- Train Adventure from Bangkok to Penang…
Photo by Robert van der Sluijs on Unsplash Local airlines often see us golfers as rich pickings when we check in with our golf bags, happily to charge us the excess baggage charge just for a 90-minute flight. So recently I decided to combine my short vacation to Penang, with an overnight train trip from Bangkok. Instead of flying decided to let the train take the strain. Therefore, adding to the adventure, and saving a bundle as well, I decided to travel from Bangkok Thailand to Butterworth in Malaysia and back on the express train known as Ekspress Antarabangsa. Sleeper Cars Photo by Sandip Roy on Unsplash I booked their 2nd class air-conditioned sleepers on train number 35/36 which are provided by the State Railways of Thailand. At Hat Yai they uncouple the two sleeper cars and a Malaysian loco takes you down the track to Butterworth and the short ferry to Georgetown, Penang. During the day you have a wide seat all to yourself. You can slide your case under your seat. If you think ahead and take a small travel golf bag, then you could slide it under your seat as well or give it to the friendly cabin attendant to look after, with a small tip. The sleeping car waitress comes around at 6pm and you can order lots of wonderful Thai dishes washed down by cool beer served at your seat. After dinner the stewards will create a very comfortable queen size bed with clean sheets and a blanket, by cleverly folding your day seats. Curtains provide privacy and you can also curtain the window too or like me watch the world drift by at night. It is a good idea to ask for a low berth as the top bunks are a bit small with no window. When the train reaches the Thai Malaysian border, you just to go through customs before trooping back onto our two-coach train for the final run into Butterworth arriving around 1pm local time the next day. Some passengers were getting off at Surat Thani and Chumporn to catch ferries to Koh Samui and further afield. You can break your train journey, but need to buy separate tickets. Hilly Course in Penang Penang Golf Club Georgetown was great and it is good idea to hire a bike as it is fairly flat. I also managed to fit in some golf at the hilly Penang Golf Club. A fairly hilly 18-hole course, it measures 6,393 yards with Bermuda grass on the fairways and Tif Eagle on the greens. First opened in 1984 the new owners re opened it in late 2012 after a major face lift. If you have time there is another course on the mainland 20 minutes from Penang Bridge, called Penang Golf Resort. It is a 36-hole golf resort designed by Graham Marsh. Travelers of All Ages On the return trip, the train left at 2.30pm from Butterworth and eventually rolled into Bangkok the next day at 12.30pm. I met people of all ages from European back packers to a retired executive from Arizona, and actually swopped stories about the general art of travelling around South East Asia. Great adventure and very cost effective for a side trip. Written by Mike Bridge On-Line Editor of Thai Golf News, The Pattaya Golfer and Member of the International Golf Writers Association (ITGWA). The post Train Adventure from Bangkok to Penang… appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- An Unique Region in Thailand
For many golf vacationers, they are used to playing in Phuket, Hua Hin, Bangkok and Pattaya. However, Khao Yai with over seven golf courses, is also a very special golfers paradise. Its National Park is only just over two hours north of Bangkok and covers more than 2,000 square kilometers of forest and grassland. Here there is more than 50 km of hiking and biking trails, plus twenty waterfalls including the 150m-tall Haew Narok and 20m-tall Haew Suwat. But apart from the road signs stating Beware of Wild Elephants, within a one-hour radius there are also seven unusual and exciting golf courses to discover. Here we recommend you try two courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and another two by another American Bob McFarland. Khao Yai Golf Club Kirimaya a Nicklaus Country Track Meandering around a tranquil 5-star resort is an 18-hole course, that includes lily pond hazards, a few well placed bunkers and some undulating greens. With a mountain backdrop and wonderful colorful flora at each hole, this is a very magical experience. Jack’s other 18-hole layout is at The Khao Yai Golf Club, nestled between some large rocky mountains. This is one of the oldest tracks in the Park and has sloping fairways and fun greens. Incredible views add to the experience. Rancho Charnvee Resort & Golf Club Even a Private Landing Strip. Rancho Charnvee Resort & Golf Club designed by McFarland, is perhaps the nearest to Bangkok and has hosted several Championship events. Teeing off over a lake with a large motor cruiser moored, this can be quite a windy 18 holes. For jetsetters you can land your plane by the 11th hole and grab your clubs for a memorable round. Toscana Valley Am I Really Playing Golf in Italy? I have left the best until last, as there is always a thrill to play a golf course for the first time, and Toscana Valley is no exception. This 18-hole course is considered very special, as not only is it located within in some stunning scenery throughout this UNESCO world heritage site, but you are also playing alongside a unique multimillion-dollar Italian styled village. Their signature 12th hole, tees off high above the valley with two water hazards below, then up to a raised green. This is to a backdrop of a full-sized replica of the iconic leaning Tower of Pisa, now a new hotel. Yes, definitely a kodak moment here, and beware of bogies here as it has an unforgiving green! Sometimes it is hard to believe you are playing on a Thai golf course, instead of around an exquisite Italian mountainside village in Tuscany. Golfers Tip: If you are not lucky enough to own one of the beautiful homes at Toscana Valley, you can still use Toscana Valley as your base for a wonderful golf vacation. Here they have three excellent hotels on site, namely the Town Square Suites, Hotel La Casetta and Toscana Piazza. Written by Mike Bridge On-Line Editor of Thai Golf News, The Pattaya Golfer and Member of the International Golf Writers Association (ITGWA). The post An Unique Region in Thailand appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- Jazz Is Flying the Thai Flag
In just a few short years as a golf professional, Jazz Janewattananod has jumped into the top 30 in the World Golf Rankings, and he is only 24 years old. Jazz as he is known lives in Hua Hin and is sponsored by Black Mountain Golf Resort, also firm favorite among Golfasian vacationers. Banyan Winner I first met Jazz at Banyan Golf Club also in Hua Hin when he won the MENA golf tour. He told me he wants to get his card on the Asian Tour and amazingly he managed to chip in on his last hole at Q School to grab the last card for the Asian Tour Season. Soon after he started winning tournaments and against all the big names won the 2019 Singapore Open at Sentosa. This opened up the world to him and he was able to play in the Masters and the British Open. It also earnt him a coveted spot on the 2019 PGA Championships. Here Jazz found a local caddie who knew the course, and by day three he was tied 2nd and the American TV started to follow this golfer called JAZZ!!! Asian Tour Number 1 He eventually came in tied 14th, but the experience had been worthwhile as he went on to win the Asian Tour order of merit for the year. Not to rest on his laurels I met up with him just before Christmas when he turned up for his 35th tournament of the year, at the Thailand Golf Championship hosted by Phoenix Gold Golf & Country Club in Pattaya. He went onto win that event too and his rise into the top 40 of the World’s Golf Rankings was cemented. 2020 Looking Good So far in 2020 he was come 4th in the Hong Kong Open, and 3rd in the Singapore Open. And he now heads off to the Middle East swing and the World Golf Championships. Later on, you will see him at this years Masters and the British Open too. His goal is to join his fellow Thai, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and get his PGA Tour card for 2021. However, he still keeps his feet firmly on the ground, living with his parents in Hua Hin, so maybe during your next vacation you will bump into him at Black Mountain too. The post Jazz Is Flying the Thai Flag appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- CEO’s Lost Golf Balls are a Winner.
Most golfers hate to lose an expensive golf ball, but American Mark Siegel doesn’t mind, as he has a clever ulterior motive. Siegel is the CEO of Golfasian, one of the most established inbound golf tour operators in Asia. “About five years ago I had the idea of printing my own Titlist golf balls with the simple message. Reward Offered If you return this ball to www.golfasian.com”, said Siegel. Since then over five lucky golfers, who actually returned his golf ball, have enjoyed complimentary rounds at several of Thailand’s top golf courses, courtesy of Golfasian. Launched in 1997 in Bangkok, Thailand, Golfasian now has over 100 loyal staff members operating in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Singapore. They have a membership base of over 162,000 golfers and last year handled over 15,000 golf vacationers. Seigel added, “What started out as a bit of fun, has now turned out to be a great marketing initiative, as now many golfers are hoping one of these Reward balls may turn up at their course anywhere across Asia” The chances are fairly good as this busy CEO likes to play all their recommended courses in eleven countries across Asia, and often plays up to four rounds a week. So, keep looking and you too maybe teeing off for your free round soon! The post CEO’s Lost Golf Balls are a Winner. appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- Thailand’s Secret Weapon
According to Thai Super Star Thongchai Jaidee, Thailand’s secret weapon when playing a round of golf has to be the Thai caddies. With over 240 golf courses dotted around Thailand, you are literally spoilt for choice and can experience all types of challenges that you will never experience back home. The course notes on hole Number 1 at the popular Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin states….‘Aim for the Coconut Tree and try to avoid the Pineapples in the rough.’ If that does not what your appetite, then perhaps the number one reason why golf vacationers love to play here in Thailand, are the smiling Thai Caddies. 25,000 Caddies in Thailand It is estimated that over 25,000 mainly female caddies work in the golf industry and many rural communities rely on their local course for the weekly wages. It is not uncommon to find mother and daughter working together, while Dad mows the grass. I remember the first time I came to play golf in Phuket, they told me that did I want to walk or take a golf cart which your caddie will drive. I said that I wasn’t that good so maybe I will not take a caddie. I just felt I was not worthy to waste their time. In fact, virtually all Thai clubs provide caddies which are compulsory, whether they pull a golf trolley or drive the cart for you. After a few holes you start to realise how much easier it is if you can rely on someone else to select your clubs, give you the yardage and read the tricky greens. Swopping Shopping Tips I remember one lady golfer who was scared of taking a caddie, however at the end of one of her better rounds, she was swopping shopping tips with her caddie. When you arrive at the course you pay for the green fee and the caddie fee, which is usually around THB350 (US$12) for 18 holes. Some courses do allow you to walk, so your caddie will put your bag onto a trolley. However, most courses have compulsory carts especially those that are hilly. Caddies Speak English Most caddies are well trained, can speak some English and most will know their own 18 holes backwards and can read the greens like a popular paperback. Apart from giving you all the distances on the fairways, your caddie will clean your clubs, keep your score and drive the cart. At the end of your round it is customary to tip her for all the hard work. When asked they will say ‘It’s up to you.’ Normally you give between THB300-500 (US$10-16.5), however if you had a great score then more is welcomed. Remember this is their full-time job so they rely on your tips!!! Therefore, a round of golf in Thailand would not be the same without those wonderful smiling caddies. The post Thailand’s Secret Weapon appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- Do You Know Your Facts and Figures ?
Ok the game of golf is known as the Gentlemen's Sport which is played in the best possible spirit and of course we all play by the rules. That said, I for one still do not always understand the complicated scoring system often used at tournaments and tend to rely on my playing partner to keep the scores. Let's find it out more... The post Do You Know Your Facts and Figures ? appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- Slow Play
With the high season upon us here in Asia, rounds of golf can start to take a little longer, as the clubs try to squeeze a few extra groups onto the course. Who wants to be stuck behind a five ball all busy gambling! The post Slow Play appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- Asia Tops the World
Amazingly according to recent statistics, golf in Asia is on the rise with 205 new courses in various stages of design and construction. This more than any other continent. Asia Leads the Way in New Courses It means that 32% of all new undertakings currently identified worldwide, are taking place here in Asia. According to a recent survey by the R & A in 2018, there were 33,161 golf courses in 208 of the world’s 245 countries. Asia currently boasts 4,570 golf facilities, 14% of the total courses in the World. This is against a general decline in the number of golf courses across the world. The top five golf destinations in Asia are Japan with 2,290 courses, South Korea with 444, China with 383, India with 267 and Thailand with 250. Governments, especially in Thailand and Vietnam have seen the potential in golf tourism, and that is one of the reasons that this region is No 1 in constructing golf courses. Golf Coast Golf A good example is Vietnam where a few years ago you could count the number of courses golf projects on one hand. However, through encouragement from their Prime Minister, there are now around 40 excellent courses with more on the way. Faldo, Norman, Donald and Montgomerie have all successfully designed courses in Danang, known as Vietnam’s Golf Coast. Recently they have been joined by Hoiana Shores, a links course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Also, an IMG designed course called Vinpearl Ha Noi. Vinpearl Ha Noi Same can be said of Cambodia, which has seen several new courses open in the past few years, including Vattanac and Garden City in Phnom Penh. Thailand Still Investing Thailand ranked 5th in the top Asia golf destinations, is still investing in new courses, especially down in Pattaya where they have recently added two new 5 star 18 holes at Chee Chan Golf Resort and Siam Country Club, Rolling Hills. Chee Chan in Pattaya Also, the trend has been for creating golf resorts offering 5-star holidays catering for all ages. So, the bottom line is when you book a golf vacation in Asia, you will find it hard to beat the facilities, as they are using the latest technology on the course and their club houses are magnificent. Oh, and a round of golf with a smiling Asian caddie just adds to the golfing experience. Caddies at Siam Country Club The post Asia Tops the World appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- Newbie Golf in Thailand
Contrary to popular belief and Swedish regulations, golf is fun and easy to learn, as my teaching pal pro Tony Meechai often says. With an abundance of great courses and fantastic coaches, Thailand is one of the best places in the world to learn the game. Here is a primer for golf newbies. The Absolute virgin stage Don’t waste your money on something you may not like. Go to a second-hand shop, buy a 7-iron, and go hit balls at a driving range. One club. That’s it. Learning the game will come from repetition and practice, not having THB 50,000 of the greatest gear and snappy threads. The OK, I think I like it stage This seems like it could be fun. Get some coaching. Not an intense program, just some preliminary pointers that can help transform that wild lurch into something resembling a controlled golf swing. People who have played “hit object with stick” games like cricket, baseball or hockey often have a combination of good hand-eye coordination with some pre-learned swing habits that often have to be un-learned. Remember, a golf swing is perhaps the single most un-natural movement the human body can make so it has to be learned from scratch. Yes, it feels weird – learn it right and stick with it. Again, the key is repetition. Remember it is now PERFECT practice that makes perfect. The I want more stage This usually happens after you have hit a few really good shots and have decided that the feel of a flushed 7-iron is better than pretty much anything legal. At this stage add a few more hours of coaching and maybe go for a full set of clubs so you can start getting ready to hit the course. Again, there is no substitute for the number of balls struck, and you should start making mental notes of how often you hit it well. The getting ready to launch stage Making the transition to the course is a big deal so it is time to put things into perspective. Firstly, remember that golf is a social game where the camaraderie comes before the score. Everyone is there to enjoy the day and they don’t want a self-obsessed jackass in their group. Learn the etiquette of the game – it’s actually more important than the rules. Your playing partners will graciously accept that you are a newbie and cut your skills a lot of slack but screw up the etiquette and you will find yourself testing your friendships and ultimately playing alone. Read up on the etiquette and learn by watching and observing like a shy teenager at your first high school dance. The tally-ho stage The first time on a golf course is a heady mixture of excitement, nervousness and fear. You are going to hit a bunch of bad shots and be a slow player. All normal – accept it with a sense of humour and gratitude. So, do not launch your newfound passion on a Saturday morning, golf’s prime time. Instead, your first foray into the golfing world should be limited to 9 holes when the course is quiet, typically late afternoon. Play. Practice. Improve. Repeat. And don’t forget to enjoy the walk as you grow in the greatest game on earth in one of the truly great places to play. The post Newbie Golf in Thailand appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.
- Pattaya Golf Courses Update
Over the last several years I have rarely ventured to the Eastern Seaboard, and found myself quite out of touch with what is going on there. Recently this has changed and experiences over the last couple of months have reconfirmed three of my long-held beliefs, and updated my knowledge base: Pattaya is a great place to play golf. Period. Nobody does golf like Pattaya. The entire region is interconnected and is a golfer’s paradise. Not so long ago the hotels were a collection of a hit-and-miss independents, but in recent years the chains have accepted Pattaya as a viable location and most of the international brands now have a presence there, giving the tour operators a much wider range of options to satisfy the needs of their customers. Along with ever-present seaside vibe, the buzz of being an international destination and the legendary/infamous nightlife, the infrastructure is changing and becoming a higher-quality city. Along with a rapid growth in world-class shopping malls has come a growing number of really good quality restaurants in mouth-watering settings being run by really sharp people. Something for everyone. The beauty of Pattaya lies in the variety of golf courses on offer. Naturally, the higher the price, the better the course, the amenities, the conditioning, and all the little trimmings that make for a 5-star experience that draws the tourist golfer and discerning local. At the top end of the price spectrum are places like the newly-opened Chee Chan, and stalwarts Phoenix, Laem Chabang and Siam Country Club with its 3 superb courses. However, the real value lies in the many 2, 3, and 4 star courses in the region. Sure, the clubhouse may need an upgrade and the carpets are past their sell-by date, but if you are there to play the game with your friends and not be an interior design critic, they are magic. Clubs like Emerald in Ban Chang are an example of this – it is cheap, cheerful and rather tatty, but the course layout is fantastic and the walk with the regulars who play there is simply a delight. It’s a kind of symbiotic relationship – these courses generally play well, are user-friendly, and are remarkably inexpensive, making the game accessible and affordable. In return, these players help keep these courses financially viable. In the middle of these two extremes are a wide range of tracks that carry some of the finest designer names in the game, many of them challenging and in great shape like Patana and Burapha, and all points in between. Simply spoiled for choice. October is a great time to play. A quick survey has shown that there is the usual low-season pain in the region right now with the predictable drop in the number of rounds being played. Added to this has been wildly fluctuating weather which saw bone dry courses three weeks ago suddenly have their reservoirs filled by torrential rain. The good news is that the courses have rebounded well and are back in good shape. With the Hua Hin Golf Festival ending on Sept 30, the Eastern Seaboard in October will be the place to get great value with great playing conditions, particularly if you can get there on weekdays. The post Pattaya Golf Courses Update appeared first on Thailand Golf Zone.