Best Golf Courses in Thailand
Thailand is known for its pristine beaches, exotic food and nightlife, and diverse culture. People flock to this country to enjoy holidays with families or have an adventure with their close friends. What is less well known is that Thailand is also home to some of the best golf courses in Asia. Most of the courses are designed with many water features and strategically positioned bunkers, ensuring the golfer has to apply good course management in order to score well. Destination diversity and the vast choice of golf courses located throughout the country are key factors attracting the large numbers of visitors coming to play golf in Thailand.
Back in the 1980s and early ‘90s, many Thai golf courses were built as part of residential property developments with developers hoping that adding a golf course to the master plans would help to sell the houses. It worked at first but after the first Asian crisis things stalled and following the market crash of ’97, golf course owners had to rethink their plans and try to make the golf course pay its way. Around the same time, many of the most famous golf course designers such as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, and Robert Trent Jones Jr. were looking to ply their trade in Asia and some of their names appear on this list of the best golf courses in Thailand. These world-famous designers are very expensive and this also spawned a new generation of local Thai designers who learned their trade watching these legends of golf at work and have also been responsible for designing some great Thailand golf courses.
Black Mountain Golf Club, Hua Hin
This is probably the most high-profile golf course in Thailand as it has hosted numerous professional events including the Royal Trophy and more recently the Thailand Classic which is an Asian Tour and European Tour co-sanctioned event attracting some of the biggest names in golf. The course is beautifully presented and is immaculate in every respect and they are continually tinkering with the course to make it better. Although the course is highly manicured, it still retains a very natural feel as they have retained many of the original trees and planted many more. They have also cleverly incorporated the natural streams that run through the property into the design. They are currently building another nine holes and they intend to build the best nine holes in Thailand we do not doubt that they will achieve their aim. They have the best caddies and a beautiful clubhouse serving excellent food and the best-stocked pro-shop we have ever seen. Other facilities include a spa and fine dining restaurant.
Santiburi Samui Country Club, Koh Samui
Another Pirapon Namatra-designed course and the only 18-hole course in Koh Samui. The course meanders across the foothills with fantastic views over the surrounding countryside, the sea, and the islands beyond. The course is difficult and the back nine is especially challenging with many blind tee shots to narrow jungle-lined fairways and some quite dramatic elevation changes. The greens, although a generous size, is also quite challenging and often have several levels which makes finding the right level essential to score well. The course is dotted with native coconut trees which often block your path to the green so you need to place your shots carefully. You won’t be needing your driver too much on the course as caution is the order of the day and even the most ardent walkers will be glad of the cart as this is a very strenuous course to walk.
Siam Country Club Old Course, Pattaya
If we had to pick one course out of all the courses on this page then it would probably be the Old Course. This is a wonderfully mature parkland course that annually hosts the LPGA Honda Classic, an event that attracts the top women players from around the world. Many of the holes play alongside a series of lakes and creeks so you need to be driving accurately to score well and the numerous fairway bunkers are always lying in wait to catch the wayward drive. The putting surfaces are generous but are very quick and full of undulations so you will probably need the help of your experienced caddie to decipher the breaks. The pick of the holes are probably the last four and they are all potential card-wreckers the 18th in particular which is a medium-length par-5 can tempt you to get up in two but plenty of danger lurks around the multi-tiered final green and the hopes of many professional lady golfers have been dashed here. Slightly old clubhouse in a commanding position overlooking the 18th green
Alpine Golf Sports Club, Bangkok
Alpine Golf & Sports Club is one of the top courses in Thailand and ranks with anything in Asia. It was created by legendary course architect Ronald M. Garland once hosted the Johnnie Walker Classic PGA tournament won by Tiger Woods. This is supposed to be a private members club but it is relatively easy, although a little expensive, to get on the course as a visitor. Although it is not a links course it has some huge beach bunkers and in many places, water encroaches into the fairway. The fairways are always lush and a delight to hit off and the greens, although not the fastest, run straight and true. The course is extremely picturesque with great views in every direction offering a stunning landscape of trees, flowering shrubs, and bright green fairways set against the water hazards. However, the course is quite challenging with undulating fairways, plenty of water carriers, and some nasty-looking bunkers protecting the greens. You need to be on top of your game and hit it quite long to venture off the blue tees so if you want a more enjoyable round you might be better to try the white tees. Caddies are okay but don’t speak too much English but enough to get by. The food in the clubhouse is excellent.
Thai Country Club, Bangkok
Thai Country Club is arguably the most exclusive private members club in Bangkok but they admit visitors on most days although they do reserve some of their prime tee times for their members. The service you will receive at this course is second to none – partly because the course is managed by a hotel group and the attention to detail and service levels are up to a level that you would expect to receive at a 5-star hotel. This is another course that has been graced by Tiger Woods who won the Honda Classic here back in 1997. The course itself is not the greatest layout but it is always in immaculate condition. Having said that many of the fairways have been contoured and the greens are often elevated and well-protected by bunkers. There are some very tough holes and the par 3, 6th which is more than 200 yards from the championship tees is statistically the most difficult hole on the course with bunkers in front of the green and water alongside the right. Probably the best caddies in Thailand – very well trained and most of them have been around for many years and know the course well. The locker rooms are luxurious and the food in the restaurant is outstanding and the entire experience from beginning to end is faultless.
Royal Gem Golf City, Bangkok
Not to be confused with the Royal Gems Golf & Country Club this is a relatively new course having opened in 2011. Soon after it opened it was completely inundated by the Bangkok floods so they had to replant everything. This is the first replica course in Asia and is often referred to as the “Dream Arena”. The front nine consists of famous holes from around the world and the back nine is a replica of the back nine at Augusta. We say replica but actually, a better term is reminiscent of Augusta because, although some of the holes are very faithful to the original, others require some imagination. As the trees mature they will be more like the real thing but even now you can let your imagination run wild. Some of the famous names you will encounter on the front nine include the Postage Stamp hole from Troon, the Road Hole from St Andrews, and the Pew Bunkers from Oakmont. One of the more intimidating holes is the replica island green from the 17th at Sawgrass. This is a private members club but they do allow visitors to play at certain times. A small but very nice clubhouse, super-luxury changing rooms, and excellent practice facilities.
Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Club
Chiang Mai has spawned several great new courses over the past few years and Chiang Mai Highlands remains top of the pile. The course is in a spectacular location amidst the beautiful northern Thai countryside, circled by mountains. The course was designed by Lee Schmidt of Schmidt-Curley Design, who, together with his partners is responsible for some of Asia’s best courses. The course has won a host of awards over the years and with the addition of another nine holes is sure to win plenty more. The fairways have been laid with Paspalum grass and they have planted the greens with TiffEagle grass which provides an excellent surface for irons and smooth true greens all year round. One of the things that you will remember after your round is the numerous bunkers the original 18-hole layout has more than 130 fairway and greenside bunkers so your sand iron will get plenty of practice. Even if you reach the green unscathed the undulating greens are tough to read and you will need to be on your best form to avoid too many of the dreaded three-putts. A very nice Thai-style clubhouse – with slightly tired-looking locker rooms but excellent food. Superb practice facilities on offer.
Santiburi Chiang Rai Country Club, Chiang Rai
It’s always difficult trying to select the best of anything as plenty of people are sure to disagree and other courses arguably should have been on this list. Amata Springs in Bangkok, another course that hosts a huge professional event, has been excluded as it’s almost impossible to get on without a member. Perhaps Navatanee which once hosted the World Cup of Golf should be here but is now showing its age and past its best.
Santiburi Chiang Rai Country Club opened for play in 1993 and was created by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Just a few kilometers from the center of the city, this was the first golf course in Chiang Rai and it has earned rave reviews. Water plays a huge role in the layout of the course and combines with bunkers to offer the main challenge to players.
The undulating fairways and fast greens make this a genuine championship quality golf course and people travel from far and wide to play around at Santiburi Chiang Rai Country Club. Many of the fairways are treelined and over them you can see the mountains of Chiang Rai, combining to give the course a theatre-like quality.