Golf is one of the most popular sports in Thailand. It arrived here a century ago and was quickly taken up by the elite and fashionable. Among the first sponsors of the game were the Armed Forces and government institutions, which built and continue to own some of the finest courses in the country.
Golf's popularity rose dramatically after the country hosted its first international tournament-the 1975 World Cup. The number of courses rose sharply in the past decade, in step with the country's economic boom. The world's top designers have come and left their marks, so have many world-class players. Now there are at least a few courses in or within easy reach of all major cities.
Most courses built in the last 10 years offer accommodation on site or nearby, plus recreational facilities or the whole family. For the more adventurous, there are older, natural courses in remote areas around he country owned by the Royal Irrigation Department, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and the State Railway of Thailand, all offering good value.
The best time to come is the cool season, from November to March. From April to October, it is very hot and wet. But even in the rainy months, the heavy pour usually comes in the afternoon, and for only a few minutes. And since most courses have good drainage systems, the rains should not interrupt your game for long.
At some facilities you may need to book ahead, through your club or your hotels. Do book in advance for the weekends, for attendance goes up sharply at most courses, and for the peak travel season, from December to February. The state of the economy not withstanding, greens fees continue to be very reasonable. So are the fees for the well-trained, helpful caddies. Service on green and at the clubhouse, as befitting the Land of Smiles, is prompt and courteous.
Since the country is well connected by road, rail and air, you can take day trips to the courses and return to stay in the city, or hire a car and draw up your own itinerary. Lodging facilities in all major cities run the full spectrum from the cozy to the luxurious, and in every town there is at least one comfortable place to stay. For the family, or to fill a break in your schedule, there is a diverse choice of culture, adventure, dining and shopping available wherever you choose to tee-off.