Playing golf in Thailand is a big drawcard for tourists who have long recognised that the country is one the best golfing destinations in the world.
After choosing to come to Thailand, these golfing tourists must then decide on where they will be based, typically heading to a single destination rather than moving around too much.
Golfers decide on where they can expect to find a variety of quality courses with a friendly, relaxing but vibrant holiday experience when they are not on the course.
Golf courses are scattered throughout the country, but when it comes to being the best destination for a golfing holiday, the prime candidates are Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai or the combined Hua Hin/Cha-Am region, the Royal Coast of Thailand.
Bangkok and nearby provinces offer around 80 golf courses. As a dynamic cosmopolitan city, the big mango is a tourist mecca, however that’s usually about experiencing the amazing sights and sounds of the big city rather than a golfing holiday, particularly when the need to escape the central metropolis to reach the course is considered.
Staying in, or near a particular golf course, for example Thana City, very close to Suvarnabhumi International Airport may be the strategy, but that doesn’t mean easy access to a variety of other golfing experiences.
Golf courses may not be geographically distant, but hours spent in traffic isn’t much fun. Most Bangkok tourists learn how to use public transport options, but not with a set of golf clubs in hand.
Pattaya hosts a wide variety of great golf courses. There are over 20 and growing in number. The most recently opened Chee Chan Golf Resort was voted Thailand’s Best Golf Course 2020 at the World Golf Awards.
There are many golf tour companies offering packages or golf societies which provide short term visitors a way to access rounds of golf, transport and friendly competitions. There’s also a wide range of accommodation options, from 5 star resorts to guesthouses or low cost hotels.
Pattaya really is a great golfing holiday destination, but not for everyone. The image of the city attracts some, but for others that unsavory reputation is a big deterrent; tourists either love it or loath it!
That’s an image problem that the city fathers say they are trying to change, especially post-Covid; but we’ll have to wait and see.
The availability of direct flights via a developed U-Tapao International Airport and improvements to rail and road travel from Bangkok will also make a difference to future golfing tourism.
There are more than eight golf courses available at this tourism-driven destination, including Mission Hills on the eastern side of the island which opened in 2004. This is a Jack Nicklaus design with incredible ocean views.
Golf has not been a main focus for Phuket tourism promotion which is more about the beautiful coastline, beaches and nearby islands. Resort and estate developments really haven’t embraced golfing amongst their priorities and the ratio of golf courses to tourist numbers in busy times is low.
Chiang Mai is host to over ten courses in the surrounding area providing visitors with plenty of choices, but distance from Bangkok and the lack of a coastline may be deterrents.
Some courses, such as the Highlands Golf and Spa resort, which nestles in a valley between mountain ranges, take advantage of mountainous scenery and lush surrounds. The higher altitude of this northern region means that Chiang Mai enjoys a cooler climate than many other places in Thailand but there’s seasonal air quality issue which is far from appealing for a round of golf.
THE ROYAL COAST
The Royal Coast is home to over ten golf courses including the multiple award-winning Black Mountain and Banyan within a half hour drive of Hua Hin at the region’s centre.
The region has also been chosen as the Asia-Pacific’s best golfing destination. Apart from these magnificent resort style courses, there’s the chance to play on Thailand’s first golf course as the historic Royal Hua Hin Golf Course has a centenary year. in 2024. This course is within walking distance of the city whereas the Seapine golf course, only 5 kilometres away, is within walking distance of the beach as an almost links-style layout.
Similar to Pattaya, tour operators and golf societies offer opportunities for solo golfers to join others and the accommodation options are endless. With the region being the least affected by monsoonal weather, there’s an opportunity to attract golfers during any time of the year
The Royal Coast suffers from an image problem very different from Pattaya. In this case, promotion as a golfing destination is very limited and golf-oriented websites may describe Hua Hin as a ‘sleepy fishing village’, a label very out of date. The region may be family friendly but that doesn’t mean boring or lacking in other attractions or ways to experience the real Thailand.
Many newcomers to the region are also unaware of lesser heralded courses such as Kaeng Krachan, located adjacent to Thailand’s largest national park.
Travel to the region came into international focus when Malaysian golfers recognised the golfing holiday attractions with short-lived direct flights between Kuala Lumpur operating pre-Covid. The future of more direct international flights will make a big difference to attracting future travelling golfers.
We’re betting that if an Award was offered for ‘Thailand’s Best Golfing Holiday Destination’, the Royal Coast would be a worthy winner!