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!

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.