Singha Park, Khon Kaen, Thailand

Singha Park was to be the last proper course I played up here in Khon Kaen, and excuse me for the cliche but my word did I save the best till last. Again Sam (I still don’t know his surname) the true gent he has been, had let me join him and his friend Bryan (a fellow Leicester City supporter) in his weekly round of golf at Singha Park. At first impressions you knew this was going to be a bit more upmarket compared to the rest up here. You have a nice greeting by the caddies who take care of your clubs, then once you’ve parked the care a marshal chauffeurs you to the clubhouse. The clubhouse itself almost has a slightly quirky unfinished feel about it but very contemporary. The changing rooms are the best I’ve seen here in Thailand and the restaurant area has a formal room and a quite delightful outside bar with a more informal feel about it looking over the 9th green.

The view from the clubhouse onto the 9th green and the beautiful changing facilities.

The golf course from a gardening point of view is perfect, the grass is soft and lush, at no point on this course do you come across the horrible thick Bermuda grass that is quite common here in Thailand. The water features are all maintained well, the bunkers are plentiful and cut sharply to make it easy on the eye and the roll on the greens were easily on par with those of Royal Lakeview. The opening two holes have a slightly similar feel, two quite testing par 4’s with water down the side to the left for anyone that has a hooking problem. I started with two hooks so therefore started with two double bogeys, but my game and this course got better. The third a testing Par 5, the fairway had a lovely shape and you could either be left with a shot below or above you feet, following this par 5 was a reachable par 4 but fraught with some dangerously placed bunkers and a hit over water if you had the cheese for it, and the general flow continued to a beautiful looking but fairly simple par 3. The front 9 concluded with a quite lovely par 4 that heads you into the direction of this quite remarkable looking clubhouse, some would say its ugly but I for sure enjoyed the distinctive look of this clubhouse as you conclude the front 9.

The pristine 6th, the lovely 9th with the welcoming clubhouse and the beautiful water features that are dotted all the way around this course.

The back 9 didn’t disappoint either starting with a beautifully crafted but fairly short par 4 littered with bunkers so you really have to pick your position followed by my favourite hole on the course a nice par 5 with a dog leg left. The drive from the tee is very inviting almost easy but don’t be fooled as you can cut this hole a lot shorter if you go the “Tiger line” but from then on in its a very picky hole, if you can hit big then go for it but the fairway narrows to the green and either side of the green has a big slope down particular to the bottom left hand side and that is where you don’t want to be. The 12th to 16th are a beautiful selection of par 4s all very different in length and the 17th par 3 is beautiful, another one of my favourites with a lovely hit over water at about 150, not massively difficult but once again the gardening of this course is emphasised by how beautiful this par 3 is crafted. The finale is a grand old par 5 that doglegs left and right and as you stand on the tee for the first time you have no clue of where to hit, but as soon as you arrive over the brow at about 100 yards you can clearly see the green sat down tucked away near the waters edge with the stunning clubhouse perfectly sat behind, a big drive needed and like me a big hybrid over the water saw me through the green in two but very risky, but if you don’t go hard you might as well go home.

This course for me is one of the best I have played here in Thailand, it might lack the scenery and it actually might be quite easy, but as gold courses stand this probably was in the best condition I have seen a golf course here and if I am in the area again I will no doubt be calling Sam up for another round.

 

 

 

Si Bourirak (The Agriculture) Golf Club, Khon Kaen, Thailand.

As mentioned in previous blogs Sam the guy who had become my Khon Kaen golfing bezzie (I had probably forced this upon him) had took me under his wing and in the brief time I had left here he was gonna make sure I played all the courses around this lovely city, the ones worth playing anyway. Every Monday and Friday there were a lovely group of gentlemen who called themselves Issan Golf who met up at Si Bourirak also known as “The Agg”. Sam admittedly said it wasn’t the top notch course like Ubolratana Dam and no way near like the standard of Singha Park (yet to blog about) but he said it would be a nice relaxed round of golf at a local golf course with some good chilled out guys and that’s exactly what it was. As you drove into the car park of The Agg it had a similar feel to the underwhelming Sri Thani Forest in Udon Thani, the caddies all gathered in a mere shed the clubhouse was on open sided shack and the shop was also a less than overwhelming building. My first thoughts were “oh no not another Sri Thani Forest”, but first thoughts were to be quite deceiving. This course albeit  9 hole was full of charm, personality and funnily enough greens to die for, so much better than Dancoon, the only down side really were the horrific bunkers, and if only they smartened the bunkers up this little 9 holer would be quite the charmer.

The first hole was a fairly simple dogleg right over water quite uninspiring really if you hit a good drive you would have a very short chip into the green, but after the first this charming little 9 hole course really came to life, the second being a good testing long straight par 4 with a couple of trees down the left hand side of the fairway and if you were prone to a fade or slice you must be careful of the water to the right (for right handed golfers). Then for me came the most charming par 3 I had played in a long time, whether it was the rather ugly looking lake in front of the green, or the rickety bridge over to the green that looked as if anytime soon it could collapse there was something about this par 3 that you had to love. The green would be one of the hardest I have ever come to putt on, with a severe down slope back towards the water and especially second time round after the sun had baked this green it became a very testing par 3.

The quite uninspiring 1st hole, then the charms of this course came to life with the bridge to walk over to the par 3 3rd, the par 3 3rd green and the approach shot into the 2nd.

The fourth would then become a really testing but quite open par 5 with a selection of tall trees down the left hand side of the fairway that guides you to the green, after this you had to take a slight walk past the first tee, around the shop to the lovely quite short par 4 with plenty of traps including a tall yet narrow lovely looking tree that bears down on your tee shot, pick left or right of this tree, left for safety, right for the greedier golfer, if you go right beware of the water trap down to the right. The 6th again is a tricky yet shortish par 4 with a dog leg to the left and if you hit a good 200 yards you’d be at the corner of the dogleg with a mere 130 in. For me though the conclusion to this par 9 course is fantastic the 8th was a stunning quirky par 5, but you got to keep it straight, go left and you are not finding the ball and if you go right you’ll probably end up in some water, and perfectly positioned about 150 from the green is the tail of the water so you’ve either gotta be brave and clear it or if your game is a bit shorter be a wimp and and lay up. The 9th is the signature hole, although for me the 3rd is  ore interesting, like the third it had water to the front of the green, but this par 3 9th looked more man made and crafted to be nicer on the eye, which is probably the reason I preferred the more natural setting of the 3rd. It’s a bigger hit in and the green is generous in size. All I can say about this course (barring the bunkers) is if you are in the Khon Kaen area you must play this course, it costs about £10 and for me was the best course in terms of being so charmingly quirky, but if you want the picture perfect standard 18 hole courses you generally get here in Thailand don’t be expecting too much. If you also fancy joining some lovely guys here look up Issangolf.com and they will greet you with open arms.

The lovely approach shot into the 5th green par 4 and the testing par 5 8th.

Looking back from the large 9th green towards the tee box.

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Ubolratana Dam Golf Course, Khon Kaen, Thailand.

Well coming off the back of a great experience of playing at Dancoon Golf Club, golfing around the Khon Kaen area just got even better when I was introduced to the lovely Ubolratana Dam Golf Course. Again meeting some great guys here in Khon Kaen Province a friend of a friend called Trevor Edge had arranged for a guy called Sam to pick me up for a round of golf about 50km north west of Khon Kaen. Funnily enough as coincidences happen Sam picked me up and we had already met playing golf in Pattaya a mere 525km away and as it went on Sam became a good friend and we had arranged to play Dancoon, Singha Park, Si Borirak and Ubolratana together. Sam another great down to earth guy from Carlisle was reaping the weather and cultural benefits of becoming an expat here in Khon Kaen proceeded to tell me that he played every Monday, Wednesday and Friday switching between the 4 best courses up here in Khon Kaen (oh what a life). The drive from Khon Kaen city to Ubolratana Dam GC is about 45 minutes but if you want to add 20 minutes on your drive through Nam Phong National Park and along the side of the waters of Ubolratana then it’s definitely worth it, Sam being the gent he was took me this way and it was awesome, some of the best views I have come across here in Issan so far.

After arriving at the course to a more down to earth setting than that of the courses in the more touristic parts we got changed and proceeded to get on with the game. Fortunately I was lucky enough to be grouped with Trevor Edge, Trevor Sherman (the bloody nice Aussie guy from Pattaya who was up here visiting Trevor Edge)  and Sam. What a fourball, full of Thai stories and what was to be a completely relaxing round of golf. The first hole was a picture of beauty with the morning dew rising and two absolutely cracking big trees on the fairway and with the sun rising from behind the green on this particularly hole it was a picture of complete serenity. The hole itself was a really tough opening par 5 with water before the green so no chance of being close with the addition of the two trees on the fairway made it even more difficult.

The beautiful looking opening tee shot with the early morning dew.

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The rest of the course did not disappoint, with no two similar holes and so much more beautiful than Dancoon but with the beauty became the difficulty, as a big hitter I couldn’t get away with the wayward shot, anywhere of line meant you were in a hard place or behind tree life therefore a few times I became unstuck. To add to the beauty of this course there was also a lovely positioned Buddha statue in the hills that always cast an eye down on you.

Although again I must apologise for my awful photography you can understand the feeling you get with this beautiful looking Buddha watching your game.

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The front 9 slightly easier than the back followed up with a slightly simple hole 2 par 4 with a dog leg right hitting the second over the water onto a slightly raised green and then followed up by a 170 yard par 3. The highlight of the front 9 is the 6th par 3 although not difficult this is where you get the best view of the Buddha and adds to the tension as you try to hit your drive straight, and a good straight drive should leave you with a fairly simple 100 yard chip in.

The back 9 therefore starts with quite a simple dogleg left par 4 and like the caddies here they are very keen on just pulling the driver out for you on every hole and this is where I came unstuck flying the ball straight through the dogleg to leave me a difficult chip out of the rough to get near the green. Then comes your signature par 3 on the 14th although this course doesn’t posses the island green it does posses this par 3 with plenty of water in front of a very tricky uphill green. Once completing the par 3 14th you then have arguably one of the toughest finishes in golf I have come across here in Thailand, luckily I can hit a reasonable drive therefore getting the length needed on the long par 5 15th but most guys aim to get there in 4, similarly the 16th is a good par 5 although slightly shorter than that of the 15th, the 17th again a nice par 4 with water in front of the green, by this time the caddy was understanding I can hit quite big and sensibly made me play my hybrid to leave me a nice 100 yards into a difficult green. The 18th then becomes the hardest hole on the course it’s a long straight narrow fairway some guys happy to be on in 3 but the difficulty comes on the green with slopes that make you hate golf especially as by time you’ve reached this green the sun has baked it to its quickest, on in two I made a 6 hahah that’s golf for you.

The 14th par 3, 17th par 4 and another from the approach shot of the second.

Sri Thani Golf Forest, Udon Thani, Thailand.

So eventually after the awful experience of Victory Park I had managed to badger myself a game in Udon Thani province north east Thailand. Fortunately through the powers of Facebook I managed to get hold of a lovely chap called Gary Parks who arranged for someone to bring me some golf clubs. I got the taxi drive from my hotel to the golf course it took about 25minutes from the centre of Udon and it was a lovely drive around big lakes and proper Thai villages I immediately knew this was going to be a different experience to all the others I had. After being awake all night with what I might call Udon Thani Tom Tits (the sh*ts) and trouble with knowing if my stomach was ready to explode at any minute and on top of using a new set of golf clubs, and a seemingly nosey old chap from Birmingham constantly telling me where I was going wrong this was to be the biggest mental test in golf I had thrown myself into, but I was adamant I was gonna enjoy being in this rural setting. If you get the gist my golfing performance was horrific so let’s talk about the experience of the course.

Firstly you drive down the driveway to what can be described as a few wooden shacks and some scruffy looking caddies about  (this place doesn’t need caddies). The shop wasn’t open so Gary and the lads said it was ok to play and pay after so we continued ahead. The first tee was split by water and you couldn’t differentiate the fairway from the rough saying that you couldn’t differentiate the fairway from the rough over the whole course and with a good drive you’d only have a small wedge in to the greens that were very slow. Now from what I was used to playing here in Thailand I was bit underwhelming but I was going to enjoy the company of Scotty and Ari who were perfect playing partners especially when I couldn’t find the swing and I had to try and erase the other guy out of my head I’m not even gonna mention his name. My highlights from the course were the 4th par 4 that had a nice little dogleg on it and the par 5 6th that was the most difficult par 5 I had seen, it was long, it had a dog leg and if you were over the green by the smallest of margins your ball was gone into the water. My ball pitched on the green took the most horrific bounce never to be seen again, and with the fairways being as long as the rough you couldn’t really chip and run into any of these greens. Then I got to the 9th and realised it was only a 9 hole golf course so we played 9 twice. I can’t complain too much about this course with a green fee of just over a fiver and if I was living in this area I would certainly play it again for practicing purposes, but I would be damned paying for a caddy that did nothing. If you are in the area and you want a cheap round of golf then by no means go here, but like me if your looking for something more overwhelming then leave this one alone. I would like to mention though the wonderful Gary Parks who organised for me to join his wonderful group of men (apart from one) for a nice Monday morning sociable round, he is a true gent and I hope to see him in the future for a round.

The par 3 3rd. Tough par 3 especially from the blues, didn’t see any of the usual lads perform well on this.

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The opening hole, If it wasn’t for the green you wouldn’t know it was a golf course.

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Don’t be long into this green there is a lake the other side that beautiful looking tree makes it look like you have more room that you actually have. IMG_4404

 

Victory Park, NongKhai, Thailand.

This blog will be short and sweet due to the horrific experience I had here. Id come off the back of quite a bad week, firstly the agency I had been teaching for had refused to extend my visa because we only had 8 weeks left of term and they wanted me to work illegally so I basically told them to stick it, then I was in Bangkok and had to leave the country in hours so I had to get up to Laos quickly and get out of Thailand. I was pondering in Laos for a couple of days and thought Id get back to Bangkok on a 30 day tourist visa and head home. My plan was to cruise through Issan and try and play as much golf and tag along with as many hosts I could find on Facebook without my golf equipment I think this could turn out to be a bad idea but we will see how this fairs out.

So first stop was Nongkhai, fortunately I had a mate who lived in the province so decided to go and stay in his town on the Saturday and I had pre booked a round of golf for 10.00am the following morning. Stephen Foster from The White Rose in Thabo was an absolute hero, firstly he’d been very supportive in lending me some clubs and then he drove me to Victory Park a mere 30 minutes from his home. I arrived at the course to be abruptly told I couldn’t play for 3 hours because they had to look after the Korean clients. I was livid, with my little Thai knowledge and a few English obscenities thrown in I didn’t even get as much as an apology. I was pre warned about the customer service at this course from a bloke I had been drinking with the night before but this was outrageous, I mean for anyone, anywhere in the world to book a golfer and then not to keep to that time is obscene. These were £50 rounds of golf, and besides there were not many people even on the course. So basically if this blog put’s 4 people off playing this course I will be delighted anymore and I will be thrilled. Do not travel this far for a round of golf and expect a nice welcome. It was the most the worst customer service I had ever come across and I sincerely hope they lose more and more custom over the coming months and years.

Royal Golf and Country Club, Lat Krabang, Bangkok, Thailand.

Where do I start with this one? Well the travelling to Lat Krabang started at precisely 4.50pm after work on Friday a day before the round. This round came unexpected in body but long overdue in mind, I was desperate to play again, it had been a couple of weeks and anyone with the same passion knows this hobby grabs hold of you. Firstly I’ll explain my travel commitments to acheive the goal of playing this course. The Londoners had set up a Ryder Cup style game and Ray had agreed that I could join in so I was desperate for a social crack here. The match was in Lat Krabang, I was in Nakhon Pathom, not too far in terms of kilometers but it started with over a 2.5 hour mini van journey and I had to pay for two seats because of all the gear I was carrying to Mo Chit, Bangkok. From Mo Chit bus terminal to Mo Chit BTS was another 20 minutes on a motorbike taxi which was hell through Bangkok on a Friday evening with a set of clubs on your back and a backpack on your front. Then a packed BTS from Mo Chit to Phaya Thai, people did not look happy with me taking up space with the Pings overflowing and my over-protectiveness towards them. Then the airport rail link from Phaya Thai to Lat Krabang on an even busier train, not feeling as guilty with the amount of luggage I had as this was the airport link and a lot of people had luggage. The last leg of the journey was a 20 minute taxi drive from the airport link to my hotel for the night, a journey totalling 4 hours. Where else in the world would I be as desperate to put myself through that for a round of golf? Only here!

The following morning I made the short journey to Royal Golf and Country Club and by gosh the nightmare of the journey had already been forgotten. The clubhouse was lovely just not quite as majestic as Royal Lakeside, but the water features and scenery that looked upon this great mansion that split the 9th and 18th fairways were unreal.

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My fourball was great all 4 of us were unqualified to play in the Ryder Cup game so we just tagged along and had a really nice sociable round. Two Americans, Val and Paul, and an Aussie guy called Phil a great bunch I particularly got on well with Val and will probably meet him for a beer in the future. Right, enough of brown nosing and lets talk about the best course I’ve currently played in Thailand. Every hole was a test, almost perfect for a professional player to test thereself on, we started on the 10th and what a start it was, a particularly testing par 4 with water all the way down the right (glad I sorted the slice out) and bunkers all the way down the left, it was a slight dog leg to an inviting beautiful yet quick green, the only downside is the greens didn’t seem to be smooth they seemed rough but we were late on the course so it could have been foot traffic.

 

The beautiful 10th with the water down the right and the bunkers to the left a beautiful but testing start for us.

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The course just had this lovely continual feeling about it, I walked this course with ease and it was very relaxing. From the 10th came for me the easiest hole on the course a short par 5 and with open fairways and no doglegs it was a given par for the average golfer probably the most anti climatic hole on the course to be honest. The back nine had two of the best par 3’s I have ever played, the typical yet beautiful greens surrounded by water 13th and 17th the 13th in particularly was good looking and actually with a 150 yard shot in quite a formality for an amateur but the 17th was a different matter a 200 plus yard shot in made it particularly difficult. The 18th typified an extraordinary best back nine holes of a golf course I have played up to date. You tee off looking at the beautiful clubhouse along side the mansion that has been built to the left with water following you down the fairway like many holes on this course, the lush grass and many different species of tree make it a finale to remember.

Par 3 13th particular easy yet nevertheless beautiful.

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The extremely beautiful and tough 200+ yard par 3 with bunkers around the green and a particular fierce left to right roll on the quick green.IMG_4359

 

The front 9 had a lot to live up to and it did particularly well but didn’t quite match up to the layout and beauty of the back 9 although I was still in my heaven. The 1st a particularly stunning hole with the shadow of the mansion looming down a slight dog left left with water down the left in front of the mansion, a particular testing tight fairway but again slightly raised and inviting green. Then came the ever impressive par 3’s on this course, I want a par 3 course with just the par 3’s of this course to be on it and I’d give up playing golf and just mess about on these amazing par 3’s. The 3rd similar to the 13th about 150 yards with surrounding waters and bunkers and the 7th yet again similar to the 17th when it comes to difficulty around 200 yards with a whole heap of bunkers to negotiate along side a beautiful lake down the left, that shouldn’t come into play to be far. For me the best hole on the front 9 was the par 5 5th, that had a mass of water down the left that gave you a little teaser of a tee shot for you to decide how much of it to cut out, if you went big you could potentially hit the green in two but it was a safe bet to be a little conservative. the front 9 finishes with a lovely par 4 with a teaser of a lake to the left, bunkers down the right and a tree in the middle to aim for, opening up to a lovely green that sits nicely with the clubhouse shadow spreading over it. What a great course probably my favourite although I don’t want to start picking favourite’s and the company was great. I must visit here again in the near future, yet I don’t know my next destination yet although Hua Hin is on the agenda. I also must apologise for not being able to match my photo’s with description’s as a golf addict once I’m on the course I’m completely thinking about golf only, the pictures are really an after thought. I know I must work on this.

The 17th green looked lovely as the sun went down,  the rather beautiful but daunting 6th tee shot with water either side, the particularly gorgeous par 3 3rd and a rare one of me putting on the first!

Evergreen Hills, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Well what a nice surprise this was. I had been in Nakhon Pathom for 6-7 weeks and with the only outlet of a small but delightfully quirky 9 hole course and driving range at the university near me, golf had become a bit sparse, and being a golf addict this was hurting. I openly talked about my hobby at my workplace in the hope that I would find someone else with the same interests then luckily one of the ladies I was working with told me that her son was a keen golfer and agreed to take us both to a quiet but delightful course about 70km away in the beautiful province of Kanchanaburi.

We began our journey early on Saturday morning and with the knowledge of knowing it was only 70 km away made me feel it would only be an hours drive, no this is Thailand and the roads got worse and the scenery got better, but the 2.5 hours drive was becoming a drag and my excitement was boiling over. Finally we reached the gates of Evergreen Hills and there was the obligatory 2 mile drive down the driveway to a smaller less impressive clubhouse that I was used to in the more touristic areas. I knew this was gonna be different when all the caddies were chuckling and I could her the quiet words of “ferlang, ferlang” which means westerner or white man, in our country this would be deemed a racist term but as I’m no way near the crazy politically correct way some of us westerners have become nowadays I take is as a compliment, I also took it as they don’t see many westerners here. Me and Snooker (that is his real name) got ready had a little hit on the range and decided to get going. Snooker was adamant at getting a buggy as he was a bit of a wet lettuce, so we enjoyed the game with a ride too.

The start of the course almost reminded me of parkland course’s back home with some very old trees and the grass was almost lush, I got the feeling they experienced more rainfall here in the hills of Kanchanaburi, so already I felt a little at home and the weather only topped 25c so it was just like a good summers day at Six Hills.

 

The opening hole of Evergreen Hills with me wondering where to aim as usual. A beautiful yet fairly simple par 5.IMG_4273

It continued to be a lovely course with great ebb and flow, never too far between green and tee, the front 9 was of fairly simplistic design but it was just what you want from a golf course, I like a course that seemed to have an age of maturity and had not been messed with too much. The par 4 6th was a beautiful par 4 with an inviting fairway and one of those hits into the green where you took the water on and the par 5 seventh was narrow and like most of the par 5’s here very normal, very straight but scenically lovely.

It wasn’t until we ventured to the back 9 where we had some lovely man made adjustments mostly very minor, but there were more doglegs notably the 12th that you tee’d off over water and approached the green to the right which was doable in 2 unless you only just make you tee shot over the water like myself. followed by your usual dogleg right par 4 13th that was only just exceeding 300 yards but we are amateurs right it’s nice to have these short par 4’s. But then we came to the 16th and the most major of man made touches but by gosh weren’t they lovely, so you walked over a bridge to the tee box that had a beautiful fountain in the lake that almost catches you to the beautifully crafted island green that you also had to walk over the bridge to get to and the scenery behind the green is to die for. It almost finishes with a bang as you approach the 17th it dog legs to the left wit a whole load of water in front of the green so you have to downsize from the driver push a ball 18-220 yards onto a fairway that sits above you to a little wedge onto the green.

This course for me was great and if I am in the area again I will play it, it reminded me of being home, it was a little bit boring in terms of course layout but it was untouched and I liked it, and to not see another western person here was actually a nice break from the norm.