Category: Thailand


February 17, 2011

LPGA's best start the year at Thailand's Siam C.C.

Posted at 4:11 PM by Ryan Reiterman

Ever since the PGA Tour season started last month, I've been dreaming about the warmer months ahead and the chance to go out and make some birdies. It's been torturous to watch the pros jet from one golfing paradise to another, and it's even more painful to read their gloating tweets and see their cell phone pictures sparkle from places like Kapalua and Pebble Beach. Scc-no-9

But this week could send me over the edge when I watch Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Yani Tseng and all of the other top LPGA players tee it up at the Old Course at Siam Country Club in Pattaya, Thailand ($90-$107, siamcountryclub.com).

I was fortunate enough to play a few rounds in Thailand last October, and as I read the tweets from the players it makes me want to tap into the savings, drop the dog off at a friend's house and book the next flight to Bangkok.

Part of the reason was the fun I had playing the Old Course at Siam Country Club. Opened in 1969 and recently renovated by Schmidt-Curley Design, the Old Course offers generous fairways, 101 bunkers and several elevated greens.

The course looks pretty flat, and is easily walkable, but it subtlety plays downhill away from the clubhouse and gradually goes back uphill. Along the way there are fun challenges like the 373-yard, par-4 second hole that requires a drive over a bunker for a good look at the elevated green. And the 220-yard eighth hole is a tough par 3 that plays over water to a green guarded by two large bunkers on the right and a smaller trap on the left.

The closing three holes are no pushovers and should make for an exciting finish to the first LPGA event of the year. From the tips, the par-3 16th plays every bit of its 231 yards to a tough, two-tiered green. The short par-4 17th will be tricky for the longer hitters, as water comes into play the farther they try to hit their tee shots. And the threat of bunkers comes into play on every shot along the dogleg-left, par-5 18th.

If you're staying in Bangkok, Siam C.C. is only about 75 minutes away, which makes for a good day trip. Another option is to stay in Pattaya for a night and play Siam C.C.'s other course, the 27-hole Plantation, host to the Honda LPGA Thailand in 2009.

(Photo: No. 9 at Siam C.C. Old Course)

For more information on golf trips to Thailand, visit golfasian.com.

December 07, 2010

A Round of Smiles: The Thai Golf Experience

Posted at 11:46 AM by Ryan Reiterman

Thailand Living just outside New York City, and without the funds necessary to join a private club, playing a round of golf on a public course can be a frustrating experience. There have been wars fought in a shorter amount of time than it takes to get a round in at the local Jersey muni.

That's why on a recent trip to Thailand (that's me on the left, in the blue shirt), it was great to be reminded of how fun a round can be. A round of golf should be a relaxing experience, and the Thai people go out of their way to make sure that goal is achieved. I played eight courses in 12 days, and I didn't have one instance where my blood pressure reached "Judge Smails."

I wasn't sure what to expect when I got the assignment. I knew of a few LPGA and Asian Tour events in Thailand, and, obviously, Tiger Woods had made a few stops in his mother's home country. But after a few rounds, it was hard not to feel like I had found a little slice of golfing paradise that everyone else was missing.

It's easy to figure out why golfers, especially in the U.S., don't have Thailand on their radar. It was a 24-hour journey from JFK to Bangkok, a heck of a long trip, especially for someone like me, who can't fall asleep on planes despite multiple doses of Ambien.

But if you like a little adventure with your golf trip, Thailand is hard to beat. Also hard to beat are the prices. Yes, airfare is expensive, but once you get to Thailand you'll be shocked how far the dollar can go. Green fees were as little as $25; a room with an amazing view of downtown Bangkok went for $150; and a full-body massage will only set you back about $10-20.

Caddies were required at all the courses I played, but the fees were usually around $10, plus a tip. It's $10 well spent. My caddies, who were all women, were very well trained. Most of them could figure out my club selection by the third hole, and all of them were excellent at reading putts. Which was good news for me. Reading greens has never been one of my strengths, but with an extra set of eyes I magically started draining birdies from all over the place. 

While few of the caddies spoke English, they were fluent in golf. On the tee it was usually a simple, "200 yards over bunker, right side bad, left OK"; In the fairway, "126 yards, pin front"; And on the green, "Outside left."

In between shots I always tried to pick up some Thai phrases from my caddies, and I passed along some language tips as well. I'm also now solely responsible for increasing the popularity of Animal from the Muppets, since he's the headcover on my driver and each of my caddies got a kick out of it.

Learning a little about new culture made the round much more enjoyable, and if I happened to shave a few strokes off my game, it made the day even better. And that was usually the case. I'm afraid next time I play a solo round in the States I'll notice a big difference on my scorecard.

Higlands_600x399The best part about playing golf in Thailand is once the round is over, the fun doesn't stop. All of the courses had amazing locker rooms, complete with showers straight out of an HGTV dream home.

  After cleaning up, it's hard to pass up a drink or three and a little Thai food in a laid-back, tropical environment. Also hard to pass up are deep-tissue Thai massages, another great post-round activity. Since I had a lot of golf to cram in, plus an already-sore back, there was nothing better than having a daily massage.

While lying on the massage table I couldn't help but think, "I'm not in Jersey anymore."

January 22, 2010

Golf in the Land of Smiles: Santiburi Samui Golf Club, Thailand

Posted at 3:24 PM by Mike Walker

Santaburi-Golf-Koh-Samui Smile, you're in Thailand.

That's not a suggestion here, it's practically a requirement. Thai people begin every interaction with a smile: Go into a store, smile; pass someone on the street, smile; order a fried curry with squid and a Singha beer, smile. All this smiling becomes contagious. The friendly people, inexpensive massages, delicious food and tropical weather don't hurt either.

I was lucky enough to spend this past New Year's Eve in Koh Samui, a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand. I had just gotten married in Bangkok (my wife's father lives there), and after the reception the wedding party (all 14 of us) flew to Samui to celebrate New Year's, relax on the beach and of course play golf.

"Men only organize two things: how they're getting beer and where they're playing golf," my wife said when I told her about my morning tee time at Santiburi Samui Golf Club. Our foursome (me, my father, my brother and my brother-in-law) took a 30-minute cab ride (about $15 U.S.) from our resort to the course. The course is less than 10 years old and the clubhouse has decent rental sets and all the tees, gloves and balls you forgot to pack, plus an outdoor restaurant overlooking the coconut jungles and white-sand beaches of Samui for your lunch or post-round drinks.

The course is carved into the island mountain and the elevation changes make it virtually unwalkable. Instead each player has a cart and a caddie. The caddie experience is what makes golf in Thailand so remarkable. In Asia, the caddies are almost all women, as is often reported with an unseemly wink. It's not like that at all. First, the caddies are completely covered to protect themselves from the sun, so they look about as provocative as Scarlett Johansson in a beekeeper's suit. (OK, bad example.) Second, the caddies are all about the golf: they give yardages, select clubs and read putts like any chain-smoking Scotsman, they're just a lot sweeter. And just like at those Scottish courses, your caddies get into your round. If you're playing well, you'll hear a lot of "good shot" and soft applause. My father was the biggest hit with the caddies at Santiburi, who took to calling him "Papa" and cheered loudly when his tee shots split the fairway.

The Santiburi Samui course is a challenging resort track: generous fairways and large greens, but enough doglegs, tricky greens, ravines and bunkers to make you think. The views are the real treat though. The downhill par-3 sixth plays into a natural waterfall, and on the par-4 16th [see photo above] you play toward the ocean and nearby Phangan island, site of Samui's legendary full-moon parties.

And the best part is that once your round is over, you're still in Samui. After we finished our round and settled our bets over a beer, we headed back to Chaweng Beach, which hosted a New Year's Eve celebration the likes of which I've never seen before. Take a look.

Santiburi Samui Golf Club
Koh Samui, Thailand
6,930 yards, par 72
Fees: Green Fee 3600 baht ($110); Caddie fee 250 baht ($8); Caddie tip: about 300 baht ($9); Cart: 600 baht ($18); Clubs: 1000 baht ($30)

For more information on golf trips to Thailand, visit golfasian.com.

(Photo courtesy of Santiburi Samui Golf Club)

November 07, 2008

One round in Bangkok

Posted at 1:58 PM by Mike Walker

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.

Ask Travelin' Joe

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at askjoe@golf.com.


 

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