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.

IMG_0056

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.

IMG_0070

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.

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.

IMG_4335

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.

IMG_4337

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.

IMG_4341

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!

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.