Fairway to Heaven
Thailand is a golfer’s paradise, with an endless choice of stunningly beautiful and challenging golf courses set in a variety of breathtaking tropical landscapes.
From sweeping tree-lined fairways overlooked by mountain ranges, to immaculate water-fringed greens just a short pitch from glorious beaches, there are magnificent courses throughout the length and breadth of the country.
With so many to choose from, how do you find the course to provide the ultimate Thai golfing experience?
Simon Yates, Thailand-based golf pro and Asian Tour competitor since 1995, shares his favourite Front Nine of the country’s championship golf courses he’s played so far.
Amata Spring Country Club
Afloat on a Green. Located in Chonburi, about 70km from Bangkok, the Amata Spring Country Club golf course was established in 2005 and designed on a mainly flat landscape by renowned golf architect Lee Schmidt. Its signature 17th Floating Hole, the green accessible only by boat, is recognised as one of Asia’s most notable holes. The course has hosted numerous pro tournaments including The Royal Tournament. amataspring.co.th
Simon Says: This is a course with a challenging layout to test any golfer, but playing the signature Par 3, 17th Floating Hole is a particular thrill.
Alpine Golf Club Bangkok
Rustic Fairways. Created on an area of original flat paddy fields by golf architect Ron L. Garl, this rustic course of hilly contours studded with lakes, bunkers and trees, is just a 20-minute drive from Bangkok’s international airport. Its elegant and sumptuous fairways conceal difficult holes where every shot must be carefully considered and calculated. Venue of the 13th Asian Games in 1998 and many other important tournaments. alpinegolfclub.com
Simon Says: The green of the Par 5, 7th hole is guarded by water on three sides and requires supreme accuracy.
Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course
A Traditional Classic. The first privately owned golf club in Thailand when it opened in 1971, this I. Izumi-designed course has undergone major renovation and improvements, but still remains a classic tree-lined course with many traditional characteristics. A lily-covered creek between the 15th and 17th holes is known as the Amen Corner of Thai golf. Has hosted the Thai Open four times and is home to the Thailand LPGA. siamcountryclub.com
Simon Says: This is an old-style course with lots of trees. The Par 4, 17th hole has very watery surroundings and the fairway is even bisected by water, so it pays to take care.
Chiangmai Highlands Golf & Spa Resort
Mountainside Magnificence. Set in the foot-hills east of Chiang Mai, the rolling course was designed by Schmidt-Curley Design along a mountainside and valley to give golfers the distraction of wonderful views on every hole. Chiangmai Highlands has won many prestigious awards, including being voted one of Asia’s Top Three Golf Resorts by the Asian Golf Awards. chiangmaihighlands.com
Simon Says: A beautiful course to play, particularly in early mornings and late afternoons, but also very tricky with fast greens. The Par 3, 5th hole has a lake along the left of the fairway that’s tempting to play across, and the green’s slopes are very deceptive.
Red Mountain Phuket
Exhilarating and Testing. Rightfully recognised as one of Asia’s most exciting and challenging new courses, this course was constructed by designers Jon Morrow and Al Tikkanen around a variety of landforms and dizzying elevations left over from the island’s tin mining era, to create an exhilarating test of golf. Winner of the Platinum Golf Course of the Year award at the 2011 Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards. mbkgolf.com
Simon Says: A uniquely challenging golf experience with lots of water and hills – buggy definitely required. The Par 5, 18th hole is a personal favourite, requiring a tight tee shot, with your second shot played over daunting water.
Black Mountain Hua Hin
Sweeping Vistas. Opened in 2007 as the Black Mountain Resort course, it has hosted three Asian Tour events and won a string of international awards, and is the only course in Thailand named in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses Outside the US. Wonderful setting, with sweeping vistas from almost every hole, makes for a challenging yet highly enjoyable design and tour-standard conditioning. Simon Yates is the pro here alongside Thongchai Jaidee, arguably Thailand’s greatest golf talent. blackmountainhuahin.com
Simon Says: The Par 5, 2nd hole offers a wonderful risk-and-reward experience in a fantastic panoramic layout.
Santiburi Country Club Chiang Rai
Tranquil and Cool. Located in Thailand’s scenic far northwest, Santiburi Chiang Rai lies in the Golden Triangle between the mountains of the western border and the Mekong River. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones II with a water-dominated front nine followed by long, hilly fairways on the back nine. The region’s cool climate, especially during December-March, makes playing golf here a delight, with early morning mists shrouding the course in a blanket of white before melting away in the sun. santiburi.com/chiangrai/course
Simon Says: A tremendously enjoyable course to play, but be prepared for a sting in the tail at the tricky Par 5, 18th hole.
Laguna Phuket Golf Club
Lush Tropical Lagoons. Set within the Laguna Phuket resort, the course re-opened in 2015 after a two-year redesign and renovation to emphasise its natural features. The new course offers a scenic combination of lush tropical foliage, coconut groves and bunkers, with fairways meandering through lagoons for a playable yet truly challenging golf experience. Voted Thailand’s Best Golf Course in 2015. International golf legend Sir Nick Faldo is an ambassador of the course. lagunaphuket.com
Simon Says: The Par 4 opening hole sets the tone of this exciting course. It’s packed full of character and even has a traditional Thai fishing boat moored in the water hazard.
Santiburi Samui Country Club
Hillside Landscapes. Carved out of the jungle landscape of Koh Samui’s mountain foothills, the course layout by Pirapon Namatra is skilfully integrated with coconut trees and native tropical plants to make every hole a formidable challenge. Steep uphill and downhill slopes make for multiple playing levels with long, winding fairways offering stunning views of plunging gorges, beaches and islands. Part of the Santiburi Beach Resort. santiburi-hotel.de
Simon Says: Take a lot of balls – you’ll lose a few. The Par 3, 6th hole is a delight, but don’t be distracted by the views.