Riding Shotgun in Thailand

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It’s always nice to stamp the passport in a faraway place, even better to play golf there. Golf is formal in Bogota, Colombia. Long pants and a collar are required, caddies are mandatory and an hour-plus sit-down lunch at the turn is a must. The pace is faster in Ireland. Shorts are okay, and most carry their clubs or use a pull-cart, a “trolley” as the locals say.

And then there’s Thailand, an experience unlike any other. Players ride shotgun and female caddies handle the driving. Most of the world’s loopers are focused on reading putts and golf course management. Customer service is key in Southeast Asia. If you’re sweating – a waving hand fan appears, and if the sun is blazing, up goes a shade umbrella. If your drink is empty, another appears. Clubs are cleaned, cold towels appear on hot days and kind words are offered when shots are amazing and even average. Thai caddies are unquestionably some of the nicest people in the world.

Southeast Asia golf was a topic of conversation during a recent round of golf in with Greg Norman.

Golf experiences are different all over the world — Thailand is in a league of its own

“The most exciting thing for me these days is the dynamic growth we’re seeing in Asia. We’ve been active lately and I feel confident we’ll see healthy growth in this region for years to come. I enjoy being part of the success in this emerging market and using what I’ve learned in other parts of the world to build a sustainable footprint for golf,” Norman tells World’s Best Golf Destinations.

There’s quality golf all over Thailand – to the north in Chiang Mai, the middle of the country in Bangkok and further south to Phuket. From the north to south in Thailand, the distance is 1,650 km/1,025 miles.
A lovely mix of Thai golf is a Phuket-Bangkok two step. WBGD Editor Elvis Anderson traveled to Thailand in late 2018 and played five golf courses. He arrived in Phuket, hung out there for five days and then flew to Bangkok, which is a 90-minute flight. This collection is highly recommended as it spans the gamut of Thailand golf experiences.

Elvis’ Thailand Golf Trip Ranker

Cold Singha on a hot Thailand day at Loch Palm

3. Loch Palm Golf Club, Phuket: Right next door to Red Mountain Golf Club, Loch Palm is an ideal starter golf course on the trip – it’s a class golf course with the biggest banana tree fronds you’ll ever see. A start at Loch Palm is prime for crescendo on the trip – it’s quality but leaves room for added bells and whistles.

2a. Blue Canyon Country Club, Phuket: Tiger Woods’ mom is Thai. Photos of, and monuments for Eldrick are at many of the golf courses in Thailand and he visited several. A par four, sharp dogleg right, No. 13 plays 390 yards – Tiger cut the corner and drove the green on the way to his 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic victory.

Imagine hitting a shot so impressive they build a plaque to remember it
An Augusta-like par three at Royal Gems outside of Bangkok

2b. Royal Gems Golf Club, Bangkok: Replica golf courses are fun and this one’s good. Nods to Augusta National Golf Club, TPC Sawgrass and Bay Hill are there. Thanks in part to Thailand’s tropical climate – most courses are in good shape – this one included.

1a. Alpine Golf Club, Bangkok: The difference between good and great are the details and Alpine is refined. This golf course is groomed like a botanical garden. Conditions are plush from tee to green.

Down, down, down-hill par three No. 17 at Red Mountain

1b. Red Mountain Golf Club: The sun clipping the horizon with massive palms and banana trees in the distance is one of the great scenes from the trip. This golf course makes great use of incredible undulation – thanks in part that the course was built on a retired tin mine. Here and throughout Thailand are some of the thickest jungles you’ll ever see – foliage thrives here. A brilliant day peaks on the seventeenth hole. It’s a par three playing 135 yards – straight downhill. Club down, take photos and hit it close – it’s a fun hole to play.

Thailand is a rare destination that excels in all areas of a holiday:
food, beaches, diving, sightseeing, 15th century Buddhist temples and people with hearts of gold. The 20-hour flight from the U.S. or 14 from the U.K. is a small price to pay. Thailand breaks all molds for the Western tourist — that’s why it’s amazing.

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