So long Thailand, after a memorable and eventful golf trip
TOKYO, Japan ? Well, it’s good bye to Thailand, land of the endless pictures of King Rama IX and marathon massages, as I make my way back to my comfort zone, known as the good old USA. It’s a long trip, about 25 hours in all as I wait for my next leg at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, but well worth it, especially if you’ve never been to the Kingdom before.
Although I expected it in Thailand, I still can’t get over the level of politeness, being bowed to and bowing back. Tip your brightly clad, hard-working female caddie, and you get a bow. Arrive at a new hotel, and the hotel manager greets you with a hello (sa-wat dee) and a bow. It never stopped; it never got old.
Through it all, though, there was still plenty of golf, and it was pretty good. Yesterday’s course was arguably the best of the lot. Opened in 2005, the Lee Schmidt/Brian Curley designed Chiang Mai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort – located in the northern part of Thailand ? was an enjoyable ride from start to finish. With plenty of elevated tee shots, well-placed bunker complexes to frame the holes, and a variety of trees, water hazards and pin position possibilities, Highlands was the complete package.
The same could be said for Thai Country Club, which has hosted a number of professional events, including the Asian Honda Classic won by Tiger Woods in 1997. The Plantation Course at Siam Country Club, where the LPGA played this February, was a pretty fun ride as well. And you could even play night golf in a few places, like the Lakes Course at Laem Chabang International Country Club or the Summit Windmill Residence Course, a Nick Faldo design that was so well lit, it almost looked like daylight.
Pretty much all the places I played the last eight days, by the way, brought the true meaning to the “country club for a day” claim. Guests are assigned a locker, given a towel and a place to shower, and at many clubs, you can even follow golf with a Thai massage. The clubhouses are elaborate; the food and drink awesome and the settings magical. You’ll have a hard time finding that at home, especially at a semi-private club.
Of course, the non-golf stuff is arguably the most memorable. Visiting the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok is one of the things I can now cross off the list. We saw elaborate cultural shows, took a dinner cruise down the Chao Praya River in Bangkok, visited the Long Neck Hilltribe in northern Thailand, checked out more temples and took in the Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens near Pattaya. It was a trip jam-packed with golf, great food, awesome accommodations and plenty of activities and sight-seeing.
The most important part, though, is having a trustworthy expert to set everything up and guide you through your trip, especially if you’re a newbie to Asia. Our host was a group called GolfAsian, which arranges visits for some 5,000 golfers a year. They can help you set up transportation both to and inside the country, get the best hotel rates (which are surprisingly low for the level of accommodations), arrange tickets to shows and basically keep you worry free.
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