Golf trip to Thailand

Updated: March 4, 2010

Around the world there are golf destinations and there are golf destinations. Some aren’t so far away, but you wouldn’t go back. Others are half a world away but worth every hour in that plane, because when you step to that first tee, glance down the fairway, see the palm trees bristling in the wind, the sun shining brightly overhead and find yourself wearing shorts and a golf shirt in the middle of winter, it’s then when you know you’ve hit the jackpot.

Welcome to golfing in Thailand – a jackpot of golf.

Thailand is a place that might not be on everyone’s golfing radar, sitting half a world away in the Far East, but it’s a place the golfing culture in North American is starting to notice. Maybe it first took notice when Tiger Woods won an Asian PGA Tour stop there in 1999, at Thai Country Club — where Tiger’s name remains emblazoned on locker No. 1 in the clubhouse and a plaque commemorates Tiger’s tee shot on the par-4 10th hole, where he drove the green.

Thailand is also a place that has hosted the LPGA Tour several times in the past three years, multiple Asian Tour events, and golf exhibitions featuring some of the game’s top names. It’s a place where terrific courses dot the landscape from the north to the south and, unlike other Asian golf hotbeds (Japan and Korea come to mind); all the best courses are resort tracks open to the public.

Mark Siegel has built a business on exposing Thai golf to the wider golfing world. He runs GolfAsian (, a company that caters to golfers from around the world looking for tee times in Thailand and countries across Southeast Asia. But he is quick to say that golf in Thailand, in particular, is something that will surprise and impress anyone who heads that way.

“Thailand is a place that really gets your attention,” said Siegel. “It got my attention when I first got here — and I never left. When people visit here, they really see what it’s all about and want to keep coming back.”

In addition to the golf courses, there are the five-star accommodations from north to south, as well as beaches and plenty of other tourist activities. At the center of it all sits Bangkok, a city of 10 million people and a place that has it all, from the $15 massages to the $5 dinners to the $50 rounds of golf to the luxurious accommodations with recognizable, trusted brands like Westin and Marriott. It’s a modern city that just keeps getting more modern, with a new subway, new light rail and high-rise towers everywhere you turn. And the airport is a place that must be seen to be believed — a modern marvel that makes your typical U.S. airports look like a museum.

There are more than 250 courses in Thailand and 64 million people. Again, unlike many Asian countries where golf is mainly for tourists, the Thai’s love their golf. As many as 2 million play the game, and it shows as you travel around seeing and playing what they’ve created here. Some would call it the ultimate golf experience.

Don’t allow any lack of familiarity with Thai golf to spill over into worry over course quality. From tee to green, these are stellar layouts. From the two courses at Siam Country Club in Pattaya, to Thai Country Club and Muang Kaew Golf Club in Bangkok, to Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin, the courses are award winners — and they will remind you of best courses you might have seen and played in other tropical locations. Hawaii comes to mind, and that’s not a bad comparison for anyone.

Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin, about three hours southwest of Bangkok, was named as best new course in Asia last year. Siam’s Plantation Course and Old Course have hosted LPGA Tournaments in each of the last two years, and Thai Country Club was a long-time stop on the Asian Tour. Some of the top designers in the game today have courses in Thailand including Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Robert Trent Jones Jr,

Conditioning is superb from tee to green and the price is right — no course will cost you more than $100, while most come in between $50-$70.

One thing that makes the courses even better is the location of re-fueling stations every three holes. You won’t go hungry or thirsty at these places; there is a place to get drinks and food every few holes — in the heat, make sure you stay hydrated.

As good as the courses are, the lockerrooms and the clubhouse are just as impressive. When you check in, you get a locker key and your run of the facilities, which are enormous and opulent compared to U.S. clubhouses. It makes you feel like a PGA Tour pro. When your round is done, grab a change of clothes, jump in the shower and emerge completely refreshed.

What makes the round even more enjoyable are the caddies. Caddies are required for every round and before you go thinking, “Who needs a caddie?”, there’s one thing you need to know: You need a caddie, and you will like it. Every course in Thailand has a crew of 200 female caddies, who are all dressed in matching uniforms and who know the game. After just a few holes they know what club to give you; they can read the greens; and they know the layouts better than you ever will. And sometimes you just might get lucky: One caddie named Da was looping for someone in my group and she brought him a snack of sticky rice and fried pork that she made at home the night before.

One round my caddie was a 35-year-old woman, and one of the other caddies in the group was her daughter. The family business lives on the golf course in Thailand. Most caddies speak some English, some not at all but they still understand what you need.

The caddies will either drive your golf cart or pull your clubs if you would rather walk. But when the weather is hot and humid, you can guess what the women would rather be doing. In fact, one looked rather glum when she was told that someone in my group was going to walk. “She not happy,” said my caddie Thui.

The caddies only get about $2 an hour, but with the way they work and help out, giving them a good sized tip help makes up for it – and they really appreciate the gesture when the round is finished.

Thailand may be a new option for North Americans, but it’s long been the top vacation destination among Asians — golf and otherwise. It takes but one visit to understand why. The beaches in Thailand are some of the best in the world, with warm, blue-green waters lapping it’s amazingly long coastline. Touring downtown Bangkok is a treat with its new and old buildings — elevated light-rail gives another chance to see the sights.

One thing you don’t want to miss is the chance to ride an elephant. The Hua Hin Safari and Adventure Park offers that chance, in addition to seeing them perform. In fact, during the show elephants play soccer, dance and balance hula hoops among other acts.

Massage parlors are all over and are a great deal. A good Thai massage will run you around $12. Nightlife activities are endless with places like Walking Street in Pattaya offering clubs of every description. Bangkok is so big, it has half a dozen such streets filled with clubs.

The food is good at just about every restaurant and you can’t touch the prices. A dinner will cost under $8 and if you stay at most of the hotels, breakfast is always included.

Perhaps most important, the people of Thailand are the friendliest you will meet anywhere. The people always have a smile on their face and are eager to help.

Siegel says there is so much to like about Thailand that 60 percent of the golfers he brings in for trips return the next year.

“For around $1,000 you can get the trip of a lifetime for a week,” said Siegel. “Thailand is a place that really gives you the value for your dollar. There aren’t many other places like it.”

And the weather is always good. If you go at certain times of the year the heat and humidity might get you, but for the most part, there’s nothing like some warm sunshine and clear skies when you are teeing it up.

There is no shortage of 5-star accommodations to choose from in golf destinations like Pattaya, Hui Hin and Bangkok. In Bangkok, luxurious rooms and plenty of other amenities await at places like the Westin Sukhumvit and Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa.

In fact, the Marriott runs a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River which winds through downtown, beside temples and palaces by turn. It’s not to be missed. In places like Pattaya, 90 minutes southwest of Bangkok, the Woodlands Resort offers terrific rooms as well as three pools. In Hui Hin, the Marriott Hua Hin features a hotel right on the beach and just down the road sits the Anantara, one of the best hotels you may ever see, with its cluster of villas, beach-front setting and vast roster amenities.

And the prices can’t be touched. You pick up of any of these hotels and put them in Hawaii or Arizona and it’s $300-$500 a night easy. In Thailand, anywhere from $75-$200 gets you a room you won’t forget.

For more information on golfing Thailand there are a couple of web sites to check out including and