35th tournament of the year, at the Thailand Golf Championship hosted by Phoenix Gold Golf & Country Club in Pattaya. He went onto win that event too and his rise into the top 40 of the World’s Golf Rankings was cemented.

2020 Looking Good

So far in 2020 he was come 4th in the Hong Kong Open, and 3rd in the Singapore Open. And he now heads off to the Middle East swing and the World Golf Championships.
Later on, you will see him at this years Masters and the British Open too.
His goal is to join his fellow Thai, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and get his PGA Tour card for 2021.
However, he still keeps his feet firmly on the ground, living with his parents in Hua Hin, so maybe during your next vacation you will bump into him at Black Mountain too.

CEO’s Lost Golf Balls are a Winner.

Most golfers hate to lose an expensive golf ball, but American Mark Siegel doesn’t mind, as he has a clever ulterior motive.
Siegel is the CEO of Golfasian, one of the most established inbound golf tour operators in Asia.
“About five years ago I had the idea of printing my own Titlist golf balls with the simple message. Reward Offered If you return this ball to www.golfasian.com”, said Siegel.
Since then over five lucky golfers, who actually returned his golf ball, have enjoyed complimentary rounds at several of Thailand’s top golf courses, courtesy of Golfasian.
Launched in 1997 in Bangkok, Thailand, Golfasian now has over 100 loyal staff members operating in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Singapore. They have a membership base of over 162,000 golfers and last year handled over 15,000 golf vacationers.

Seigel added, “What started out as a bit of fun, has now turned out to be a great marketing initiative, as now many golfers are hoping one of these Reward balls may turn up at their course anywhere across Asia”
The chances are fairly good as this busy CEO likes to play all their recommended courses in eleven countries across Asia, and often plays up to four rounds a week.
So, keep looking and you too maybe teeing off for your free round soon!

Thailand’s Secret Weapon

According to Thai Super Star Thongchai Jaidee, Thailand’s secret weapon when playing a round of golf has to be the Thai caddies.
With over 240 golf courses dotted around Thailand, you are literally spoilt for choice and can experience all types of challenges that you will never experience back home.
The course notes on hole Number 1 at the popular Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin states….‘Aim for the Coconut Tree and try to avoid the Pineapples in the rough.’
If that does not what your appetite, then perhaps the number one reason why golf vacationers love to play here in Thailand, are the smiling Thai Caddies.

25,000 Caddies in Thailand

It is estimated that over 25,000 mainly female caddies work in the golf industry and many rural communities rely on their local course for the weekly wages.
It is not uncommon to find mother and daughter working together, while Dad mows the grass.
I remember the first time I came to play golf in Phuket, they told me that did I want to walk or take a golf cart which your caddie will drive. I said that I wasn’t that good so maybe I will not take a caddie. I just felt I was not worthy to waste their time.
In fact, virtually all Thai clubs provide caddies which are compulsory, whether they pull a golf trolley or drive the cart for you.
After a few holes you start to realise how much easier it is if you can rely on someone else to select your clubs, give you the yardage and read the tricky greens.

Swopping Shopping Tips
I remember one lady golfer who was scared of taking a caddie, however at the end of one of her better rounds, she was swopping shopping tips with her caddie.
When you arrive at the course you pay for the green fee and the caddie fee, which is usually around THB350 (US$12) for 18 holes. Some courses do allow you to walk, so your caddie will put your bag onto a trolley. However, most courses have compulsory carts especially those that are hilly.

Caddies Speak English
Most caddies are well trained, can speak some English and most will know their own 18 holes backwards and can read the greens like a popular paperback.
Apart from giving you all the distances on the fairways, your caddie will clean your clubs, keep your score and drive the cart. At the end of your round it is customary to tip her for all the hard work.
When asked they will say ‘It’s up to you.’
Normally you give between THB300-500 (US$10-16.5), however if you had a great score then more is welcomed. Remember this is their full-time job so they rely on your tips!!!
Therefore, a round of golf in Thailand would not be the same without those wonderful smiling caddies.

Do You Know Your Facts and Figures ?

Ok the game of golf is known as the Gentlemen’s Sport which is played in the best possible spirit and of course we all play by the rules. That said, I for one still do not always understand the complicated scoring system often used at tournaments and tend to rely on my playing partner to keep the scores. Let’s find it out more…

Slow Play

With the high season upon us here in Asia, rounds of golf can start to take a little longer, as the clubs try to squeeze a few extra groups onto the course. Who wants to be stuck behind a five ball all busy gambling!