Evelyn´s Travel Insights

For Memorable Golf Experiences!

Golf & Art at The Hills Golf Course

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The private Hills Golf Club, a 20 minute drive from Queenstown, is one of the most unique golf courses I have been fortunate to experience in my 20+ year in international golf travel. It´s the result of Jewelry magnate Sir Michael Hill, who built a golf course like no other.  Designed by Darby Partners in 2007, the Championship layout was built on a natural combination of farmland and wetlands, where more than 50,000 red and silver tussock plants create a spectacular visual statement; and the rugged glacial valley setting provides 180-degree views of the surrounding mountains, awesome!

However, what fascinated me the most was the fact that the course serves as an outdoor gallery of a diverse range of art work and sculptures by local and international artists, including several crafted by Michael Hill´s artist son Mark.

Michael Hill – a keen sponsor of art – believes that especially young people lack imagination and need to be exposed to art and sculpture. Being aware of art by physically seeing and touching it,the-hills-golf-club2 will tweak your senses and create out of the box solutions to all sorts of things. “Love it or hate it, art stimulates thought and creativity”, says Hill.

More than a dozen installations grace the course, cleverly placed in settings fitting the style of the work – from metal dragon flies on a tranquil pond to ‘Red Ridge’, a kinetic sculpture surrounded by tussock behind the 13th green. ‘The Wolves are Coming’ is the latest addition by Chinese artist Liu Ruowang and comprises 111 cast iron wolves alongside 18th fairway!

My personal favorite hole is the signature Hole 17th, a par 5 with stunning vistas and views and a fairway that winds through a canyon of rocks to a semi-blind green.  A stainless steel tube work by Grant Palliser decorates the tee-box and the dynamic energy of the piece – generated by the-hills-golf-cluba variety of diameters – matches with the energy of the landscape – light and color.

While this array of sculptures certainly adds to the uniqueness of the golf experience, the course itself is nothing but short of praise either. Sir Bob Charles, the Kiwi golf icon, considers The Hills the best golf course in New Zealand – a strong statement for a country with numerous award-winning internationals including Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers.  “The course is an incredible challenge for the great – and incredibly enjoyable for the not so great,” says Sir Bob.

The Hills Golf Course is home of the NZ PGA Championship and hosts the New Zealand Open in March and an exclusive group of 20 golfers from the US, escorted by Elite Golf Experiences´ CEO Paul Clare in October 2017.

In short: This challenging Championship layout with dramatic elevations in a constantly changing sculpture park delivers a world-class experience!

TIP: the-hills-club-house

After golf, sample award-winning Central Otago wines in New Zealand´s  most scenic wine area, also known as the home of the Pinot Noir;  or stroll through the picturesque historic gold-mining village Arrowtown (just around the corner), which dates back to the heady days of the Otago gold rush. It´s a foodie´s heaven with a legendary dining out scene. Don´t miss out on it.

 

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Elite Golf Experiences wins prestigious awards for United States Best Inbound & Outbound Operator

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World Golf Awards serve to acknowledge and celebrate excellence in golf tourism, world class courses and golf destinations and we are blessed to have been chosen by fellow professionals and clients across the globe for these two prestigious awards.

According to World Golf Awards Managing Director Christopher Frost, the third installment of the World Golf Awards has been the most successful to date, welcoming industry leaders to the Algarve for a weekend of golf, networking opportunities and the fabulous Gala Ceremony. “It has been an honor to recognize so many world-class organizations here this evening and I offer my sincere congratulations to all our winners.” said Chris who did an awesome job throughout the event.

Hundreds of thousands of ballots were cast ahead of the Gala Ceremony, which was hosted by the Conrad Algarve – the destination´s most luxurious hotel, managed by fellow Austrian Joachim Hartl.

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I was thrilled to accept these two reputable awards for United States Best Inbound & Outbound Operator in behalf of Elite Golf Experiences and I am very proud of my team for these accomplishments. We are passionate about providing highly unique golf & lifestyle experiences and epic adventures that can not be found anyplace else in the market place. In addition, we have been thriving to deliver quality at the highest level. Getting this recognition for my team is awesome as it also proves our approach and strategy to be the right one. Besides, it fuels our passion & drive to exceed our customers´expectations even more so!

Sir Nick Faldo was leading the winners and taking the prestigious title of Golf Course Designer of the Year. England’s The Belfry was celebrating its award for Europe’s Best Golf Hotel, while Quinta do Lago took the title of Europe’s Best Golf Venue. St Andrews Links – Old Course was also among the winners, successfully defending the titles of Europe’s Best Golf Course and World’s Best Golf Course, which it won in 2015. Ba Na Hills GC, designed by Luke Donald and managed by IMG, was voted Best New Golf Course in Asia Pacific. At the same time golf trainer David Leadbetter was recognized with the World Golf Awards Lifetime Achievement Award 2016. Awesome to be named together with these high-profile names and premium brands in golf.

Once again thank you so much for your votes! See you all at one of the upcoming PGA TOUR events – Majors, Presidents Cup, Players Championship – at one of our unique escorted epic adventures to New Zealand, Austria, South Africa, China or Vietnam or at one of the annual golf shows and golf travel conventions! And don´t forget – hit it straight and keep it in the short grass!

 


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Los Cabos – Mexico´s undisputed golf capital

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Set back from the shoreline’s beaches and sparkling waters are 14 exquisite layouts built by luminaries such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and Davies Love III. With two courses on GOLF Magazine’s “Top 100 in the World” list and four of the top five courses in Mexico as ranked by Golf Digest, Los Cabos is considered the golf capital of Mexico.

I had the pleasure to meet Esteban Toledo, a multiple winner on the PGA Champions Tour and the official golf ambassador for the Los Cabos Tourism Board, at my last visit to Los Cabos. Attending Toledo´s golf clinic was fantastic but actually playing a few holes with the Mexican celebrity and Champions TOUR star – Toledo won the Champions Tour event at Pebble Beach in 2015 – was an unforgettable experience.

Toledo knows Cabo’s fantastic array of courses better than anybody else. He has played them all and raves about the beauty, challenge and variety of these world-class courses, which is second to none.

In an interview with my good friend Brian McCallen, former Senior Editor of GOLF Magazin, Toledo was asked to pick his favorite holes in Los Cabos and came up with a scintillating front nine. Comprised of three par 3’s, three par 4’s and three 5’s, each hole showcasing Cabo’s unique mountain-desert-ocean ecosystem.

“Not only does each hole present a compelling challenge, but taken together, I can’t think of a more scenic collection of golf holes anywhere in the world,” Toledo said. Yardages are listed from the back (championship) markers, though each hole has multiple sets of forward tees that give handicap players an appropriate test—and a fighting chance.

#1: Cabo del Sol (Ocean Course – No. 17) – Par 3 – 178 yards
One of the most dazzling par 3’s in the world. From the back set of markers, tee shots are played over a sandy cove to a perched green set atop a granite shelf fronted by scalloped bunkers, with the ocean crashing into the rocks on the right. The green is sizable but exposed to onshore breezes.

#2: Quivira No. 13 – Par 3 – 148 yards
A truly spectacular par 3. The tiny green at this breathtaking short hole crowns a massive pinnacle of granite that rises 150 feet from the foaming surf. There is a bail-out area to the left of the putting surface, but this hole requires a solid short-iron shot over a gaping abyss to the smallest target on the course.

#3: Puerto Los Cabos (Marina – No. 15) – Par 3 – 216 yards
Set on a bluff directly above the Sea of Cortes, this solid par 3 on the Marina Course at Puerto Los Cabos is one of the toughest one-shotters in town from the back tees. The subtly contoured green, flanked by bunkers, is half-hidden among the windswept dunes and can be very elusive.

#4: Palmilla (Mountain – No. 5) – Par 4 – 401 yards
From a hilltop platform, the tee shot at this dramatic par 4 is a forced carry over a deep arroyo to a long, sinuous fairway that looks like a green island floating in the blue sky. The approach shot is played to a sunken green fronted by a dry river bed and defended by a pair of deep sand pits. It’s the No. 1 handicap hole, and deserves to be.

#5: Cabo del Sol (Desert – No. 18) – Par 4 – 427 yards
At this picturesque closing hole, with the Sea of Cortes on the horizon, a meandering creek tumbles along the left side of fairway before crossing in front of the putting surface and spilling into a lake that guards the right side of the green. Based on pin placement, the large, undulating green can be very tricky.

#6: Cabo Real – No. 14 – Par 4 – 454 yards
With a fairway that tiptoes along the rim of a steep canyon and a green set beside a precipice at the layout’s highest point (460 feet above sea level), this challenging par 4, like most of the holes on Cabo Real’s back nine, is chiseled into desert foothills below rugged mountain peaks. A very firm test.

#7: Club Campestre – No. 7 – Par 5 – 541 yards
Tumbling down rolling foothills in the Sierra del la Laguna Mountains, Campestre’s signature hole is the risk-reward par 5 seventh, a Z-shaped double-dogleg that plays to a well-bunkered peninsula green that juts into a pond. This hole can be played boldly or conservatively but never easily.

#8: Cabo San Lucas CC – No. 7 – Par 5 – 610 yards
This club’s parkland-style layout, the only golf course in Los Cabos with a view of the iconic sea arch at Land’s End, boasts the double-dogleg par-5 seventh, which swings around a lake and stretches to 610 yards from the back tees. It ranks among the longest and most challenging holes in all of Mexico.

#9: Diamante (Dunes – No. 17) – Par 5 – 588 yards
This sturdy par 5 is a true three-shot hole that heads inland from the sea and usually plays downwind. Players must hit their tee shots over a broad arroyo to find a preferred landing area. An accurate lay-up is followed by a lofted approach shot to a shelf-like green perched 50 feet above the fairway.

If you have not had the chance to experience any of Cabo´s magnificent courses yet, put this awesome destination on your bucket list. You will surely be impressed by the quality and diversity of these golf experiences on offer at the tip of the southern Baja California Peninsula.


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Sweet treats in Austria – hard to resist!

Apfelstrudel

The world of Austrian desserts hardly needs any introduction. It has a long history and tradition of making some of the finest desserts in the world. No matter whether you cherish these sweet delicacies in a cozy Austrian coffee house or at your home, you will fall in love with these pastries and Torten (locally known as Mehlspeise).

These are my favorite treats (Part 1):

Number 1:  Apfelstrudel

Apfelstrudel

Apfelstrudel with Vanille sauce and ice cream – it doesn´t get any better!

Austrians love Strudel – either filled with a sweet or savory filling. The Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) is said to have become the Austrian classic after the victory of Vienna by the Turks. The traditional strudel is a pulled one, but today it is usually made from the same puff pastry that is used in Turkish baklava.

Apfelstrudel is best eaten warm, with vanilla sauce or lashings of whipped cream and a frothy Melange coffee. For the real treat, add a scoop of ice cream!

My mom used to make apple strudel from the original strudel dough, skillfully pulling and extending the dough until it was so thin that you could read the paper through it. It covered the entire kitchen table, with the thicker edges hanging over the table’s edges, before being cut.

Tip: As an alternative to the classic Apfelstrudel, ask for a warm Topfenstrudel, when in Austria next time. “Topfen” is similar to cream cheese but can´t be found anywhere in the US. It´s delicious and you may even prefer it to Apfelstrudel – I do.

Number 2: Kaiserschmarrn (translates as “emperor´s mess)

Kaisserschmarn

Kaiserschmarrn tastes best with craneberry sauce

There are many stories about the origin of this classic sweet, which is often eaten as a main dish. But one says that this dessert was first served to Emperor Franz Joseph I around the turn of the century. The basic ingredients and dough are quite similar to those of pancake but it is enriched with additional eggs and raisins. Be careful not to overcook it, otherwise it will dry out. It is either served as a dessert or main dish.

 

Tip: Add some rum and flambé it. Then sprinkle powdered sugar and serve with home-made apple puree or cranberry sauce. Pair it with a hot cup of coffee for the ultimate in sweet, cozy comfort food.

Number 3:  Sachertorte

Sacher Torte

Sacher Torte – the most famous cake in the world!

Like many historic stories the Sacher-Torte was conceived through serendipity when Prince Metternich was hosting a dinner party in 1832. The chef was ill and apprentice Franz Sacher had to bake a dessert. The guests loved the cake so much that the Sachertorte was born. Since then the Sachertorte – a dense but delectable chocolate cake made with a thin layer of apricot jam and a rich chocolate glaze – has been arguably the most famous cake in the world. The original recipe remains a well-kept secret though.

When in Austria, you can´t leave without having tasted a piece of this famous “Torte,” It is mostly served and enjoyed with a generous dollop of unsweetened whipped cream (to balance sweetness!!). A single conservative slice will set you back 450 calories but trust me; every bite is worth it!

The original version can only be ordered at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna and Salzburg as well as at the Café Sacher Innsbruck and Café Sacher Graz.

Tip: Order it online in a gift box and wow a dear friend!

Number 4:  Salzburger Nockerln – an icon of Austrian cuisine

Salzburger Nockerl

Salzburger Nockerln – sweet as love

This fluffy iconic dessert may remind you of snow-capped mountains right away.

Created in the 17th century by Salome Alt, the mistress of the archbishop of Salzburg, this Baked Vanilla Soufflé is formed into three mounds (nockerln) to look like the three hills that surround the city of Salzburg (Mönchsberg, Kapuzinerberg and Gaisberg.

This fluffy dessert has become such an icon of Austrian cuisine that Fred Raymond even composed an operetta in 1938 called Saison in Salzburg – Salzburger Nockerln (Season in Salzburg – Salzburger Nockerln). In this composition the sweet dumplings are praised as “Süß wie die Liebe und zart wie ein Kuss” (Sweet as love and tender as a kiss). Salzburger Nockerl can mainly be found in Salzburg, as its name implies.

Tip: It requires some practice to make this culinary specialty at home but give it a try – it doesn´t take long and you will make a home-run with it.

Number 5:  Linzer Torte

Linzer Torte

Linzer Torte – arguably the oldest cake in the world!

The Linzer Torte is considered to be the oldest cake in the world – dating back to the 16th century. Its base is a short crust pastry made with ground nuts, filled with red currant or plum jam and with a decorative dough lattice pattern on top. The name of the person who first recorded the recipe is unknown but the ingredients can be traced back to a 350-year-old cook book and are still used today when making the Original Linzer Torte.

Tip: You may also want to try a similar cookie version, called “Linzer Radl” or “Linzer Auge”. These delicacies were traditionally served at Christmas only, but can be found in most Austrian bakeries nowadays.

Filled with history, folklore, and sugar, you can’t go wrong when you taste a piece of these heavenly pleasures in one of the cozy traditional coffee houses in Austria. It may not be good for your waistline but that´s a different story!

Stay tuned for more in Part 2 of “Sweet treats in Austria”

 


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Sage Valley – rivaling Augusta National GC?

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You want to play Augusta National but have been denied? Then you´d better take action. That is exactly what business man Weldon Wyatt did when his Augusta National membership application was rejected – at least that´s what rumor says.

Weldon Wyatt, who has made a fortune as the nation’s leading developer of Walmart stores, set out to create his own personal playground just a few miles away. “Bigger, better and more beautiful than the iconic Augusta National” that was his dream. The business tycoon asked Augusta National stalwart Jack Stephens, whom he would recommend to design his course. Tom Fazio, one of the luminaries of golf course architecture, was on the top of the list. Fazio likes to leave everything as natural as he can and has the ability to move things around, making everything look natural. In addition, no living designer has more credits on Golf Digest‘s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses and Golfweek’s collection of America’s Best than Fazio.

If playing beautifully designed Sage Valley is unforgettable, so, too, was Wyatt’s first shot off the tee. The course that looks and feels much like Augusta National was opened on September 11, 2011 – despite of the national emergency caused by the terror attacks.

Sage Valley´s attention to professionalism, detail and service is second to none and you can feel Wyatt´s passion to strive for the ultimate experience in golf everywhere on-property. Even the maintenance people stop and wave. Perfectly manicured fairways, a drainage system under the undulated greens and thousands of colorful azaleas and dogwood trees add to the experience. The Caddies in white jumpsuits are perfectly trained and certainly enhance the golfing pleasure. Club employees caucus twice a week to discuss ways to improve your time even more.

“The thing that makes Sage different, I believe, is the way Sage treats people when they’re here. And we hear that consistently. It’s making them feel at home. The caddies here are different. The caddy program here, I’d put up against any place in the world.” Wyatt was quoted in the Augusta Magazine.

“From the moment you pull through the gates, until you leave, you feel like you have died and gone to golf course heaven, not to mention that the food is free at the half-way house, playing golf really doesn’t get any better than Sage Valley” raves Aaron Carson, a discriminating golfer who had the chance to play this ultra-exclusive course.

It is kind of unique to have two high-caliber golf courses just within 15 minutes of each other and people in Augusta have certainly drawn comparisons between Augusta National and Sage Valley. But even though the latter one provides an ultra-exclusive golfing experience and has hosted the planet’s most recognized celebrities, athletes and world leaders, it can and never will rival its famous neighboring course built by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie 83 years ago. You simply cannot replace historic value and mystique.

If you, however, should ever get the opportunity to tee-it up at Sage Valley, don´t miss it!


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Top 5 Reasons Why The 6th International PLAYERS Week should be on your bucket list

EPE logoNot surprising that FFCG has earned the recognition as the Sunshine State´s prime golf destination. A wide variety of accommodations will suit your taste, your budget and your style. Easily accessible, a fabulous climate with plenty of sunshine and with lots to do and to discover in addition to golf, this diverse destination is well worth visiting any time of the year. There is, however, one unique week in May that should be on the bucket list of every golfer – The International PLAYERS Week.

And here is why:

Reason #1: UNPARALLELED FAN EXPERIENCE at THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP at TPC SAWGRASS

THE PLAYERS Championship at famed TPC Sawgrass, recognized as the “5th MAJOR” , boasts not only the strongest field but also the biggest purse on the PGA TOUR. Walk the course with Tiger, Rory, Sergio & Martin and cheer for your favorite player on TOUR in the game’s greatest stadium. There is no other tournament on the PGA TOUR where you can get that close to the stars.

PLAYERS Championship

Watching the best players in the world challenge the famed island green at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most exciting experiences ever!

TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach is also home to the most famous hole in golf. Although just 137 yards long, approximately 11% of all balls are lost in the water surrounding this notorious hole during the PLAYERS Championship. According to PGATour.com, Lefty has plunked seven in the drink surrounding the peninsula green, while Tiger has only rinsed a measly three since 2003. Witness and experience this kind of drama in person at the most-photographed hole in the world, guaranteeing life-lasting memories.

Did you know that The PLAYERS Championship was ranked as the #1 tournament on the PGA TOUR calendar in 2015? In the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season, an unbelievable number of 47!! Tournaments were played in 50 weeks. The Players Championship turned out to be the #1 tournament of the season – followed by The US Open and The Masters Tournament.

According to CBS Sports Network, it truly checked all the boxes: Great winner! Thrilling play-off! Shot of the year! Unbelievable theater!

Reason #2: GOLF ON DIVERSE GOLF COURSES, SPICED WITH SEVERAL HIGHLIGHTS – ALL WITHIN AN EASY DRIVE!

The 75-mile stretch of FFCG beautiful coast line boasts more than 1000 superb golf holes and unlimited opportunities for the golf traveler. But quantity doesn’t come at the expense of quality. The game’s rich history and impressive golf course developments provide an abundant selection of outstanding layouts in different terrain. Playing partners from all around the world will add to the uniqueness of this week. Tee-it up on top-ranked courses including King & Bear GC, the world´s only Nicklaus& Palmer co-designed golf course! And if you have not surfed a golf course on a golf board yet, you will have a chance to do so during this week at St. Johns Country Club!

Group Photo

Part of the group participating in the 2015 Tournament – Argentina, Austria, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland and USA

Reason #3: THE PLAYERS AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP, RAPIDLY BECOMING FLORIDA´s #1 ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL GOLF TOURNAMENT!

THE 6th International PLAYERS Championship powered by Florida´s Firs Coast of Golf is traditionally run at King & Bear Golf Club on the last day of the week. Who will be crowned THE PLAYERS Amateur Champion 2016?

“We are expecting a record field in 2016. ”Tour operators have signed up their clients from as far as New Zealand again” says Paul Clare, CEO of Elite Golf Experiences®, who has been successfully running this multi-national PLAYERS week since 2011.

German and NZ Ladies signing flags

Ladies from Australia, New Zealand, Germany & Switzerland

The number of female golfers attending the tournament has been increasing over the last couple of years! “I have sent several groups and numerous repeat clients to this special week and everybody has always had a fantastic time” compliments Fernando Copete, General Manager Astro Tours Colombia, who has escorted groups from year 1.

Fun golf challenges and exciting Hole-In-One contests including a VIP trip for two people to The Masters

Ladies from Colombia

Ladies from Colombia

Tournament in Augusta, valued at $ 15,000.00 as well as the multi-national ambiance will add to your golfing pleasures. Having fun with old and new friends from all around the world has always been the key element of this special day.

Reason #4: DIVERSE ATTRACTIONS IN ADDITION TO GOLF

The stretch from Jacksonville to St. Augustine boasts numerous attractions. Learn more about the legends of golf through the world-renowned World Golf Hall of Fame! Step-back in time in America´s oldest city St. Augustine and discover its rich history. Experience Jacksonville´s vibrant nightlife! Shop till you drop – from artisan-crafted creations in unique shops in the historic district to the latest designer clothes at the outlet malls. A shopping excursion in this sensational shopping paradise will lead you to discover numerous treasures! Beautiful sandy beaches invite for relaxation after your round of golf, a wide range of excellent restaurant options will send your taste buds to nirvana. You’re spoilt for choice!

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World Golf Hall of Fame

In this unique International PLAYERS Week, everything can be perfectly combined and coordinated with your golf program. Besides your accompanying non-golfing partner will never have a dull moment either! Attend the private guided Tours to the World Golf Hall of Fame and St. Augustine! Take advantage of discount coupons for the Outlet Malls.

Reason #5:   INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS WEEK IS AFFORDABLE!

Golf at its Finest, Wow! Experiences and Life at its Best – all at a keen deal! “Value for money” is definitely one of the most overused terms in today´s world but it is certainly true for this week. In these rough times, you want to get more for your bucks, don´t you?

PLAYERS-2014--Argentinian-visitors-1Book this unbelievable International PLAYERS Week Experience for less than the price of one Masters Badge!

Interested in more detailed info on this year´s 6th INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS Championship WEEK – spiced with more highlights than ever before; May 11-18, 2016 in Florida?

Excited to experience the crown jewel of the PGA TOUR at TPC Sawgrass – live?

Ready to enjoy Golf at its Finest, Wow! Experiences and Life at its Best at Florida´s First Coast of Golf – all at a keen deal!

Experience the excitement; enjoy memories for a life-time!

www.ElitePlayersExperience.com


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Spotlight on Amazing Thailand – Top 9 reasons why this exotic tropical escape wows discriminating international golfers

Thailand golfNine, or gao in the Thai language, is considered a lucky number in Thailand, which is also auspicious for golfers, since nine holes constitute half a round.

Thailand has jumped on the golfing bandwagon and is one of the fastest-growing participation sports in the kingdom, with many young people, men and women taking up the game. Thailand has also gained a notable reputation as an international golf destination through its determined pitch to match golf in popularity with everything else for which the country is internationally famous. Therefore – with the kingdom’s inbound golf tourism growing at double digit levels for the past five years, Thailand now welcomes more than 750,000 golfers annually; only Spain and the United States receive more foreign golf travelers.

Despite the heavy flow of tourism, Thailand retains its quintessential identity with its own unique culture and history (Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that has never been colonized) and carefree people famed for their smiles.Thai elephant

Although traveling to Thailand is commonplace for Europeans and Australians, the majority of North Americans still consider it too far away and maybe even too exotic to visit. That’s a shame, because if you can get past the 14+ hours on a plane, Thailand is an incredibly amazing and diverse destination: from the bustling and booming capital of Bangkok to the charming mountainous countryside of Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai); from the stunning beaches in Phuket and Koh Samui to the bright lights and thrilling nightlife of Pattaya; from the quieter seaside town of Hua Hin to the waterfalls and stunning tropical scenery of Khao Yai, this country has it all. Since it is easy and comparably inexpensive to get around the golf traveler can easily enjoy all the areas in a multi-regional experiential golf program.

Chiang Mai Thailand, 3 girls - C. WitkoverMark Siegel, the owner of Golfasian – a leading inbound golf tourism company based in Bangkok – knows that there is no single reason for the attractiveness of Thailand as a golf destination. “It’s a combination of many factors, led by the friendliness of the Thai people,” he explains. “Parents in Thailand teach their children to be warm and friendly and this comes through wherever you go in the kingdom and especially when playing golf. People go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome. “There are destinations with more golf courses, even with better golf. You can play more cheaply in other countries, too. But nowhere matches Thailand’s overall appeal as a destination to play golf and enjoy everything the kingdom has to offer.”

Reason #1: Vast choice of golf courses and an abundance of golf experiences – a true golfing paradise.

Red Mountain GCThailand´s golfing heritage only dates back to 1927 when King Vajiravudh The Great became interested in golf and agreed to the construction of the Royal Huan Hin Golf Course. Today, Thailand boasts more than 250 distinct courses, with an excellent selection in all seven leading tourism destinations: Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai, Khao Yai, Kho Samui and Kanchanaburi. The natural beauty of the landscape and its incredible terrain form the basis of Thailand´s dazzling courses. You can choose between ravishing mountain and stunning ocean golf, between golf in rustic rural settings or close to bustling cities with plenty of after-golf entertainment. There is definitely something for everyone in this deliciously exciting country.

For more competitive spirits and golf tournament aficionados, a series of amateur weeks is held throughout the kingdom each year. These tournaments provide a unique opportunity for players from all around the world to meet, mix, play golf together and become friends. This June, the inaugural Centara World Masters is being played in Hua Hin, welcoming almost 500 amateur golfers from 20 countries and modeled on the highly successful Mitsubishi World Masters, which has been played for the past 18 years on the Gold Coast, Australia.

Reason #2: Accessibility – Thailand is one of Asia´s international hubs and provides modern infrastructure.

Thailand is ideally located for visitors from all over the world. It is approximately midway between Australia and Europe, within two hours’ flight from most cities in south-east Asia and 4-5 hours’ flight from North Asia. Chiang Mai Luxury HotelsMoreover, visitors can fly internationally direct to Phuket and Chiang Mai or secure excellent connections to other destinations from Bangkok’s modern Suvarnabhumi airport. The national carrier Thai Airways, widely recognized as one of the top airlines in the world, flies four times a week from Los Angeles to Bangkok. Best of all, visas are a snap and are issued on arrival for a tourism visit of less than 30 days, so you simply need a passport. Once in Thailand, no problem using your Visa and MasterCard throughout the more touristic areas and golf courses. And there are many ATMs that will allow you to use your American or European bankcard for withdrawing money. Thailand provides modern financial infrastructure in most of its tourist areas and golf destinations.

Reason #3: Affordability – the dollar goes a long way in Thailand.

Although the cost of playing golf in Thailand has risen in recent years, the overall expense for a golf holiday remains considerably lower than in numerous competing destinations.

Chiang Mai HotelNo matter where you are in Thailand, you’ll find an impressive spectrum of accommodation and services at incredible prices. In fact, even the majority of international five-star brand hotels are well priced, especially in Bangkok, which has one of the best selections of four and five-star hotels at reasonable rates. Getting around in taxis (or the Skytrain in Bangkok) is simple and inexpensive, too. Less than $US200/day will buy golf, accommodation and transfers in most of Thailand´s locations.

Stay in luxurious but still affordable retreats, play some fantastic golf for moderate green fees and enjoy a great meal without the bitter aftertaste of an unreasonable bill. A traditional pampering Thai massage guarantees relief of tension and gets you back in shape for the next day´s round of golf for as little as 10 dollars an hour.

Luxury truly comes at an incredibly low price and “value for money” is not just a worn out expression in this country – check it out!

Reason #4: Fabulous climate and plenty of sunshine for year-round golf.

Thailand has a tropical climate that is conducive to highly enjoyable golf at any time of year. The high season, from December to March, is the coolest time of year, but it is also the busiest and most expensive and courses can be crowded, especially in the more populated areas. Average temperatures during this time of the year range between 62° – 96° Fahrenheit with clear skies and light breezes.

The low (and green) season, from June through October, is less crowded and less expensive. While there may be rain during this period, it usually is brief and rarely prevents golf being played for a full day. Indeed, Hua Hin – the home of two of Thailand’s most popular courses – hasn’t lost a day of golf to rain in the past five years.

Floating Market Damnoen SaduakMost rain falls during the green season from June to September. While intermittent showers or thunderstorms occur at various times of the day, it is perhaps the driest rainy period of any country in Southeast Asia with plenty of sunshine. It is possible to golf practically every day as rain showers tend to be brief and courses dry quickly.

Reason #5: An array of diverse experiences in addition and after golf, a paradise for golfers and accompanying non-golfing partners alike.

Very few countries offer as much after-golf fun as Thailand. Wherever you go in the kingdom there is a plentiful supply of restaurants, abundant bars and fun-places to meet people. Any day of the week you will find ample opportunity to go out and mix freely with locals and other foreigners alike. “You are welcome” is a common expression that is offered sincerely in places where tourists gather to enjoy themselves. Whether you are on the beach or in one of Thailand’s cities, you won’t be far from Koh Samui Beachthe bars and nightclubs that have made the country famous. Don’t worry, it’s not all go-go bars and scantily clad women! There are plenty of discos, nightclubs and regular bars, too. I specifically love zipping a sunset cocktail on one of Bangkok´s amazing rooftop bars after an enjoyable day on the golf course, and I am sure that you will too.

Thailand is packed with unbelievable beaches – from nearly deserted postcard shots to some of the biggest party scenes on the planet, Thailand’s beaches and islands such as Phuket and Koh Samui are a main draw to the country. White sandy beaches – many are fringed by clichéd swaying palm trees and dramatic limestone cliffs – complement aquamarine waters; perfect to chillax after an exhausting round of golf.

Shopping in ThailandShopping is divine. In Thailand, you can shop for textiles in weekend markets, or have a silk suit or costume tailor made within 48 hours. Knock-off designer wallets and fake sunglasses are available anywhere, and some markets carry anything from quirky stuff to shoes and art. Thailand is a shopping mecca – you’re only limited by your time and budget.

Adventure tourism is awesome and versatile. Fancy riding an elephant or trekking in the lush rainforest for a day? What about visiting indigenous hill tribe villages in the mountains or the world-renowned Bridge over the River Kwai, where you discover the savage history of World War II.

When in Thailand, you can do it all and there is certainly something for everyone that stimulates all senses in addition to golf.You will never have to spend a dull moment but will be spoilt for choice. Life at its best, guaranteed!

Reason #6: Caddies – Thailand´s caddies are the country’s secret golf weapon.

These unique caddies give the Thailand golf experience a definite leg up as they provide an element to golf enjoyment not evident anywhere else in the world. Come rain or shine they read the greens, line up putts, help with club selections, hold your umbrella and if you are lucky they even give your shoulders a quick massage too. Take the advice of your caddie over your own judgment – they are almost always right, trust me!

They are all well trained and serious about their job, but they also ensure golfers have fun. Most are proficient in English and, occasionally, even other languages. Smart thinking General Managers encourage them to play on Monday’s or late in the evening, as it improves their knowledge and understanding of their course and the game overall. Taking this a step further they now hold a series of Caddie Championships in various regions around Thailand sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Singha. The hunt is on to find Thailand’s and Asia´s best lady caddy golfer.

Reason #7: Rich cultural experience and notoriously friendly people.

Thailand is a unique country with its own identity unrivaled in any other part of Asia. As a predominantly Buddhist country, it is steeped in amazing, intriguing and colorful culture, unlikely to be found anywhere else: Grand Palais, Bangkok, Thaïlandefrom the medieval temples of Chiang Mai to the royal palaces of Bangkok, from meditating with Thai monks to visiting hill tribes in northern Thailand, Thailand offers a million opportunities to discover a new culture and get outside your comfort zone.

The Land of smiles – It’s a cliché, but it´s true. A strong Buddhist philosophy means that people are kind and gentle and exude a positive, optimistic attitude. In everyday life in Thailand, there is a strong emphasis on the concept of sanuk, which generally translates to fun. The Thais’ natural warmth shines through and the people invariably smile when they greet you, leading to Thailand being widely known as The Land of Smiles. You will feel very welcomed every single second of your trip.

Are you ready to explore the most treasured historical sites or spend time with Thailand´s amazing people on your free golf day? Make sure to bring an extra chip, as all these unique experiences will vie for memory card space on your camera.

Reason #8: Safety

Thailand is a safe country to visit, with little crime. Visitors rarely encounter safety issues in going about their daily activities. If you are sensible and exercise normal precautions, you should never encounter problems in Thailand. Indeed, even during political protests earlier this year there was never any adverse impact on tourism.

Reason #9: Sumptuous Thai food – your taste buds are in for a holiday of their own.

Thai foodThai cuisine – as exotic as it is – needs no introduction as it may even be Thailand’s most well-known export. Few will argue that Thai food is delicious! But if you’ve only been exposed to it at Thai restaurants back home, you’re in for a surprise as the food is considerably tastier in Thailand because of its variety. You’ll easily find favorites such as pad thai and stir fry but you’ll also find a rainbow of curries and an amazing selection of salads, noodles and snacks to sample from. The combination of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavors is what makes Thai cuisine so distinct and nowhere is it more noticeable than in the Thai national dishes. A true Thai green curry on a paste of freshly pounded herbs and spices or an authentic tom yam soup, will blow most people’s minds. And don´t forget, Thai chefs are extremely talented in appropriating foreign dishes and making them their own – such as a typical noodle dish.

Non-golfers may even want to opt for a cooking course to bring the goodness home.

Are you up for a life-changing experience? Put Thailand on your short term Bucket List; your golf vacation to this amazing destination promises to leave a bagful of unique memories behind.

For more fantastic programs visit www.golfasian.com, Thailand´s leading inbound golf tour operator.