Every year around 400,000 people from all over the world travel to Thailand to play golf. They’ve discovered that Thailand offers a unique golfing experience – a chance to combine a favourite sporting activity with travel through a beautiful, exotic country. No wonder people often call Thailand ‘The Golf Capital of Asia’.
There are around 280 golf courses in Thailand spread around just about every region. And 200 of these golf courses are of world class, championship standard. Many have been designed by such golfing greats as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman.
Thailand has a climate that means if you’re a really keen golfer you can play all year round. According to the Thailand Golf Blog, the best time to visit Thailand is from November to February, when you get a respite from the heat.
Thailand is an amazing country and full of surprises, so let’s look at a few surprising things about playing golf in Thailand.
1. Golf courses in unusual places
The Lanna Sports Club, is a 27-hole course, with panoramic views of Chiang Mai’s famed Doi Suthep temple. It is also right next to a race track so you can combine a round of golf with a day at the races.
Perhaps the most unusual location of any golf course anywhere in the world is the Kantarat Course, situated between two runways at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok where you tee off as planes take off!
Less scary, but certainly much prettier courses can be found across Thailand – such as the Springfield Country Club at Hua Hin and The Santiburi Samui Country Club in Koh Samui which has magnificent views of the ocean and beaches.
You can play on golf courses that look out onto breathtaking tropical seas or on lush tropical jungle. If you want some inside information on the variety of golf courses available in Thailand, Thailand – A Golfer’s Paradise by Neil ffrench-Blake is a good start.
Some of the best locations for golfing holidays are Pattaya, Chiangmai, Hua Hin, Bangkok and Phuket as well as Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi and Khao Yai. Whatever your handicap, specialist golfing holiday operators such as Coco Golf can help you find a holiday to suit your needs.
For instance, in November, Coco Golf is running escorted golf tours to Thailand including The Festival of Golf in Pattaya (12 nights, 6 rounds, approx. £608) and The Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Challenge (9 nights, 5 rounds, approx. £613).
Another good source of info is the 72 Hours Amazing Golf Destinations website.
2. The caddies
At most golf courses in Thailand (except par 3 courses) it is mandatory to hire a caddy. And in Thailand most of the caddies are women. The caddies not only take pride in their ability to know their own particular course – providing good advice on everything from the lie of the fairways to reading the greens – but many also like to play golf too.
This enthusiasm for the game was formally recognised two years ago when the first Thai Caddie Championship was set up with sponsorship from the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
The TAT – Singha Caddy Championship 2011 featured more than 400 full-time caddies from 50 golf courses and the top 160 went on to compete at the final held at Siam Country Club in Pattaya in September 2011.
This year, The Amazing Thailand Singha Caddy Championship has grown even bigger, with around 55 Thai Golf Clubs entering caddies. The final will be hosted by the Siam Plantation Championship course in Pattaya on 24 September 2012 and the best six players will win Baht 100,000, plus a trip to Chiang Rai to play at the Santiburi Golf Club.
3. The Thai six-ball
In most places around the world, golfers tend to play in pairs or in fours. In Thailand, however, it’s not unusual to find six people playing together.
Neil ffrench-Blake writes “Many Thais felt that if there were six friends out together for a game of golf, why shouldn’t they all play together? And as a result you sometimes found your modest four-ball pursuing what looked like an army down the fairway in front of you. With two caddies each, a couple of fore-caddies, a scorer and probably a few bodyguards as well – perhaps 30 people in all – it was quite an intimidating sight.”
Wherever you go to play golf in Thailand, you’re sure to have an interesting and surprising time. But don’t just take our word for it – read Callum Mackie’s golf story on Thailand Reunited.