are those who like to travel and there are those who don’t.
And amongst those who do, there are those who like to travel
to places already known, and there are the others, folks who
in the manner of pioneers, like to discover something considered
new. If you feel you fall into this second category, then
maybe you might want to read this.
all know where Thailand is, of course, and many of you will
have some idea as to what it might be like. Hot weather, spicy
food, friendly people. A kind of exotic paradise, perhaps.
get there and start to find that, as in most other commercially
developed tourist spots, you are getting ripped off far too
often and, worse than that, you are missing out on those more
idyllic, more virgin and more mysterious nearby places that
your travel agent knows absolutely nothing about. Thanks a lot,
Mr Agent, for selling me a holiday that only sheep would enjoy.
All that being herded around gets real tiring, and ask the guide
what interesting things there are to do, and all she’ll do is present you with a
pile of brochures about the zoo, the bus trip to the local point
of fame, or , God forbid, the boat trip around the island. Baa!
,Baa!, all together now.
want something better? Then try this. South of Thailand, specifically
for the guys? Try Songkhla.
done that. This oft used phrase is almost never heard in context
with the golf area I’m going tell you about.
Yes, okay, I’m like a local now, since I’ve been living here for four years, so obviously I like it;
but why should you? What is there to recommend this, basically,
hilly piece of coastal jungle to someone looking to spend their
hard earned money on a golf holiday? I can tell you the answer to
that question, and the answer is easy. It’s the character
of the place, that ‘s what the recommendation is.
of course, the choices. The choice of which one of six courses in
the immediate vicinity to play this particular day, the choice of
which inexpensive but excellent hotel to stay in, the choice of
which gourmet’s-delight restaurant to
eat in tonight, the choice of what else to do today as well as play
golf, the choice of which other easily accessible, interesting part
of Thailand to visit for a day or two. That’s
a lot of choices, eh? And choices are what makes life, and therefore
your holiday, interesting.
‘Where is it?’,
you demand, ‘and how do I get there?’.
Easy there, big fella, just go book a flight to HatYai, deep in
the south of Thailand. Your ticket will probably require you to
change planes in Bangkok, but that’s no hassle. One piece of advice though, don’t be tempted to stop in Bangkok for a while
and take advantage of some of the courses they have there. The traffic,
you see. Three hours to travel 6 kilometers, in the back of a cab,
in the traffic jam, in the pollution, in the chaos and the stifling
heat and incessant noise, that is not a holiday. No thank
you, ma’am, better to take that 50 minute
connecting flight and get straight down south. And once in HatYai,
from the airport to the center of town, no problem. After collecting
your luggage, fifteen minutes later your driver will be dropping
you off in front of a fine hotel. There’re a lot of them in the HatYai/Songkhla
area: for example the JB hotel is in the upper price bracket, as
is the Regency, the Central Sokothai (all excellent hotels) and
a few others, but there must be a total of twenty or so hotels in
the lower price range that offer excellent service and accommodations.
Some of them offer minibus rides to and from the golf courses, but
if the hotel you choose to stay in doesn’t, well no problem, the local
form of taxi, referred to as a tuk-tuk, can be arranged. Alternatively,
if you want to get about under your own steam, you can rent a
car for around $25 U.S. per day.
here you are, all nicely tucked up in bed on your first night, air
conditioner keeping you cool and cable TV on, watching this week’s
tour event that’s being bounced
of a satellite, and you’re thinking about tomorrow’s golf. And where is it you’re playing tomorrow?
At the HatYai Exclusive Resort, that’s where. 18 holes of amazingly
scenic golf, set amid the rolling hills just 20 minutes west of
the town center. Another world, though, compared to the hustle and
bustle of the town. Nothing to see but mountains, a waterfall, rubber
trees, coconut trees, palm trees, the water and it’s pondlife that fill the many small lakes that dot this course.
that ten years ago, there was this palm and rubber tree plantation.
Some enterprising local golfer comes along, decides he wants a golf
course here, proceeds to carve a track through all this vegetation,
digs some very big holes and fills them with water. Then he gets
a well known course designer to lay down 18 holes of what can be
either sheer golf terror or soothing golf strollabout, depending
on which tees you like. If you’re
a fan of, ah, challenging golf, then the back tees here are going
to make you shed joyful tears of pure golf masochism, but if you
like to smell the roses on your way round, play it from the whites
and be amazed at what nature has surrounded you with. And after
you finish the eighteen, if you’re feeling less than satiated,
then please, sir, continue teeing it up until you drop. Some of
the holes you might want more of include the 464 yard par 4 eighth,
which requires you to hit your most accurate drive or you’re
in the water, follow that up with a long iron approach even Hale
Irwin would be proud of should it hit the green and then stay there,
and then putt on a green that you know is full of bumps and hollows,
but jeez man, which way does this whole thing tilt? And if you feel
hurt by what this innocent-looking stretch of green can do to your
score, then when you get a look at the tee shot on the next hole,
that pain you start to feel in your chest might well be your heart
into the distance from the backs, you can see the fairway. That’ll be it, that narrow sliver of nicely manicured grass between the
OB posts on the left (God knows what’s beyond them) and the area on the right that, should you foolishly
enter it to look for the results of your slice, you might well find
Tarzan pacing anxiously around in, studying the script for his
next movie. And if I were you I’d
keep my eyes on that fairway, because should you drop them a little,
you’re gonna see something real ugly;
all swamp, trees, water, maybe even snakes and who knows what else.
And that’s two hundred twenty yards of
it, son, and you gotta carry it, so make your best pass at the little
white rock and if you don’t
catch it a full 100%, stroll forward and, like the man you just
became, take your drop in the designated area, right next to the
white tees. Fun, isn’t
it? Yeah, right.
this part of the world, once you’ve paid your greenfee for the day, only sunset can prevent
you from playing more. And as a result of too much golf in one day,
how about those aches and pains, are they gonna prevent you from
playing the following day? I don’t think so, not if you take advantage
of a traditional Thai massage, either at the course or back at
can bring a wide variety of entertainment, from wandering through
the congested shopping area in town to Karaoke bars or Thai dancers,
classical or otherwise, and entertainers performing on makeshift
street stages. Coffee shops are a favorite place where people sit
and shoot the breeze, and you might well bump into a few of the
local golfers you saw (and more importantly, who saw you) earlier
in the day. Do not , however, be put off by their open friendliness,
because it’s all genuine and they just want to see you happy, whatever
that might take. Believe it, Thai’s are great hosts, and are proud
to prove it to you.
of the same?
up call, time up to you. Big hotel breakfast and then it’s
‘Where’re we gonna play today? Same
as yesterday?’ If you like, but
maybe you want to try one of the other gems in the area, Southern
Hills. A Dye Designs course featuring, you guessed it, a par 3
island-green penultimate hole followed by a water-curving-all the-way-down-the-left
last hole. When you square up on this final tee, it’s up to you to decide how much of the
doglegging water you want to try and bite off. Can you hit controlled
draws with your driver? No? Then take care, big guy, because if
you don’t flush it with the long
one, you’re gonna have to start dipping in your bag for more balls. And you
might need another Titleist, too. Course condition is excellent
here, and though not so much of a terror as yesterday’s field of broken dreams
can be, it still requires you to hit it straight with reasonable
distance, and good short game and putting skills will undoubtedly
help you shoot the kind of score you enjoy. Biggish greens mean
you either often face some long putts or your approach game needs
work. Possibly even more scenic than you envisaged a golf course
could be, the average golfer will probably enjoy this one, and not
feel like tossing his clubs in the pond when he’s finished. This course is located on the
road going south to Malaysia, and if on the way back to town you
wish for a little more golf, then stop off at Ban Lai and whiz
round it’s rather short
nine holes. Located just around the corner from Southern Hills,
it is known as a beginner’s
course and as such is not very stimulating.
golf everyday is making you feel a little tired, or maybe you just
want a rest from it for a day. You know, fly all this way and not
see anything else, bit of a waste really. So what are you gonna
do? Time to make one of those choices again, Mr Happy Holidaymaker.
How about a twenty minute early morning plane ride to the exotic
island paradise of the rich and the not so rich, Phuket. It’s only gonna cost you 38 dead presidents
to get there and back, and you know what, if you feel like it
some great, though expensive, courses there too. Just stick the
clubs on the plane and off you go again.
think, guys, you wanna hack it in Phuket?
“Hey, I thought this was a rest-from-golf day!’ Whoooa, boy, hold on there a
minute, no need to get all torqued up. This, remember, is a beach
island paradise, so go swimming or snorkeling or diving or water-skiing
or pony trekking or rock-climbing or ….or …… , jeez, it’s got it all, you decide. Sound
a bit too touristy for you? Don’t blame you, I’m
not much one for herding either. So how about some of the other
exotic islands nearby, places that don’t really attract their share,
fair or otherwise, of tourists. Plenty of boats to take you out
to them, though if you don’t enjoy boat rides, just hang
out on the beaches on the mainland. Whatever, just like you see
on the pages of National Geographic, you’ll
witness sheer cliffs dropping straight down into turquoise ocean
water, tropical green picking out bright highlights of splendor,
all pasted on to an azure sky background that just might wanna
make you say ‘Forget golf, forget going home, forget it all, I’m staying right where I am
until the day I stop breathing’.
Are you nuts? Why the heck did you come here in the first place!
My advice, that beach paradise, spend two days there, maybe play
one of the courses, enjoy some of the beach style playtime that’s
available in spades, then hotleg it back to HatYai whilst your
wallet is still intact. Once home from home again, plan your next
day’s golf to take place at the Black Forest Golf and Country Club. Extra
excitement value here, it’s located right on the Thai/Malaysia border, sort of in no man’s land. No mine fields, though,
so all you gotta worry about is choosing and purchasing all those
take-home gifts at the one-stop stop duty free shopping complex
that is situated just down the road from the clubhouse . Convenient,
of an open view, expansive style of golf course, Black Forest is
always in excellent condition and has some fine holes. Beware though,
of that old golfer’s companion, the paradox, which exists in
the marked difference between the deceptively similar-looking-from-the-clubhouse-balcony
first and last par 4 holes. Up on the first tee, looking down the
freeway - heck no, that’s the fairway!
Man it’s wide - you’re thinking ‘I can’t miss, really, I can’t miss!’ And guess what, you’re right , you can’t . If you miss this fairway,
you shouldn’t ever wonder how much a good club golfer could make a year on the
senior tour. Then, joy of all joy’s, that green just down there at the end of
the fairway, it’s only about 350 yards away from the tee. So big, so near, all you
gotta do from the tee is knock it reasonably solid down the slope
and just like that old TV star, it’s gonna keep going and going and going. Follow it down there, chip
it with anything you like out of your bag across the flat green,
and if the guys don’t
offer the gimme, well, change the guys you play with if they’re that mean. One under already, man it’s gonna be a
great day. Get back to the clubhouse and everybody’s gonna go, ‘Say, isn’t that the guy
who kept it under par all day?’
You fool. Forgot
about the paradox, didn’t you? A few hours later you’ll
be standing on the eighteenth tee, saying to your caddy, ‘Up that slope? I gotta hit up that slope to that green?
That weird looking green?’
And then your caddy, her smug reply. ‘Yes boss, and keep it left of that red stake in the middle
of the fairway.’ Red stake? You
mean, there’s water where
I can’t see it? And right in the middle of the landing area too? Jeez, you
won’t know where to aim here. Still, it probably won’t matter too much by then because
unless you know exactly how much a good club golfer can make a year
playing the senior tour, by this time you won’t
be marking a card that you’ll be taking home to show
your buddies anyhow. The other sixteen holes will have seen to that.
day out, though. And back in the town, some more much appreciated
R & R. Traditional Thai massage, hot steam bath and then bed.
today’s your last day, eh? Want some fun? Then
step right this way sir, and I’ll
show you one of the most devilish nine hole courses ever to bless
God’s spikes ( soft, of course).
Khor Hong Golf
Club has been here for around forty years, and when you play it,
remember that bad lies should be considered a normal part of the
game. These fairways look as though they’ve been cut by goats, and frankly
goats might do a better job than the old gang mowers they actually
do use. If you go in a bunker and find the sand raked nice’n all, maybe you ought to take a picture
of it, because they might not believe someone could cause such a
blasphemous act upon the hallowed old ground. This is what golf
should really be about, nature itself creating the hazards, and
just because you hit your one and only accurate tee shot of the
day, it doesn’t necessarily
gonna find your ball sitting just so in the fairway. Yeah, you
get good lies too, but the fun here is you don’t know when you’re
gonna get them. The layout is so well thought out and executed
that you can go round and round this golf course all day, and then
still lie in bed at night dreaming of more tomorrow, plotting your
strategy of revenge even. Ever see a 600 yard uphill dogleg par
5 before that forces you to lay up off the tee? And then with your
second shot too? It’s
gonna take all of your best four-wood for your third to be on the
dance floor. Anyhow, you’re
gonna see that here, and a few other rare sights to go along with
it. Put it on the peg on the ninth tee, stare down the center of
the fairway, and you’re
gonna have to stare down eleven trees too. Big trees, through which
you need to thread your shiny new ball. But don’t expect it to be still shiny when you go find it for your second,
because only miracle balls don’t
touch the trees somewhere on this tee shot. And here’s another thing for you. Even
though I’m not sure how to say cruel,
sadistic bastard in the local dialect, there must be a translation.
I can’t think of any
other way you’d describe the guy who put the bunkers around the greens. Monster or
marvel, I can’t
work out why he would want to do what he’s
done to anyone who, quite simply, just wants to take a walk round
on a sunny afternoon and enjoy the feel of a few well struck golf
shots. This guy’s laughing somewhere, probably
the middle of the Sahara, happy as a pig in shit with all that sand
around him. Gonna waste him if I see him, number of times my ball
almost made it over the bunker.
there you go anyhow, holiday’s over and you’re sitting on the plane wishing you weren’t going home, or at least
working on a plan to get you back out here asap. Didn’t spend a whole lot of money,
got totally golfed out on some excellent courses, made some great
friends and had a great time with them, and of course, got satisfyingly
soothed by all that local hospitality. Massaged muscles feeling
good with the mental and emotional states in equal shape. Jeez,
look at that view out of the plane window. Must be the island you
took a visit to, and boy does it look even more inviting from the
air. Memories, flashbacks and visions of the last week or so flood
your mind, and you can recall each smell, taste and scent as if
you experienced it just a second ago. And then, sitting there dozing
in your seat, you gotta think it. Could it get any better than