Thailand ranks as Southeast Asia's most popular golf destination, thanks to its exotic sights and hundreds of beautiful golf courses, from the highlands of the North to Phuket in the South and areas around Bangkok, Hua Hin and Pattaya.
To help plan your golf trip to Thailand, consider these answers to some frequently asked golf and travel questions:
You'll get great bang for the buck with food and services. Top-shelf accommodations can easily be found for under $100, normally much less. Taxis and ground transportation are also usually cheap. Massages cost as little as $5-10.
Phuket is more tourist driven, and the prices are higher for accommodations and at the golf courses.
It's a bit complicated for the traveler not familiar with monsoons and tropical climates. The weather varies greatly by location, and the coasts can feature different rainy seasons. Clearly defined seasons mark the northern regions, while the southern part of Thailand has a wet season and dry months with similarly hot temperatures. March and April are generally the warmest time.
Most golf clubs, while luxurious with dining areas and locker rooms, do not include on-site accommodations. A handful of resorts exist, but they're far from the cities and generally cater to Thais and regional travelers. Most Westerners stay in the cities and purchase ground transfers to the golf courses. The courses are usually about a one-hour drive from the cities and stay quiet at night. Hotels and golf packagers can arrange transport, also considerably inexpensive.
In accordance with most of Asia, night golf is common, especially around Bangkok. It's popular with locals who want to avoid the sun and play after work, though visitors should give it a try. A round is no more expensive at night. And if you've got non-golfers in your group, courses allow spectators.
Generally, Thailand's golf courses fall into two classes. Many are built by the government around military bases or factories. They're probably not worth playing if you traveled halfway around the world. The country clubs booked by most golf packagers feature exceptional facilities, with full restaurants and locker rooms. Some include spas and massage services. Restaurant menus often fill many pages, offering Thai, Japanese and even American dishes.
Usually, just the golf in addition to locker-room access, a personal locker and a towel. Carts and caddies are extra - and mandatory at some clubs. Golf carts are typically not included and cost an additional $15-20.
Typically, 250-300 baht (about $7.50-9). Westerners often tip more than Thais, so 300-500 baht ($9-15) is generous.
The roadway system, especially near Bangkok, can be dizzying. Many golf clubs sit well off the highways on small, bumpy back roads. Hire a coach with a tour guide and a professional driver to keep you on time and safe.
Car accidents rank as the nation's No. 1 cause of death. You'll likely travel by van or coach with a professional driver and tour guide, so you shouldn't have to worry.
Petty street violence and pickpocketing is unusual. Thais are a peaceful bunch. Even their government coup d'etats (30 and counting) are usually bloodless.
Hua Hin is one of the most popular spots for golf travel. It's relaxed and easy to navigate. The king's palace is here, an explanation for the city's quiet atmosphere. Choose from eight golf courses, many of a high standard, with another to open soon.
Also consider the North of Thailand, home to the Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Highlands. You could even combine a visit here with a stop in Cambodia, a small golf destination of its own.
Hotel clerks and golf receptionists know a good amount of English. Caddies' grasp of the language is often spotty, so don't expect much more than the usual golf-course lingo. Around the streets, it can be tough to communicate, but you'll get by. If you plan to travel by taxi, keep a business card from your hotel within reach and show it in the event of communication problems.
Do not disparage or even joke about the king and queen, whom the Thais adore. You won't go to jail, but it's disrespectful. Don't mark your golf ball with coins that picture the king. It's like dragging your country's flag across the ground.
Also, it's best not to show anyone the bottom of your shoes.
Shaking hands is uncommon. A local usually greets a visitor or acquaintance by pressing his or her hands together and nodding. If greeted in such a manner, reciprocate.
The Thai language sounds very foreign, and the lettering is unreadable to most Westerners. But try to learn some basic phrases. The Thais will appreciate it.
December 2, 2009
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!