Thailand has long been a favourite destination of golfers in the region who want to experience some well-maintained, first-class layouts in an easily accessible location and to enjoy the services of good English-speaking caddies.
Flying into Bangkok provides plenty of options; Hua Hin, Khao Yai, Pattaya and Kanchanaburi are all within comfortable driving distance from Thailand's capital.
There are some fantastic courses in and around the capital which offer variety, challenge and aesthetic value.
Suwan Golf & Country Club: Roughly a 50-minute drive from the centre of Bangkok in Nakornpathom province, it is a superb public country club in the metropolitan area. Its 18-hole, par-72 championship course, which opened in 2005, stretches 6,501 m from the championship tees. Accurate club selection is key here.
Water comes into play on all 18 holes, and while it is tempting to occasionally drive for the green, there are a few places where sensible shot-making is necessary. A good drive on the par-5 11th should enable a safe second shot over water; a poor drive could result in laying your ball up, so you can try and get onto the green in three or four.
The par-4 17th is the signature hole and is quite spectacular, with its palm trees and dogleg-left crescent layout. Confident golfers can take the quick way by passing the four large palms; those who want a more scenic route can hit to the dogleg angle to get the clearer approach shot.
In addition to the clubhouse, the other facilities are a restaurant serving Thai, Japanese and international cuisine, a massage facility, a jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms and around 20 resort rooms.
Tel: 66 34 339 333
Royal Gems Golf City: Its par-71 Dream Arena course's back nine are a replica of Augusta National's second nine. The front nine were inspired by courses such as Bethpage, St Andrews and Doral.
While the Ron Garl-designed course lacks the bunker depth and fairway length of the holes at Augusta and other famed courses of the world, they nonetheless give one a feeling of walking on hallowed ground. Golfers of all skill levels, however, will enjoy a round at this location, which is only a 45-minute drive from the airport. Facilities include a club house, a restaurant and a pro shop.
Tel: 66 2577 8500
If you have a few more days, the best of the rest in and near Bangkok include Thai Country Club, Amata Spring Country Club, Navatanee Golf Course, Riverdale Golf & Country Club and Laem Chabang International Country Club.
Hua Hin, roughly a three-hour drive from Bangkok, has been named Asia and Australasia's 2014 Golf Destination of the Year by the International Association of Golf Tourism Operators.
The accolade is well-deserved, considering the coastal town's first-class golf resorts, beaches, restaurants, bars and facilities for other outdoor pursuits.
Black Mountain Golf Club & Resort: It has a stunning par-72 course designed by Phil Ryan of Pacific Coast Designs.
In 2012, it became Thailand's first course to make it into the US Golf Digest list of the World's Top 100 Courses outside the United States.
Since its opening in 2007, Black Mountain founder and investor Stig Notlov of Sweden and compatriot European Tour professional Johan Edfors have re-tweaked it here and there, creating well-maintained fairways and gorgeous views.
In 2011, Black Mountain opened a par-three course which has water on every hole.
Banyan Golf Club: It is another award-winning course which should be included in a golfer's itinerary.
The six-year-old, 18-hole course was designed by Thailand's leading golf course architect Pirapon Namatra.
Its facilities include a pub, a restaurant, a pro shop, a club house and golf suite accommodation.
Springfield Royal Country Club: It has 27 holes which are lovely to play on with its challenges for all levels of players. The championship course was designed by Jack Nicklaus.
This place, known for its amazing mountain views and lush greenery, also has a pro shop, a restaurant, accommodation, spa and function rooms.
Tel: 66(0) 3270-9222-5
Other courses in Hua Hin include the 27-hole Majestic Creek Golf Club and the Sea Pine Army Sport Centre II Golf Club.
Getting to Thailand
Thai Airways International and Singapore Airlines have daily flights to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.
Where to stay
Bangkok has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, but for something a little different and quirky, pick the Sofitel So Bangkok, the city's first urban-design hotel. Room decor there is inspired by the five elements (wood, metal, earth, water and fire).
In Hua Hin, check out the Amari Hotel on the beach, the Black Mountain Golf Course villas and the upmarket health resort Chiva Som.
The 19th Hole
Thailand has numerous watering holes and restaurants, whether for traditional Thai food or any other type of cuisine. In Bangkok, try Issaya Siamese Club, Le Du Restaurant, Bo Lan and Nahm.
For a tipple, try rooftop bars Bluesky at the Centara Grand Lad Prao, the Vertigo and Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel, Park Society at Sofitel So and Cloud 47 on the 47th floor of the United Centre Office Tower.
Hua Hin's fabulous restaurants include the Saeng Thai Seafood restaurant, a stone's throw from the fishing pier, and the Tapas Café, La Mer and Chao Lay Seafood.
This article was published on May 3 in The Business Times.
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