Amazing Thailand: A destination of remarkable golf courses and the capitol of Golf in South-East Asia

By: Simon Reynolds

Bangkok is short 4-hour flight from Jakarta. What awaits you is a country full of warm smiles, vibrant colours, aromatic scents and hundreds of world class golf courses designed by the games greatest designers: Nicklaus, Player, Palmer, Norman, Faldo, Dye and Robert Trent Jones Jr. the list goes on…. All of these courses can be played at US dollar rates which Indonesian golfers will find cheap by local standards. A wise plan for golf travellers is to visit during the low season (July-September), where golf can be played at world-class venues designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus for less then US 100 dollars even at weekends. There truly is a golf course for everyone, and golf courses can be found all over the country, the main golf rich regions being: Bangkok, Pattaya, Chang-Mai and Hua Hin. In the cooler mountainous regions of Chang-Mai, which requires a short domestic flight from Bangkok, world class golf courses can be played for just: US$ 30-80 dollars, and the milder and cooler temperatures make it well worth the visit.

On Golf Indonesia’s visit we had the pleasure to play and inspect three golf courses, two in Pattaya and one in Bangkok. Pattaya is only a 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Bangkok and it is the perfect destination for families. The region South-East of Bangkok offers the greatest variety of championship quality golf courses and truly is a golf vacation paradise. The area has courses designed by the very best designers in Golf: Jack Nicklaus, Thomson & Wolveridge, Ronald Fream, Desmond Muirhead. It also provides accommodation for all budgets from value to 6-star luxury. A golfer can spend one week playing golf in the region and he will probably be looking to come back from more having only touched the surface.

Our first stop was the Pattana Sports Club, and 27-hole modern golf setup, of 3 nine holes course, a short drive from Pattaya. The three nine holes courses are aptly named: Andreae, Brookei, and Calypso (after the cactus found throughout the property and course) all of which come with a variety of interesting challenges. The 400 acre resort property also boasts a full range of premium accommodations and amenities, meeting and event facilities, driving range and short game areas and even a 7,000 capacity stadium. The Andreae Nine Hole course is recommended with two impressive par 3’s which require substantial carry and accuracy over large expanses of water (see picture below).

Pattana Sports Club

A-Course, Hole #3, Par 3 at Pattana Sports Club

One of the many joys of Golf in Thailand is the variety of course designs to experience. With such a sheer number of Golf Courses in Thailand, course designers must be creative and imaginative in allowing golfers to play holes that they will cherish and love, and will have them longing to return and play again. Thailand is home to a few Par 6 holes, something that Indonesian golfers will not have experienced. For example, here at Pattana Sports Club: Hole #5 is 663 yards from the back tees, a unique hole allowing for a Par from 6 strokes for any visiting golfer due to its long distance from tee to green.

We had the opportunity to play the regions oldest course: Bangpra International established in 1958 (refer to the editorial), designed in the style of traditional tree-lined British park-lined courses, with the added bonus of slick greens and an abundance of local wildlife and monkeys, who may or may not interfere with your golf ball. The course is a must play for its beautiful and mature ambiance and qualities which may be lacking at the regions other more modern and championship style, ambiance.

Thongchai Jaidee

Thongchai Jaidee, recently won his second tournament outside of Asia, the European Tour’s Nordea Masters, defeating Stephen Gallacher and Victor Dubuisson in a playoff to break into the Top 40 of the OWG Rankings – Photo’s courtesy of Asian Tour

The combination of diving, water skiing, snorkeling, and game fishing along with the range of Pattaya golf courses makes Pattaya number one for sports activities in Thailand. Jomtien Beach is the windsurfing capital of the country with its beautiful, white sandy beaches along a palm-lined promenade. Island hopping is also popular here, where an easy 30-minute boat ride will take you to isolated beaches for swimming in clear blue ocean water and amazing coral reefs.

Because of its close proximity to Bangkok, this provides an ideal setting for an easy two destination golf trip, and the wide choice of Pattaya golf courses make it a must for any golf enthusiast.

If you prefer to stay closer to Bangkok, not to worry, and a great option for golfers looking to enjoy Bangkok’s vibrant energy and sleepless nights. There Is a wealth of golf courses to be enjoyed in Bangkok and within a close proximity of Thailand’s capitol city. We paid a visit to Riverdale Golf Club located less than 30 minutes from the city centre. The course is a challenging 18-hole championship course in immaculate playing condition with undulating fairways and multi-tier greens. The signature hole is #8, a spilt green par 3, where golfers can choose which green to play. Option 1 is a short island green, a miniature version of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, playing just 97 yards from the men’s regular tees. The green is downhill and very small so it will test the accuracy of your wedge play. The clubhouse is perched on the hillside and overlooks the course with majestic views of the course layout (see picture below). Option 2 is a longer iron shot to an elevated green, which measures 152 yards from the men’s regular tees.

Riverdale Golf Club - Bangkok

Riverdale Golf Club – Bangkok

Golf in Asia, and the success of the Asian Tour is partly due to the strong root and foundation of Golf in Thailand. Starting with Boonchu Ruangkit, the Thai golf legend who hit the opening drive of the Asian Tour back in the early 1990’s, golf in Thailand continues to produce a steady stream of highly talented and competitive golfers who are achieving great things in Asia and also on the other professional tours worldwide. 18 year-old Jazz Janewattananond is competing for titles on the Asian tour and is one of the bright lights flying the Thai flag in Asian golf at such a young age.

The question is: Why has Thailand been consistently producing so many talented golfers?

Thaworn Wiratchant

Thaworn Wiratchant, holds the record for the most wins on the Asian Tour with 16. Still playing and competing for trophies on the Asian Tour at 47 years of age – Photo’s courtesy of Asian Tour

Thai youngsters have been inspired from Thailand’s golf legends: Thaworn Wiratchant now 47 and still playing and winning on the Asian Tour and the most successful player of all time on the Asian Tour with 16 wins. Also Thongchai Jaidee, now 44, the first Thai player to play and make the cut, in all of golf’s major championships and he is also a winner on the European Tour outside of Asia. Most recently the Nordea Masters defeating Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher in a playoff, and breaking into the Top 40 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the very first time. Thongchai proudly captained Team Asia in the inaugural Eurasia Cup. With the success in Asia and worldwide of these Thai golf legends, young Thai golfers have truly been inspired to play golf in Asia and worldwide at the highest levels to follow in their footsteps of their heroes Mr Wiratchant and Mr Jaidee.

At a comfortable distance from Jakarta and with golf prices so reasonable, a golf trip to Thailand will cater for all your golfing requirements, along with fun and adventure. There are many top quality local tour operators who can organise and tailor a golfing trip for you and your buddies:

Contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand here in Jakarta, for information about local tour operators in Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya, who can plan your golf trips to Thailand:

Leo Jaya Negara
Marketing Officer
Tourism Authority of Thailand, Jakarta Office
The Plaza Office Tower, 38th Floor
Jl. M.H. Thamrin Kav. 28-30, Jakarta 10350
Tel: (021) 2992-2353
marketing3@wisatathailand.com
Website : www.wisatathailand.com

About Simon Reynolds

Simon fell in love with the game of golf at an early age. Watching Happy Gilmore when he was 12, Simon was hooked, and to this day thanks Adam Sandler's genius in the film for his passion for the game. His golfing hero is more refined and mature these days, and he continues his spiritual quest to model his golf game on Ben Hogan's perfect golf swing.

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