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November 07, 2008

One round in Bangkok

Posted at 1:58 PM by Mike Walker | Categories: Thailand

Bangkok is rightly famous for its wild nightlife, beautiful women and delicious food, but you need something to do during the day, too.   

On a recent trip to Thailand, I got a chance to play Alpine Golf and Sports Club in Bangkok, site of Tiger Woods’s win in the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2000. His mother is Thai, and the fans greeted him as a national hero during the tournament. Alpine_golf_club_bangkok_thailand_3

Our greeting was more subdued, but we were impressed by the luxurious clubhouse—the chalet feel was the only “alpine” touch in this tropical flatland—and we got a chance to catch up on American sports scores over coffee before heading out. (They only watch English soccer at Bangkok bars.)

We had three in our group and decided to take carts, although most locals walk. One of the nice things about golf in Asia is that caddies are still the rule here, so even if you take a cart, you take a caddie, who in Asia will invariably be an attractive young woman. Don't get any ideas. While they are friendly and get excited about your round when you're playing well, the women at Alpine are as serious about the game as any caddie in Scotland.

As you'd expect from its role as a Euro Tour host, Alpine is a challenging course. Water is in play on almost every hole, and every tee shot presents a different challenge: diabolically placed fairway bunkers, forced carries and pinched fairways. Try your best to make at least bogey on No. 6, a 200-plus-yard par 3 with water right, so you can say you played it better than Tiger. He four-putted for double when he was here in 2000.

If you do play golf in Thailand, keep in mind that it gets hot. And we're not talking Orlando hot. We're talking steaming, tropical, rain-forest hot. Those slick golf shirts that contain "moisture-wicking technology" (whatever that is) are a must, and you’ll still sweat off a couple of pounds over 18 holes. We visited in early October, just toward the end of the rainy season (June through September). The sun was shining when we started, but we had to take a 30-minute break to wait out a downpour, time well spent sampling Singha, the excellent local beer. After the rain, it was noticeably cooler, and we finished our round in about five hours, including the delay.

For cost-conscious travelers, Thailand is worth the lengthy flight (about 17 hours from New York). While you spend more on the flight, the U.S. dollar goes a long way, and you’ll have great meals, exciting nightlife and good golf for a fraction of what you’d pay in the Caribbean, not to mention a lot more adventure. And the beaches aren’t bad either.

At Alpine, one of Thailand's top courses, expect to pay about $100 for greens fees, plus $20 to your caddie. For more information, visit golfasian.com.

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