28 AUG 2019: My conversation with the taxi driver from the Phuket Airport began with him describing his six frugal years as a novice monk eating one bowl of rice a day in a jungle temple. Then he noticed my luggage included golf clubs and began chattering enthusiastically about how he recently broke 100 using his new set of Callaway clubs. My driver had graduated from monk to hacker.

Golf in Thailand began in 1923 when King Vajiravudh The Great agreed to the construction of the first course, Royal Hua Hin. Today there are more than 250 courses in the Kingdom attracting swingers from all over the world. Golf, plus whatever other Siamese sybaritic pleasures our foursome could discover, was why we’d come to the “Land of Smiles.”

Swingin’ the Blues

Just minutes after landing at the Phuket Airport, we were teeing off at the Blue Canyon Country Club’s Canyon Course. Playing a round of golf here entails following in the footsteps of such legends as Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els, as many of Asia’s top tournaments have been hosted on this lush course by Japanese designer Yoshikazu Kato.

Carved into the edge of a canyon, the fairways unfold across a verdant valley dotted with freshwater lakes. Number 13, the 390-yard signature hole, is also christened “The Tiger Hole” as Mr. Woods blasted 270 yards across the canyon from the black tees to the green.

My favourite is number 14, a drop-dead gorgeous par-three that plays onto an almost-island green in the shape of Thailand from hugely elevated tees.

Blue Canyon’s Lakes Course, also by Kato, features water on all but the 17th fairway. It’s a gentler test than the Canyon Course with gigantic greens and generous fairways.

Caddie Chat

In Thailand, caddies are mandatory and almost all of them are women. Each player receives her or his own caddie and cart for the round. At Blue Canyon, my caddie told me to call her Bun. Soaking wet she probably weighed about 67 pounds. After a few holes Bun had my game sized up and knew exactly what club to hand me. These tiny gals, clad in pantsuits and oversized visors in club colours, sometimes speak little English, but invariably they enhance your golfing experience. Bun made sure I had plenty of cold coconut water, she wrapped chilled towels scented with lemongrass around my neck, shielded me from the sun on the greens with an umbrella and fanned me with her “Hello Kitty” fan. As much as I love playing golf in Thailand, I must warn you that it is usually hot and humid, so you must stay cool and hydrated. Wearing two gloves also helps with slippery grips.

Red Hot Golf

Red Mountain Golf Club bills itself as “the most exciting golf course in Phuket.” I might add the most dramatically beautiful and, probably my favourite in all of Thailand.

Designed by Jon Morrow on what was a former tin mine, Red Mountain dips and dives to take full advantage of the dizzying elevation changes and red rock outcroppings. It’s a challenge but there are all sorts of risk and reward options along the 6,900 serpentine yards. And in keeping with the Thai caddie experience, I had the ever-enthusiastic Sarika to help me find my errant Titleists and humour me with cheers and claps when I managed par.

Natural waste bunkers, towering precipices, deep ravines and flooded gullies are all seamlessly integrated. And as you weave your way through Red Mountain, you are rewarded with panoramic views over Phuket before heading back down another gully lined with tropical forest. The elevation changes so drastically on this layout that golf carts are compulsory. Every aspect of Red Mountain ensures that players are captivated by the exciting diversity of play and the spectacular natural scenery.


The par-threes on Red Mountain are most memorable. The third requires a carry over what looks like an excavation zone; the spectacular signature 17th has elevated tees and a postage stamp green. Pick the right club and a birdie is yours.

Old Phuket Town

Being “foodies” as well as swingers, we took an afternoon to discover Old Phuket Town, declared a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. With our guide, June, we discovered Buddhist and Chinese temples, shrines, ornate and beautifully preserved “chophouses,” housing coffee shops and myriad restaurants. June confessed that her goal was to put a couple of kilos on each of us before we got out of town. First stop was for specialty coffee brewed from beans grown in Northern Thailand at Doubrew. At Torry’s Ice Cream Boutique we sampled intriguing flavours such as salted egg swirl, black sesame and matcha fusion. A street vendor handed out samples of stinky durian fruit.

We checked out the funky lobby of The Memory at On-On Hotel where Leonardo Di Caprio stayed during the filming of the movie, The Beach. Lunch of Tum Yam soup and mango with sticky rice probably achieved June’s goal of putting on a few kilos.

Pampering at The Pavilions Phuket

We stayed at The Pavilions resort in Phuket where luxury and extraordinary service go hand in hand at the cliffside jungle-like setting.

Our huge villa offered commanding views of the Andaman Sea as we soaked in our own infinity pool. The kitchen was equipped with a Nespresso machine and reasonably priced drinks and snacks from the mini-bar. ° Guests are transported around the resort via golf carts. Just call the transportation desk and your chariot awaits. Catch a spectacular sunset at the 360 ° Bar while sipping their passion fruit, coconut rum and maple syrup signature cocktail.

At the Plantation Club dining room, New Zealander Chef Rey re-interprets classic Thai dishes while utilising locally sourced ingredients, many from the resort’s own garden. Chef Rey served our group a fabulous tasting menu with wine pairings to complement each course. Remembering his wok-fried Phuket lobster with yellow pepper and shrimp paste topped with crispy holy basil and pomelo still makes my mouth water.

Breakfast can be enjoyed buffet-style or from the a la carte menu. Or, have a floating breakfast delivered to your pool. Another innovative offer is the Free-flow package which allows unlimited consumption of beer, bubbles, house wine and soft drinks for three hours, any time of day for about $40 CDN per person.

Pass a pool filled with koi fish on your way to the Spa. The Thai Silk treatment includes a refreshing mandarin orange scrub followed by a traditional Thai massage. After your treatment, relax with some herbal tea around the Spa pool and contemplate a yoga class.

If you can tear yourself away, The Pavilions offers plenty of activities, including shuttles to their private beach club and yacht excursions.

www.pavilionshotels.com

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author

Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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