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.

 

Royal Lakeside, Chachoengsao, Thailand.

Luckily enough I had time to squeeze one more round in before I go to Nakhon Pathom and try to immerse myself in the real Thailand and living like the Thai people. As we were postponed for a few days travelling this may have been the luckiest break I had because Royal Lakeside for me was the best course I had played so far in Thailand. Once again the true gentleman Ray Bloom from The Londoners Golf Society had agreed to give me a lift to the course, and it seemed to be quite a short journey from the Bang Na side of Bangkok probably only 30 minutes. As we arrived at Royal lakeside I was greeted to what might be the most impressive looking clubhouse yet, and this being Thailand things are a bit OTT when it comes to impressive clubhouses but my gosh it was lovely.

My camera skills and my phone are shocking but you get my gist with these two pictures regarding the clubhouse.

The course matched up to the clubhouse, although some wouldn’t agree but as I am the one blogging I will be the judge. The fairways were immaculate, the only issue I have with golf in general in Thailand is they make the greens super fast but the fairways into the greens are slow, basically you can’t chip and run into the greens.

The game itself was highly intense, something I don’t particularly enjoy. I was playing with Ray, an Englishman called Richard and an American called Patrick. Ray and Richard were playing in a match-play that was to see who the winner of the match-play competition for the calendar year of 2017 at The Londoners was. You could cut the air with a knife, you could feel every mood swing, this is not an atmosphere I enjoy much but it kind of made me and Patrick quite competitive as we had the same handicap, it was almost like there were 2 match’s going on.

Anyway the forced competitiveness didn’t get in the way of me enjoying this beautiful arena. It started with an immaculate but fairly simple par 5, with a big fairway to hit and realistically if you are on your game you can be up and around the green in 2. The greens here were not as quick as Bangkok Golf Club, just how I like them being an Englishman. The course was lovely, the beautifully mowed fairways and the addition of probably the best weather I’ve had in terms of heat, as it wasn’t too hot made this course look and feel even better. the beautiful dog-leg right fourth par 4 was like a picture out of a golf magazine, beautifully sat palm trees, with beautifully placed bunkers on the dog leg opening up to a wonderful looking and inviting green and the to top a great front nine you are blessed with a tough par 4 9th with water hazards both sides (I didn’t know there was a water hazard to the left until I walked over the mound to find a big lake that the caddy didn’t mention). The tee off from the 9th is one of the better views of the absolutely amazing clubhouse here, very inspiring for a round of golf.

The view from the 9th tee box and the beautifully crafted 4th pr 4.

The back 9 didn’t disappoint either starting with a simply delightful par 5 10th following the water all the way down the left and the 11th par 4 continues to follow the water with an epic looking beach effect bunker all the way along the river. The par 3 12th has that much sand it makes you feel like that your playing in a desert for another added difference to the course and to make it a fairly difficult par 3. But my favourite hole had to be the 14th, it was a very simple par 4 but looked amazing, with a good 200 yard t shot left you a nice wedge into the island looking green, and as we don’t get many in England I do love these island greens here in Thailand.

 

The par 3 12th, and the par 4 14th green.

To conclude I don’t want to put this as number 1 because I enjoyed my time at Phoenix more but mainly due to my playing group, the added competitiveness did hamper the mood here but as per course layout and beauty this has to be number 1. I will go back here and hopefully get to play in a less serious situation. If you were wondering I beat Patrick by 1 shot but as I wasn’t a paid member of The Londoners it didn’t go down recognised and as would have one the whole day, not that I have a little bit of a competitive streak in me.

Bangkok Golf Club, Pattum Thani, Thailand

So my adventures in Chon buri/Rayong were over for now and what a great 18 days I had. All a man of my addiction to golf could dream of, great playing partners (well 99% of them), great courses (also 99% of them), great weather most of the time and this was supposed to be the wet season and great beer. The haven had done me proud again at making the golf courses around that particular area so accessible with the least amount of hassle, and also a new friend in Colin who had also made my round with his group so enjoyable. Next was the prospect of meeting up with some guys from a club called the Londoners in Bangkok. I’d previously e-mailed Ray Bloom the captain after I found his very professional outfit on Facebook, oh the wonders of social media. I’d arranged to meet him at his condo in Udom Suk, luckily my hotel was only a couple of kilometers away so it was kind of easy, and the very kind gentleman took me in his own car to Bangkok Golf Club, around a 45 minute drive from Udom Suk.

Bangkok Golf Club looked like a scene from the Beirut of the past as we drove down the entrance road. To the right was an horrific looking building that was apparently being renovated into a new modern hotel but for know it didn’t look at all inviting. The clubhouse albeit was in good order, it was beautifully constructed and we went through the routine of sorting our gear out, having a lovely cup of coffee and proceeding onto the apparent fast putting green, but as this place had seen a fair bit of rain lately they had slowed up a little.

As we tee’d off I was joined by the club captain Ray, and two other great blokes, Stuart I can only describe as this full of life, full of stories gentleman from South Africa and a more kind of gentlemanly quiet Englishman called Barry, but yet again couldn’t have asked for more in terms of playing pals.

The first tee was a hit over water but what wasn’t apparent to me is this was usually not a hit over water and it had just flooded severely, the fairway doglegged round to the right for a fairly straight forward par 4. Now from being involved in some beautifully scenic courses in and around Pattaya I knew from the drive this was going to be your bog standard inner city course and it was just like that. I was never inspired at all by any amount of beauty on this course even the fairways looked quite drab, I was only ever inspired by my playing partners who were a wonderful bunch. In all honesty the front 9 past me by without having any breathtaking holes in my head, In all honesty I didn’t even feel the need to take a photo until the par 3 island green and in again all honesty I can’t remember what hole it was. The back 9 was the better of the two halves and the par 4 13th was the highlight of the course, but I have to say if I don’t play this course again I wouldn’t be too bothered. Like all golf addicts, I was loving the fact I was playing nice sociable golf in the warm weather of Thailand so nevertheless the feeling was of happiness.

A pano of the view from the clubhouse, a rare one of me on the 13th and the island green (can’t remember what hole). All in all a very uninspiring course.

Silky Oaks Country Club, Rayong, Thailand.

Silky Oaks in Rayong was to be my last day out golfing here in Chonburi/Rayong area this trip. I am heading to Bangkok for a teaching seminar and to join up with a guy from a Bangkok society called the Londoners in the hope for a few more rounds in the Bangkok area.

Last night I was out on the razzle again watching my Beloved Leicester City beat Swansea, I had a word with myself to get back to the hotel early enough so I would feel ok for my round the next day, but would you believe it we had the most wonderful thunderstorm there was no way I was walking in that and it lasted 3 hours making me consume a few more bottles of the old San Miguel Light. So a  very late night topped off by what I could only describe as a walk home in the sewers. I had to empty the valuables from my pockets so I could walk at least 200 meters back to the hotel in hip deep water and to be honest it was like walking through a Severn Trent treatment station. After getting back to the hotel smelling like I’d spent a night in the Bangkok Hilton (prison), with a tide mark round my waste that Skegness beach would be proud of I proceeded to get clean and sleep ahead of a busy day at Silky Oaks.

The morning came around far too quickly according to my fuzzy head, a few aspirins and plenty of water sorted the job out. This time it was a Sunday round and as The Haven only play Monday, Wednesday’s and Friday’s I had to find a new society. I came across Colin from the appropriately named Colin’s Bar, on Soi Buakhao and he let me join his very friendly group of expats so I jumped in his car and took the 30 minute drive to Silky Oaks that was incidentally on the same site as the famous St Andrews course and Green Valley.

The course itself was the worst I played on this tour and if your keen on a nice walk with your round of golf then you can forget this one, the 2km buggy round to the first tee was long enough let alone the distances between green’s and tee’s, the course just had no flow, it just didn’t make sense. As I obviously had a buggy it was time to play and enjoy the few holes that seem to have had a bit of thought put into them and admittedly it wasn’t all bad, my playing partners were great, a South African guy who was as relaxed as the usual South African and an Englishmen who loved his golf as much as me. I was struggling to keep up with his tally of 43 points off a handicap of 21 though it gave me no chance giving him an extra 8 shots.

The opening hole was one of the best, hitting a drive over water with the inviting fairway below and then onto a nicely sat raised green. The 3rd par 3 over water is a lovely little hole (I do love a little bit of water on a par 3) the green precariously sloping backwards into the water makes it a very awkward yet nice par 3. The most impressive hole was the par 5 5th. The tee box beautifully constructed so you felt as if you were teeing off from the lake, as you looked up to your left was an appropriate positioned drink station and to be fair the drink stations on this course were beautiful. This par 5 will be one of the toughest you ever play, so you tee off over water then you still need a big hit second to have a chance of hitting over the water again to reach the green in 3, I could easily see people playing for the green in 4 on this hole as did the South African guy. The rest of the front 9 had little to be desired. The back 9 also offered little to the imagination, the best hole was probably the 11th, but even that was exactly the same as the first and as I said the course designer had quite the nightmare here and it’s not until you reach the par 3 14th do you completely realise the disaster they had. What a terrible hole, you look up on what you can only describe as a field onto the nice looking drink station, you can’t see the green and you can barely see the flag, it’s almost like they ran out of idea’s and just stuck a hole in the middle of a slope and did nothing with it.

All in all a good day had by all, Colin at Colin’s bar was very welcoming he just doesn’t have the transport options that The Haven have so his bar is aimed towards the expats more.

 

The par 3 14th (where is the green? Where is the flag even). A panoramic picture, I had to try and be technical to get a bit of beauty out of this course.

 

Treasure Hill, Chon Buri, Thailand

This morning I was feeling wonderful, it was quite simply the most beautiful morning since my arrival last week, I even managed a swim before the usual 8.00am meet at The Haven. Like the previous 4 rounds on this tour I had never had the pleasure of playing Treasure hill before so I was very excited and I had heard good things.

So after the usual breakfast and the 45 minute bus journey to the course we arrived to another beautifully constructed clubhouse, well up there with Bang Pra but possibly not quite as grand as Phoenix.

Right lets get down to the course, and what an opener, quite possibly the hardest opening par 5 you will come across. This time I was playing with Trevor the Aussie guy again (absolute legend) and 2 Norwegian guys one of which was a teaching pro and he said it was the most difficult opening hole he had played. It starts with a difficult drive onto a narrow looking fairway  with big dangerous bunkers down the right  and eventually opens out to a a beautifully sat green. I birdied it so I had to make it sound difficult. The course then ebbed and flowed with a lovely par 3 2nd and a stunning par 5 7th, and a great par 4 to finish the front 9. After 4 rounds I’d really found my swing and actually totting up a better score than the Norwegian pro who I must admit he was a great playing partner and his friend who was in his late 70’s very much looked like he had plenty more tours in him. Whoever said golf wasn’t a very active sport was talking out of their rear end because he was adamant it was the reason he was still very able. The 12th was another beautifully designed par 5 with 2 possible fairways to hit and a backdrop of the mountain was up there with a similar backdrop to Bang Pra. It was then after the 12th my worst nightmare happened on a golf course and my stomach dropped, walking like a penguin I was relieved to find there was a conveniently positioned toilet between the 12th and the 13th. After 15 minutes of blood, sweat and whatever else it was and to the amusement of my playing partners I was back on track. Then came the 16th a monster of a par 5 and a conveniently placed water hazard and for some it was bang on the two shot range, luckily I got two good ones away to clear it.

This course was up there with Bang Pra and I will definitely visit this one again. It might not suit the short hitter but it was in great condition and again I was in my heaven. Out of the 15 odd golf courses in this area this again is a course you must visit, along with Bang Pra, Phoenix and Khao Kheow.

 

The bottom picture being the long par 16th, 2nd up on the right is the beautiful view from the long par 5 12th with two fairways, top row on the left is also the lovely par 5 7th and the top is the opening green after the narrow fairway.

 

Phoenix Country Club, Pattaya, Thailand

Well, I didn’t think it could get any better than Bang Pra, but this matched up to it. Again travelling with The Haven boys, it was a mere 25 minutes from Pattaya. The clubhouse was ultimately the best I’ve come across, It was grand, overwhelming, facilities that beat Bang pra. A lovely day here in Chonburi as always, I’ve only come across rain once in the daytime at Eastern Star and this was rainy season and I have played about 20 different times around here. I was partnered up with some great boys again, a group I didn’t know but ultimately very relaxed blokes, Andy a great player he drew the ball in ways I could only dream about. Phoenix is the host of several touring events, as were visible with gateways that made you feel like a pro. There were 3 9’s on the course we played the Lakes and the Ocean which I was told were the best two. Like no other course around here, there was little water around the course but the beautifully cut greens and fairways were magnificent on the eye. Its starts with a lovely 1st, slightly rising up to a green the rolling fairway was majestic as the way it was cut it seemed like a kind of a diamond formation on the fairway, and the second par 3 was a lovely reachable dipping green. It starts with a nice relaxing two holes that set the game up nicely (we started with the lakes 9 by the way). Most of the water is obviously on the lakes course but there are mere ponds but as you get to the beautiful 8th it’s a tricky par 4 that needs two very accurate shots to reach the green in regulation. As you are playing this beautifully crafted course there is the majestic site of a golden giant buddha crafted into the rock face of a cliff in the background. 

The ocean course is where it’s at though, unbelievable scenery of the gulf of Thailand, tricky par 5’s and long par 4’s just what you can imagine from a championship course, and once you get to the 9th the high tee box allows you to really take a deep breath of the ocean air and makes you happy that you took this hobby up. Again like Bang Pra this is a must if you are in this area, a haven for avid golfers like myself. Of all of the golf courses around here I find it very difficult to critique many of them but this and Bang Pra are the ultimate two to play but then I have had no experience of the highly publicised Siam Country Club nor Laem Chabang that I hear is stunning also.

 

A beautiful clubhouse, and the fairways were in complete tip top order, practise putting areas good enough for Tiger and the beautiful par 3 7th (Lakes course).

Bang Pra, Chonburi, Thailand.

Wow, wow, wow, the only description I can think of. This course gave me the need to start blogging, this course has everything, stunning scenery, different kinds of tree life, monkeys, dogs, dogs chasing monkeys and a giant monitor lizard on the par 3 17th. A stunning clubhouse, quality caddies, backdrops like I’ve never seen, locker rooms good enough for tour pro’s and an Australian playing partner who moaned all the way around, but he was not going to ruin my day. He hit every rough on every hole and moaned about how bad the rough’s were (well don’t hit it there then), he moaned about every bunker (well don’t hit it there either). One of those playing partners you dread, nothing was ever his fault, “just enjoy where you are mate”.

The course was a dream, the first probably the only disappointing hole, but then after it was a mind blower. The second a lovely par 3 with water and awaiting monkeys the other side, then you get to hole 6 and the backdrop was unreal. If you hit a good straight shot the ball is visible against the trees all the way up and down. Already in awe after 6 holes, I was in my dreamland, my grin was from ear to ear. Hole 8 another stunning par 3, water hazards to the right, a couple of well placed bunkers and it’s a good hit to the green. Then the par 3 12th was simply the best par 3 I have ever had the chance to shoot on (see picture). I didn’t care much for how I was playing although it wasn’t bad, by time I got to the 16th there were dogs chasing monkeys up trees, Lizards casually walking across fairways it was so surreal, so relaxing, what a course, and to top it off we were watched onto the 17th green by a giant monitor lizard that lived in the lake you hit over for the par 3. This was my best golfing experience to date by a mile.

As  you walk out of the clubhouse you get greeted to this little charming drink station. The par 3 12th was so beautiful, possibly the best par 3 I have ever played. The usual monkeys and lizards that you see all over the UK (sarcasm), and the moaning Aussie guy I had to endure 4 hours of one of my favourite courses with.