Golf holidays: Where to play and stay in ThailandSeptember, 2013
Advice on where to play, stay, and how to behave
Even if there was no golf on offer, Thailand would still be a sensational country to visit. Here you find stunning cities, a thousand years of culture, terrific communications, delicious food and one of the friendliest races on earth.
Factor in some terrific golf courses and it becomes one of the very best long-haul golf destinations available anywhere.
The only downside is that the country can be either blisteringly hot or else soaking wet, so the best time to go is during the cool season from November to February, where fine, sunny days – like the very best of a British June – are the norm.
We shall start, as so many visitors do, in Bangkok, the country’s capital straddling the great Chao Phraya River.
Take time out to enjoy the sights before heading off to golf as this vast sprawling city has some of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating landmarks.
The Temple of Wat Arun and the Grand Palace are must sees and do take a fast water taxi to your destinations as traffic and noise in the city can be overpowering.
One final tip to those of you who can get a bit uptight on the links: don’t shout angrily if you hit a bad shot – to the Thais, nearly all Buddhists, to raise one’s voice in anger is the height of ignorance. The best golf is between 20 minutes to an hour away. Courses in Thailand tend to be of the stadium variety with big, raised greens and lots of sand and water. Navatanee is typical of the best and only 20 minutes outside Bangkok. A mature Robert Trent Jones Jr design that does not get too crowded, do try to get a round in here as well as the beautiful Thai Country Club, host to four Volvo Masters events.
The noise and the heat of the capital persuade many wealthy Thais to move north to Chiang Mai and we should do likewise. Chiang Mai is a mini Bangkok, but without the pollution. Stay and play at Chiangmai Highlands golf and spa resort. Set amid cool and peaceful wooded hillsides, this Schmidt-Curley design is a joy to play, especially in the still of the morning.
Moving south, the resort town of Pattaya could not be more different to Chiang Mai. Raucous, bawdy and unsophisticated it nonetheless boasts some of Thailand’s best courses with the Siam Country Club probably the pick of the bunch with immaculate greens, perilous creeks and lakes, plus 101 sand traps.
And if the bar girls and vulgarity of downtown Pattaya get all too much we can always stay here instead.
Continuing south from Pattaya we reach Phuket, Thailand’s largest island. This is real beach resort territory with palm trees, golden sands and some great golf courses. Play and stay at the exclusive Banyan Tree resort if you are feeling rich but also try and get to the Red Mountain golf club, possibly Thailand’s most dramatic course with soaring elevations in the heart of Phuket’s wooded highlands created from an old quarry. Like so much of Thailand it is totally different.
One final tip to those of you who can get a bit uptight on the links: don’t shout angrily if you hit a bad shot – to the Thais, nearly all Buddhists, to raise one’s voice in anger is the height of ignorance.