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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.


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Why Stunning South Africa Should be on Your Bucket List

Extreme 19Almost two decades removed from apartheid and South Africa has taken up the place it deserves as one of Africa’s top tourist destinations. In fact, South Africa and Cape Town continue to win major travel awards. Travel critics and golf tour operators have been heaping on the awards for South Africa and Cape Town as two of the world’s best travel destinations. These are just a few examples:

  • In 2014, South Africa, Garden Route was awarded as the Destination of the Year in African, Indian Ocean & Gulf States by the Global Golf Tourism Organization IAGTO.
  • In 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 Cape Town was ranked as one of the world’s top-ten best cities to visit in Travel & Leisure’s “World’s Best Cities” List.
  • Cape Town won the 2009 “Best Travel Destination in Africa and the Middle East” from Travel & Leisure for the eighth year running.
  • Cape Town was ranked number 5 on its “Top 50 Places to See Before You Die” List by BBC

Compelling reasons WHY: pinnacle point

Reason #1:  World-wide recognition as a golfing mecca!
Phenomenal golf courses provide a huge variety of golf experiences in diverse breath-taking scenery. South Africa has jumped on the golfing bandwagon, and boasts some of the world’s finest courses. The game’s rich history and impressive new golf course developments provide an abundant selection of outstanding layouts, all different in design and geographical location. The natural beauty of the landscape including 3000 km of breathtaking coastline, its legendary scenic wonders, and its incredible terrain form the basis of these diverse courses.

You will be carried away by the stunning views on spectacular cliff-top ocean courses! You will be surrounded and wowed by free roaming wildlife such as lions, giraffes and zebras in the Kruger National Park and you will be challenged at excellent beautifully manicured championship courses and unique golf holes such as the Extreme 19!

Reason #2:  Lots of unique diverse experiences in addition to golf and a paradise for accompanying non-golfing partners
Despite being the most modern African country, South Africa still offers many of the attractions that draw people to Africa. It is infused with vibrant culture and has the wild African bush at its back door. You will be fascinated by the rare mix of modern development, African culture, outdoor attractions, and untamed wildlife that you will find nowhere else in the world.

South Africa is recognized as the adventure capital of the world and with plenty of sunshine, mountains, sea and river and 130 Humpback whales Hermanusfantastic adventures to choose from, South Africans tend to treat their country like a massive playground: hike to the top of Table Mountain; watch the whales in Hermanus; paraglide over Cape Town’s beaches; take a walking safari in the Krüger or Tsitsikamma Elephant Park; tour through the Cape Winelands; explore the forest canopy in the Garden Route or sign up for a shark cage-dive in Capetown, an adrenaline-fueled experience of a lifetime. Everything can be perfectly combined and coordinated with your golf program, you will never have to spend a dull moment!

South Africa also offers a rich historical experience. Its remarkable modern history is perhaps best illustrated in a visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his incarceration alongside other political prisoners of the Apartheid Regime. Or witness firsthand the emergence of an extraordinary nation through township tours, cultural village and historical site visits.

World-class spa treatments offered in numerous hotels are the perfect treat after a busy day both for golfers and accompanying non-golfing partners alike. In South Africa you can experience the ultimate combination – you’re spoiled for choice, so pack it in!

Reason #3:
elephants playingAmazing Safaris – South Africa is one of the best places in the world for viewing African wildlife; both on and off the golf course
No trip to South Africa is complete without the most unique experience of a game drive. While a Big 5 safari experience can be found in almost any province in South Africa, the Kruger National Park in the Limpopo province is justifiably world famous.Prepare to be awed as you see a leopard Wildlife sabi sabidozing in the bough of a tree, spot a black rhino half-hidden in thick shrubs, find a pride of lions in the shade after a kill, or watch a large herd of elephants move soundlessly across the road – from semi-open 4WD vehicles, elephant backs and even on foot, accompanied by expert rangers. In addition to the Krüger Park, there is  a myriad of other fantastic game reserves and lodges throughout the country  (many of them are malaria free areas!!) boasting an incredible array of species that are sure to leave you in awe as well.

Going on a golfing safari in South Africa literally implies encountering wildlife on the greens. It is par for the course to see impala or zebra grazing the fairways, giraffes nibbling the trees, warthogs rooting about in the rough, and most eye-widening of all, crocodiles and hippos in water hazards! Don´t miss out on one of life’s great moments!

Reason #4:  Numerous accommodation options for all tastes, styles and budgets
Fancourt Golf ResortFrom international 5* brand  hotels, small luxury boutique hotels & inns, exclusive game lodges, tented safari camps, privately owned cozy guest houses, charming bed & breakfast properties in quaint coastal villages, you can stay anywhere and in any kind of environment. Whether you opt for Afro-chic, an international brand or authentic Africa, you will find a wide variety of accommodations to suit your taste, your budget and your style.

Reason #5:  Fabulous climate and plenty of sunshine for year-round golf
In general, South Africa is a very sunny country, with many areas experiencing over 300 sunny days per year, perfect for golf and any other outdoor activity. The Western Cape, where Cape Town is located, has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The interior of the country is generally temperate and the northeast region, where Johannesburg and Kruger National Park are located, has sun-drenched, hazy summers. This northeast region, much of which is subtropical, has mild winters with chilly mornings and warm afternoons. This is actually the best time of the year for viewing game since the grass is Stunning South Africastill low and water is concentrated in only a few places. The other is early monsoons – the birthing season in the bush, which starts to flush green after the first rains. Located in the southern hemisphere, South Africa´s seasons are opposite to those in the U.S. or Europe. Our autumn and winter months are the perfect time for playing golf and enjoying South Africa’s warm, summer sun.

Reason #6:   South Africa is affordable!
The currently extremely weak South African Rand is a compelling reason to visit this stunning destination NOW!

“Value for money” is definitely one of the most overused terms in today´s world but it is certainly true in South Africa. Stay in luxurious but still affordable places, play some fantastic golf for attractive green fee rates and enjoy a great meal and local vintage without the bitter aftertaste of an unreasonable bill. With the South African Rand so weak compared to the Dollar, Pound, and Euro it is a no brainer to plan your South African golf experience NOW! One dollar currently trades for about seven Rand and it usually hovers somewhere between six and seven Rand per Dollar. The Rand is even weaker in comparison to the British Pound (14 Rand per 1 Pound) and to the Euro (10 to 1). With such a strong currency conversion you can experience all the best that South Africa has to offer without spending as much as you would in another more expensive part of  the world. In these rough times, don´t you want to get more for your bucks?  Act Now!

Reason #7: World-class wines and delicious food will send your taste buds to nirvana
world class wineSpending time in the Winelands after a fantastic round of golf, exploring the beautiful wine estates, sampling award-winning wines in cool cellars and on vine-covered patios, and enjoying some of the world’s best cuisine in its sumptuous restaurants. The country´s culture of wine is renowned and dates back to the mid-1600s when Jan van Riebeeck produced South Africa’s first recorded wine in Constantia Valley. Today there are several wine routes scattered throughout the country, wine festivals, wine estates and wine tasting to tempt the connoisseur.

South Africa´s food culture is unique as well, showing an emerging emphasis on local, handmade and organically grown ingredients . As  its cuisine has a lot of outside influences from Europe, Asia and from colonialism times, you can taste a rich fusion of different flavors. In fact, you will find some of the tastiest meats in the world and venture outside of the typical beef and pork. Ostrich is found on many menus as is springbok and if you are lucky you might even get to enjoy Kudu. Life at its best, guaranteed!

Reason #8:  Friendly hospitable people and lots of smiling faces!

South Africa’s culture is a unique blend and melting pot of many fascinating people descending from African, Asian, and European groups forming one nation. From English speaking South Africans toSmiling face Afrikaans, Tswana, Zulu and Xhosa, the people are as diverse as the languages, and yet they all live in the same country, sometimes only a suburb apart. Archbishop Desmond Tutu best described South Africa when he called it “the Rainbow Nation.” The Rainbow Nation celebrates all its African and immigrant cultures and is known for its friendliness across the country. South Africans are very happy to meet new people and love to passionately recommend their favorite places and things to do. You will enjoy the friendliness of the people and the vibrant mix of African culture and Western sophistication.

Reason #9:  No language barriers and no communication problems for a hassle-free experience
Ann Sofie and Caddie
South Africa has eleven official languages, one of which is English. This language is spoken by nearly everybody. Therefore it is easy to do anything in this country from talking to a local, to ordering food in a restaurant, to asking somebody for directions.

An English speaking caddie adds to the experience on the golf course so that you can enjoy your time on the course just a little bit more.

Reason #10:  Excellent air access and modern infrastructure
With a growing number of direct international flight connections, it is easier than ever to get to South Africa. South Africa welcomes a steady flow of international airlines  and is becoming increasingly accessible to Africans, Europeans, Americans, Australian and Asians as more and more airlines offer direct flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg. The national carrier South African Airlines, having been recognized as Africa’s Best Airline during the Skytrax World Airline Awards for many years, has increased capacities and frequencies to developed destinations and opened more routes to emerging ones such as China, India and Brazil.SAA airlines

Do you know that you can travel from the east coast of the U.S. to South Africa in approximately 15 hours. Wake up for an early breakfast in New York and be in Cape Town in time for a late dinner. Best of all, no visa is required for American and most European citizens – you simply need a passport. Once in South Africa, you’ll find a network of modern national highways roads crossing big sky Karoo landscapes, winding through farmlands, nipping along coastlines and over magnificent mountain passes. South Africa is one of only two countries in Africa where self-drive is recommended– a fantastic option for independent golf travelers.

South Africa also provides modern financial infrastructure. No problem using your Visa and MasterCard throughout the country. There are many ATMs that will allow you to use your American or European bankcard for withdrawing money.

Are you ready to plan your ultimate golf holiday to South Africa?

Then take a look at these favorite golf tours and safaris for memorable and one of a kind experiences?

For more fantastic programs visit http://www.ascottours.co.za, South Africa´s leading dedicated golf tour operator since 1997 or contact                                                                                       Paul Clare at office@elitegolfexperiences.com for some unique group trips.