Thailand, one the most fascinating and exotic tourist destinations in the world, has gained a deserved reputation for providing unique golf holidays.
Depending on your aspirations, available time and level of the game, there are a great number of choices where you can play. From playing golf on one of the many courses near Bangkok, to relaxing and enjoying the stunning beaches and golf in Phuket, Hua Hin or Pattaya; the choice is yours. Thailand has over 200 golf courses which means that they are rarely over crowded and at least a few courses are in or within easy reach of all major cities, creating a golfers heaven.
Golf arrived in Thailand over a century ago and was quickly taken up by the elite and fashionable. Among the first sponsors of the game were the Armed Forces and government institutions, which built and continue to own some of the finest courses in the country.
Golf’s popularity rose dramatically after the country hosted its first international tournament; the 1975 World Cup. The number of courses rose sharply in the past decade. The world’s top designers have come and left their marks, so have many world-class players. Most recently built courses offer accommodations on site and recreational facilities for the whole family. For the more adventurous, there are older, natural courses in remote areas around the country owned by the Royal Irrigation Department, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and the State Railway of Thailand, all offering good value.
The best time to come is the cool season, from November to March. From April to October, it is very hot and wet. But even in the rainy months, the heavy pour lasts only a few minutes and, since most courses have good drainage systems, the rains should not interrupt your game for long. At some facilities you may need to book ahead, through your club or your hotels. Do book in advance for the weekends, for attendance goes up sharply at most courses, and for the peak travel season, from December to February.
Greens fees in Thailand continue to be very reasonable, so are the fees for the well-trained, helpful caddies (mostly ladies). Service on green and at the clubhouse is always prompt and courteous.
If you are planning a do-it-yourself golf holiday to Thailand, you will require some patience. Booking a tee time by yourself will be the first hurdle, and although most courses have some English speaking staff, not all do and it can be difficult to communicate over the phone. The next challenge will be to find a taxi to take you there. Many taxi drivers do not speak English and have no idea where the golf courses are located. Tip: ask your hotel concierge to write down, in Thai, the name, address and directions of the golf course. A golf tour operator or another reputable agent can help you with your arrangements; it may cost you a little more, but you will have no hassle going for your game of golf.
Since the country is well connected by road, rail and air, you can take day trips to the courses and return to stay in the city, or hire a car and draw up your own itinerary. Lodging facilities in all major cities range from the cosy to the luxurious, and in every town there is at least one comfortable place to stay. For the family, or to fill a break in your schedule, there is a diverse choice of culture, adventure, dining and shopping available wherever you choose to tee-off.
Tip if playing golf near Bangkok
To avoid the traffic, heat and most busy times on the golf course, play early morning weekdays. Leave before peak hour traffic (starting 9 am), saving yourself a lot of time getting to the course. Very few people play early during weekdays, but afternoons from 12pm onwards can get busy as locals take the afternoon off. You’ll also avoid the evening rush hour traffic when returning to your hotel.