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.
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.
Mark 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.
Thailand´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. Moreover, 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.
No 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.
Most 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 the 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 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: from 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 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.