I'm sure you've heard some stories about Thailand and yes, they're all true. But the untold story you might not have heard is how it's a golfing mecca.
As a golfer, you're immediately looked at as the upper echelon in the Land of Smiles and everything about the golfing experience in Thailand oozes regal style and decadent exceptionalism.
From the moment you enter the gates, you feel like a boss. When you leave again, you realize why so many people claim golf is the sport of kings. In Thailand, they do it properly. You very often never even touch your bag until you unload it back at your room.
If you're planning on playing golf in Thailand or are just curious about what it's like, keep reading because there are a few tips to make it more enjoyable. Let's get on with it...
1. You're required to take a caddie
In Thailand it's compulsory to take a caddie and the price is usually about $10 paid to the cashier when you pay your green fee.
If the course requires a cart, you'll need to have a cart as well as a caddie. The caddie is always compulsory and it's expected that you tip them too.
Important tip: 300 - 400 Thai baht ($10-$12) is an acceptable tip and you pay her after the round when she hands over the bag into your possession. If after nine holes, you'd like to change your caddie, don't be shy to do it. You'll pay half the caddie fee to the cashier again and have your new caddie waiting on the 10th tee. You're then free to tip the new caddie accordingly.
2. Caddies are all ladies
All caddies are Thai ladies and I've had them ranging from 17 years old to 57 years old. And yes, I can confirm they're generally good looking. In fact, courses often stipulate they need to be trim and wear make up!
In the years I've played golf in Thailand, I've never had an unpleasant caddie on the bag. It's best to remember that these ladies don't play golf but use their experience on the course to help you with distances and reading greens but only one out of five will be really proficient.
So have fun, crack some jokes and SMILE. A relaxed smile is currency with Thai people and whatever you project, they'll mirror directly back at you. Make the five hours together with them fun and you'll really enjoy your game.
3. You'll probably never drive a golf cart here
Golf courses insure the carts with the condition that only the caddies drive them. I'm sure they've seen too many of those golf fail videos in real life.
4. You'll probably never touch the ball either
Don't be surprised if all you do is swing the club and then walk between shots.
Here's what the caddies do (and this is no joke):
Of course, like me, you can tee it up yourself and retrieve it yourself from the hole. But if you do drink a little too much swing lube on the course, the caddies are great at lining up the chyron on the ball to the putting line and instructing you how to hit the putt.
5. Five and six-balls are normal
It's quite normal to see six carts or twelve people (golfers and caddies) walking the fairways in front of you. Sit back, relax and enjoy the sun because fighting it will only hurt you.
6. A group of 18 people isn't unusual
On weekends, you'll routinely see six golfers in a flight with one caddie and one fore caddie - 18 people!
The fore caddie isn't to find the ball and speed up play. She's there to watch to make sure the other players aren't cheating. Let's just say as delicately as possible, some guys bring some money to the course and the game gets very intricate so the occasional leather wedge could win a few bucks.
7. Don't expect to play through
Stuck behind a four, five or six ball means you'll be there the whole day. Golf etiquette regarding playing through hasn't been discovered in Thailand yet so bring a book or take nice long stops at the multiple drinks stations on the course.
8. Locker rooms are luxurious
Golf is for the elite here. Club houses and locker rooms are huge, ostentatious and scream "money". You'll receive what feels like a brand new towel, a large locker for your stuff and all the soap, powder, gel, deodorant and creams you could need. Hell, some courses give you toothbrushes and cotton ear buds.
9. Flip flops are acceptable in the club house
Remember when you quickly learned that you need to wear closed shoes and remove your hat in the club house? Not here. Anything goes: sports shirts and flip flops are common.
10. There's water....everywhere
Bring a lot of golf balls. Between nine and all 18 holes will have water in the form of a lake, pond, river or stream on them. Thailand isn't known for it's droughts which means...
11. Every course is in immaculate condition
There's always someone working on something on the golf course and with the low minimum daily wage ($10 per day), it's no surprise.
Some courses even stipulate that the caddies need to do one day per week of weeding on the fairways. They'll sit in a group and groom the fairway gossiping with each other. They smile and wave as you walk by and they're happy, so none of the usual politically correct western "poor them" attitude applies here.
12. Every course has a resident stray dog
In Thailand it's forbidden to put down stray dogs which means there is a LOT of them. So with the cities so crowded and full of undesirables, some dogs prefer to retreat to the quiet life on a golf course. It's a slow life and quality of sleep is much better.
From the moment you pull up to the bag deposit to the time you leave the course, you're treated like a god. Keep a smile on your face and embrace the "sabai sabai" lifestyle of Thailand and you'll want to come back to this golfing mecca again and again.
Top 5 golf course I highly recommend in Thailand:
- Black Mountain - Hua Hin
- Thai Country Club - Bangkok surrounds
- Siam Country Club - Pattaya
- Banyan Golf Course - Hua Hin
- Alpine Golf & Sports Club - Bangkok