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Have you been on a golfing Road Trip? Do you want to share your experiences with the rest of us? If so, write a report, with photos if possible, and send it to us at our email address, we will publish the report here.

 

Road Trip – Kao Yai – February 2017

 

It’s been several years since anyone wrote up a Road Trip and so I thought I’d pen my thoughts on a recent one that largely replicated two I did in 2016.

 

Day 1

There were two players on this trip, Ed Mainman (handicap 11) and myself John Thrower (handicap 17), and we set off from Khon Kaen at 05.00am in the black of night and headed east towards Chaiyaphum with the intention of picking up the much improved alternative to Highway 2, the 201. I would recommend this route to Kao Yai, it is dual carriageway all the way with minimal coach and double wagon truck traffic and hardly any disruption due to traffic lights. Plus as you approach the left fork to Sikhio, there is a right turn that brings you out on the first port of call, Panorama Golf and Country Club (take that right turn – we had to U-turn and drive back to it- follow the road to its very end and then left and Panorama GC presents itself on the right hand side).

 

Panorama GC

The drive to the clubhouse you pass the 4th green and 5th tee but barely see any of the course itself. This is a feature of the course as each hole is individually contained and you don’t see another hole or golfer until you arrive on the next tee box. All fairways are tree lined.

Yardages: Black tees (6,768 yards); Blue tees (6,197 yards); White tees (5,462 yards) Red tees (4,715 yards). Par 72, with 4 x par 3’s, 4 x par 5’s and 10 par 4’s.

Notable holes: Hole 5, I understand, made the all Thailand top 18 golf holes. It is a dog leg right par 4 (stroke index 1) with two water features (these were dry) that pinch at the landing area meaning a fairway wood is the best option off the tee. You then play over / across the water features to a green that appears raised but it is simply an uphill walk to the green. 396 yards off the blue tees, this represents the second longest par 4 on the course. The course itself voted Thailand’s 12th best by Thailand Tatler.
The view down the 6th hole Panorama GC

The view from the 12th tee (white) at Panorama GC, with the huge tree acting as a glove for balls!!

Cost: we played on Monday Feb 13th which was a public holiday and so we had to pay 1,800 Baht (exc buggy but inc caddy fee). I recall previous visits that Monday is a Sports Day and the cost is approximately 1,100 Baht (exc buggy inc caddy fee) from memory. You can walk this course as the distances from green to tee are not punishing (with perhaps the exception of locker room to 1st tee and 9th green to 10th tee).
For tee booking call 044-9389 - 90 / 91.

Refreshment huts are situated at 1st tee, behind 6th green, behind 12th green and reasonably priced.

Overall: a mature course which offers a great introduction to the Kao Yai golf experience. Fairways in February offer a lot of run and the greens are smooth and fast, similar to Singha Park I’d say. Some lovely views especially from the 8th tee.

Clubhouse: a large club house building with locker rooms in the basement / ground floor. Bag drop is up a ramp to the pro shop and there is a car park opposite the down ramp afterwards which allows access to the locker rooms below the pro shop.

Restaurant and bar is upstairs from the locker room and there is a varied and decently priced menu. The dining area offers views over the swimming pool at the Panorama resort.

Following Panorama GC the drive to the hotel in Pak Chong, picking up the much maligned Highway 2 to get there, takes about 40 to 45 minutes.

 

Hotel: The Rim Tarn Inn hotel in Pak Chong offers decent accommodation and is ideally located for the purposes of golf in the Kao Yai area. Plus has Star Gio’s Italian restaurant opposite for a really decent meal with varied menu and Choy Bar further along the main road. There is also the quirky Ban Mai resort and restaurant, a hotpotch of shops, restaurants and bars overlooking the Lamthakong river which snakes behind the hotel and is overlooked by the Veranda at the hotel where breakfast is served in the mornings. The Ban Mai resort is accessed over the bridge that is visible from the back of the hotel, and offers an alternative to Star Gio’s and Choy bar on the main drag.

Price: We paid 3,540 Baht for 3 nights and this included breakfast. Previously I am sure it cost much less than this (maybe 1,000 per night) and we were allowed to buy breakfast coupons over the counter.

Hotel rooms: 6 floors of 9 rooms per floor I believe, served by the world’s tiniest elevator. Rooms are spacious enough, no complaints at all. Ideally, try to avoid the main road-facing rooms as the overnight traffic can be quite noisy, not to mention the bells ringing at the nearby railroad crossing (I speak from experience in this regard!!).

 

Day 2 – Rancho Charnvee Golf and Country Club.

We set off immediately after breakfast (about 07.30) and the traffic at that time is just starting to build with work bound traffic and school traffic. Turn right out of the hotel having negotiated the frontage road and main road first.  Then, after 3.5km, turn right onto road 2235. Once past the huge school, traffic will ease and you will pass over highway 2, heading south on 2235. Rancho Charnvee is well signposted and the right turn to the course is just past two huge grey silos on the right hand side, on the brow of a hill.

Bag drop is well signposted and the clubhouse is a pure delight with a well stocked pro shop for souvenirs and paying green fee.

The locker room is utter comfort and splendour and probably on a par with, if not better than, Singha Park GC.
The male locker room at Rancho Charnvee

The opening tee shot is probably one of the most intimidating I have seen as it requires a decent strike over the lake which harbours the owners yacht to a fairway that starts at about 200 yards!! The course oozes wealth with horse stables behind the 6th tee and a private airstrip that runs alongside the 11th hole.
The first tee and first hole at Rancho Charnvee GC, the guvnor's yacht is moored to the right out of shot here

Yardages: Blue tees (7,131 yards); White tees (6,559 yards); Red tees (5,936 yards)

Notable holes: Purely from a personal perspective, hole 8 a 385 yards dog leg left offers a risk reward drive over a water hazard or the narrow strip of fairway to the right of it, which then demands a lengthier second shot to a raised green protected by a huge bunker in front. The green itself is very undulating. Having given to the water feature on previous visits I was pleased to launch one over the water well down onto the fairway this trip!!
8th tee at Rancho Charnvee, the green is out of shot (in every sense!!) , top left

In fact, holes 8-11 all present challenges of drives over water to fairways with raised greens in the distance, especially hole 10 which has the widest fairway and a very raised green at 382 yards from the tee.

Refreshment huts: Certainly behind the 3rd green / 4th tee and then again at regular intervals on the back 9….hole 11 offers one as does the 13th / 16th tee which share the same refreshment facilities.

Cost: I think we benefitted from Sports Day price on a Tuesday and the cost was 1,250 Baht (inc caddy fee but exc buggy.)

Tee booking call 044-756-210-3

Clubhouse: The facilities here are superb and well maintained and staffed. The restaurant overlooks the lake / 18th fairway and again offers a varied Thai and Western menu. Club sandwiches are available as is the ubiquitous chicken and cashew nuts.

 

Day 3 – Kao Yai GC

Again a 7.00am breakfast, and immediate departure afterwards, to Kao Yai GC (formerly known as Mission Hills). This time turn left out of the hotel onto the frontage road and pick up the main highway. Continue to highway 2090 turning left just before the huge windmill. Follow this road south for about 18km until you pass the Thames Valley (seriously!) estate on the right hand side. There is no signpost as such for Kao Yai GC and so you need to take the next right turn after the Thames Valley estate, just before entering the Kao Yai national park. Kao Yai GC is along this road just past the curious DNA resort, a futuristic space pod set up of a resort.

As has been mentioned by Tim in earlier road trips, the course facilities appear temporary but are indeed permanent, as there are derelict developments beside the clubhouse (behind the small car park), as well as lining what is the 18th and 1st fairways.

The bag drop is beyond the club house / pro shop and requires a U-turn back to the small gravel car park in front of some of the derelict developments.

The pro shop is small but adequate for paying green fees and buying anything you forgot to bring, like socks in my case……

The locker room is a strange affair with a set of steps leading down (outside!!) to the shower room and toilets. The lockers themselves are small and if you have a big holdall, be prepared to fold that sideways on so it fits inside!!

You are best advised to take a buggy as this is NOT a walking course….the first tee is 400 yards from the clubhouse…in fact you drive and play back towards the club house and the 2nd tee is over a huge climb / hill some 700 yards from the 1st green….I would argue strongly that it would be a 20 minute walk between the first green and second tee, so take the buggy and have a 5 minute ride!!!

Yardages: Black tees (7,058 yards); yellow tees (6,659 yards); blue tees (6,295 yards); white tees (5,765 yards); Red tees (5,031 yards).

Notable holes: Hole 2 is perhaps the most quirky, a par 5, stroke index 5 the drive requires a decent hit to a pinch point maybe 250 yards down as a huge quarry pit runs across the hole and sits to the right of the fairway at first before being a left side feature later in the hole.

The course itself is perhaps the most scenic I have ever played, absolutely stunning with tree filled hills rising above the fairways, absolutely beautiful. Holes 2-6 sit away from the course proper, over the hill I mentioned before. Without doubt my most favourite course in Kao Yai, if not Thailand as a whole.
The 8th green at Kao Yai GC

The signature hole (16th) with the green guarded by water on the right

Refreshment huts: behind hole 3, before hole 7, after hole 12 (the last one), though the 15th green is below it.

Cost: Including caddy fee and buggy I think this was 1,700 Baht (and worth every satang!!!)

Tee booking call 089-225-6363

Clubhouse / restaurant: Due to the temporary feel of the place, the menu is limited but still ok.

 

Day 4 – Mountain Creek GC

As we have done on previous trips, the drive home is spliced by a round of golf (previously a second crack at Panorama GC) but this time we decided to take a look at the Seve Ballesteros Mountain Creek GC.

Mountain Creek is a 27 hole affair, offering three 9’s predictably, the Creek, Highland and Valley courses. Leaving Pak Chong, the course sits to the south of the Mittaphrap Road (highway 2) around the 91km post and requires a U-turn after driving from Pak Chong back into the place which is easily visible from the highway.

The drive to the clubhouse is lengthy but what a joy when you get there, bag drop is just beyond the car park and you drive back to the car park having deposited your clubs with the caddies. There is then a buggy on hand to take you back to the club house.

Green fees are paid in the huge pro shop on the right as you enter the sumptuous club house, then you change in Seve’s locker room just beyond that. The locker room is pure luxury and I believe includes a sauna!!!

We took buggies not least as it was our 4th day of golf in a row but also your commentator had the long drive back to Khon Kaen after the golf…..ordinarily I would argue that buggies are needed as there are some lengthy treks between green and tee.

We were told that the Creek course (allegedly the most difficult of the three) was closed for maintenance and so we had to tackle the Highland (east) and Valley (south)

Yardages:

Creek: Black (3,781 yards) Blue (3,475) White (3,204) Yellow (3,020) Red (2,808)

Valley: Black (3,834 yards) Blue (3,589) White (3,308) Yellow (3,087) Red (2,818)

Highland: Black (3,671 yards) Blue (3,413) White (3,189) Yellow (2,929) Red (2,634)
Hole 3 on Highland, the highest tee on the course. A pond (dried and rocky) captures balls hit short and left, and the green is treacherous!!! The 'S' for Seve bunker short right just visible in camera shot here

The island hole 7, Valley course, tricky par 3

Boulder features and trees mid fairway offer some protection to the par 5 8th at the Valley course, not to mention an elevated green beyond.

The course itself: there have been some critical things written on these Road Trip pages thus far and I can see the point as this is a brutal golf course!!! The greens are nearly all elevated (I likened them to top hats) and the surfaces are like lightning once you get there eventually. Fairways are tree lined and demand straight drives. Rocky outcrops are prevalent, especially on the Highland course. We played the white tees (inadvertently thinking they would be the most forwards!!, but no should have been the yellows...bah!!) and our scoring was the heaviest of the trip as were the ball losses!!! You need to be on your game to score well around this course and whilst it would be easy to blame fatigue and too much golf for poor scoring, I wouldn’t recommend it at the end of a golf trip as it beats you up and spits you out!!!

 

Cost: Not the cheapest day out at 2,450 Baht for 18 holes inc caddy fee (350) and buggy (600) but a great experience, if a little humbling…..
Refreshment huts: In plentiful supply but pricey with a 250ml Sprite costing 40 Baht....at least Dick Turpin wore a mask!!!

Journey home: Decided to take Highway 2 all the way back as didn’t fancy the single track road (229) from Kaeng Khro to Mancha Kiri having earlier taken the 201 to Chaiyaphum. As it transpired, a wise choice as we left Mountain Creek after a lovely lunch at 13.20, stopped for petrol and a coffee after the Korat bypass for 30 minutes and arrived back home at 17.00 hours, some 84 hours after leaving and 72 holes later.



 
late February 2014

Road Trip to Khao Yai, and new I.G.A. discount.

Tim Seitz

Last week four of us went to Khao Yai for a golfing get-away.  The plan was to play 3 courses; Panorama, Rancho Charnavee, and Khao Yai Country Club (formerly Mission Hills, a Jack Nicklaus creation).

Two of us drove from Udon, one from Korat, and one came up from Pattaya (a 2 handicapper who has played most courses in Thailand).  From Udon Thani to Pakchong, the town on the edge of Khao Yai, the drive down Hwy # 2 was 4 hours and 45 minutes.

Day 1.

We all met at Khao Yai Country Club for a 1 p.m. tee time.  Oddly, the only one who got lost was the guy from Korat, only one hour away. 

As mentioned, this course was originally named Mission Hills. The course is set back up a valley in the mountains just a few miles from the entrance to Khao Yai National Park.  Even though we were well into the dry season and the hills are somewhat browned-out, the golf course is a green oasis and sparkles like the gem it is. I have had the opportunity to play on several Jack Nicklaus designed courses, and they do not disappoint.  (As opposed to that ridiculous Seve Ballesteros course, the nightmare named Mountain Creek, which is now commonly called “Mountain Crash”. Virtually unplayable by higher handicappers).

Mission Hills was one of the many massively over-developed and under-thought projects of the late 1990’s that fell victim to the Thai economic crash of 1997.  Mission Hills had a massive club house that resembled a castle, and condos and houses that remain clustered near the first tee.  And then it all went belly-up, and within a few years the clubhouse was closed and one by one the condos were deserted, and the half-built houses and other buildings remain as skeletons in the hills over-looking the valley.  But thanks be to the Gods that the golf course survived and money was found to keep it in good condition.

At present Khao Yai Country Club is under temporary management until the end of the year when plans are in place to begin to pump money back into the project and restore it to former glory.  In the meantime there is a very small clubhouse with a pro shop, locker/shower area, and basic restaurant.  All perfectly adequate, but not grand.

My old friend and long-time resident from Pattaya had bragged-up this course as his favorite in Khao Yai, and one of his very favorite in Thailand. He further stated that if this were the only course in Thailand, he’d never tire of playing it. To end any suspense, he is absolutely correct.  The golf course is a hidden gem and pure pleasure to play.  It has it all, and in Nicklaus fashion, many holes offer risk/reward ways of approaching the greens, which were as good as greens get.  Enough undulation to be challenging, but not ridiculously rolly/poly greens as many ‘resort’ courses tend to have.  The views everywhere are stunning and I made a personal commitment to return in the wet season to see the surrounding mountains greened-up and flowering. 

Day 2.  We had a 09:00 tee time at Rancho Charnavee, just off Highway # 2 a few miles from Pakchong.  This is a resort course built by a very very wealthy Thai man who owns many many factories (as say the caddies).  The clubhouse design is reminiscent of Singha Park and it just oozes money.  It sits on a small lake, and in the center of the lake is an 80 ft. yacht, which must have taken days to bring there from the sea.

Even more noteworthy is the private paved airstrip along side of the 10th hole. This is used by the owner to commute to work in Bangkok.

I have played this new golf course twice before and it was truly impressive how quickly the fairways have matured.  The layout is excellent and challenging with the typical very undulating greens found on resort courses.

Although this course comes highly recommended and it is fun to play, the Thai management pulled a stunt that will put me off for a very long time.

They told us to tee off on the back nine… no problem, assuming that maybe a mob of Koreans had possession of the front nine.  The back nine was in excellent shape and we all remarked on the excellent condition and speed of the greens.

We finished the back, then tee’d off on Number One.  We got to the 1st green and they were just finishing coring and sanding the green.  As they had done with all of the greens on the front nine.

Why do I fault the management ?

Because they could have/should have told us this at the pro shop, allowing us decide whether to play, or not.

Because they should have had a maintenance notice on the same board that gives green speed.

Because they tee’d us off the back nine knowing damned right well that we’d not ask for our money back after playing half of the course.

Because they did not give us the option of playing the back nine a second time.

That evening, during the mandatory beer drinking we put the day’s grumbling aside to consider the pleasure of the forthcoming 3rd day of golf.  Although we had planned to play an old favorite, Panorama, I’d just learned that there was a large group of our Kim Chee neighbors playing golf and staying there, not due to leave for a few days.

We considered this and all that can entail and decided that we did not want another day with built-in potential aggro (as the Aussies say).  So, we considered our options, which included playing Bonanza.  However, our low-handicapper described that course as “very playable, big fairways, lots of water…but…not a memorable course to play”. 

Then the idea was tossed out “Why not play Khao Yai Country Club again?”  We all immediately agreed.

Day 3, Khao Yai Country Club revisited.

This time we arrived early morning, just after the greens had been cut.  No one had snuck out and cored the greens, and no groups of Koreans were anywhere to be seen.  If anything, it was more of a pleasure the second time around and gave us the false confidence to try a few of Jack’s tempting short-cuts.

Bottom line:  4 golfers walked off the course as satisfied as golfers can be. Especially my partner and me, as we closed out the match play on hole number 17, and had a free lunch (of our choice) to look forward to.

High Kudos for this golf course. It is a beauty.

In this golfer’s opinion, Khao Yai Country Club is the best golf course that I have played anywhere N.E. of Bangkok, including our KK star, Singha Park.

New I.G.A. agreement:  After the golf I visited the interim managers to see if our golfers could get any benefit as a group, and this is what we now have in place UNTIL THE BEGINNING OF THE NEXT HIGH SEASON, NOVEMBER.  The managers explained that as interim management, they do not have the authority to actually enter into a contract with IGA, like what we have with our partner courses such as Singha Park.  However………. This is what we now have in place.  You will walk up to the counter at the Pro Shop and present your 2014 IGA card, sealed and with photo.  You will specifically ask for: “the walk-in rate”.   Your new rate, Monday thru Friday excluding all Thai holidays, will be 1050 baht, which includes greens’ fee and caddy fee.  If you ask for the ‘special walk-in rate, with buggy’, your all inclusive fee will be 1400 baht.  Enjoy, gents !

Note about Pakchong:  This is a small town that is basically an agricultural supply center.  There are a couple of hotels in the 800 baht area that are ‘perfectly adequate’.  Room plus breakfast.  We stayed in the Phuphaya Hotel, next to the post office near the center of town.  You can easily walk to the center that has a night market, and there are a few basic Thai restaurants where one can get good clean cheap Thai food.   Night life ?  Forget it!  There are two farang-style bars that are not worth the effort to find.  No girlie stuff, but it is reported that of course there is Thai massage, and some late night karaoke.  We drove to one place in the afternoon for some food, a place called The Sports Bar.  The word ‘unfriendly’ comes immediately to mind.  We 4 entered the open air bar and the 4 ex-pat customers stopped talking and gave us a bit of a stare-down as we took a table. We found out that one of those guys was the owner and although we had a few beers and spent more on lunch that his buddies probably spend in a week, he never came over to say hello. Nor I did not walk over to say “Farewell”.

The Khao Yai area has, I believe, 10 golf courses.  It is a destination for very good golf.  Most courses are located near, or on the road that goes from Pakchong to Khao Yai National Park, which is about 24 miles up in the valley.  Also along this road are many restaurants, hotels, resorts, condos, and other Bangkok weekend attractions.  There are very fancy restaurants, pizza shops, amusement centers, and even a go-cart track.  Obviously one could find accommodations up in this valley, but I implore some adventurous golfer(s) to try out The D. N. A. Resort.  God only knows what goes on in there !

 


21st September 2012
Something a bit different, up to now the trip reports have been about courses in Thailand, but here we go further afield. Mike Court has just been to Canada and has sent us this report. We have put it on a separate page to differentiate the locations. Link is via the Navigation panel on the left. Many thanks to Mike for letting us have the details.


28th July 2012
Another report from Tim, what would we do without him!!!!!!!!!!
This is the report on Mountain Creek, some of you may remember Tim won a couple of complimentary tickets to play there.
My apologies about the formatting, I am having some fun and games, hopefully it will not spoil a great read.

Mountain Creek Resort, Khao Yai 

Last month, a couple of us returned to Khao Yai to play the last course designed by Sevie Ballesteros.  I hate to be hogging up the Khon Kaen Road Trip Report page, but a bunch of fellow golfers have heard about this course, and wanted to know what it is like. 

Mountain Creek, a 27 hole sprawling golf course is stunning in design, and as you drive the several miles on private roads to get to the ultra-modern clubhouse (reminiscent a bit of the one at Singha Park), you can’t help but wonder how many millions were poured into the project. 

The golf:  In a nutshell, it is the most difficult course I have ever played, including the previous top-contender, Carnoustie, which is probably the toughest legitimate links test of golf played by the pros.

But the difference with Mountain Creek is that this golf course is unnecessarily difficult. One friend, a 2 handicapper, described “…it is the most tricked-up course I have ever played.”

We played the course on 2 consecutive days.  On day one, the course manager put us out on The Creek (one of 3 nine-hole segments). Hole 1, Par 5, 548 yards.  The tee shot is obviously downhill, fairly narrow fairway that seems to drop off a bit around the 220 yard mark.  My caddy handed me a driver, which I hit just a bit right of center and watched as the ball bounced once and seemed to roll over the rise.  When we drove the buggy down there, we discovered there was a cliff !  There was a waste area for a good 40 yards, then a second landing area about 60 meters long, then another drop-off into the creek, then a final landing area down near the green. 

I drove the buggy back to the clubhouse and purchased a Stroke Saver, and tried the first hole again.

But I still lost 6 balls on the first 9 holes.

Of the 3 nine hole layouts (The Creek, The Valley, and The Highlands) the Creek is by far the most difficult, and The Highlands is by far the most fair and playable.

The course is beautiful, the fairways surprising good for a new course, and the greens are roly-poly, fast, and consistent.  But the tricks and the gimmicks never stop.  You will find large trees in the middle of narrow fairways, rock-piles (both natural and man-made) in the middle of fairways and in front of some greens.  You will be tormented by narrow fairways that slant to one side to the extent that a well-placed fairway shot will roll off the fairway into dense brush.  And you will be devastated to see high iron shots roll off the backs of greens because some the greens are sloped away from the teeing area.

All I can figure is that Seve was in a foul mood when (and if) he put the final touches on the course.  Considering that most golfers in the world are mid to high handicap, I just can’t imagine this course getting a lot of repeat business.  It’s just too damned difficult, and as previously mentioned, it is unnecessarily difficult.

If the course is to survive and become a golfing destination, I can only hope that the management decides to soften it up a bit.  A 26 handicapper would have a lousy day on this course, and I doubt, would ever return.

They are considering a ‘sports day’ reducing the greens’ fees to around 1500 bath. 

So, hey, should you be in Khao Yai and want (as the English say) to have a one-off at Mountain Creek, play their sports day, don’t forget your sense of humor, and make sure you bring a big bag of balls

.Happy golfing,   


23rd July 2012
Once again Tim has had the 'wanderlust', here is his trip report. Many thanks, Tim

ROAD TRIP OF MID JULY TO BHUMIBOL AND SIRIKIT DAMS (TAK & UTTARADIT)

 

Occasionally one might tire of the flat landscapes of Isaan, and a good change of pace is to head off on an E.G.A.T. (Electrical Generating Authority of Thailand) golfing tour.  Our nearest such EGAT course is Ubol Rat near Khon Kaen, generally known as The Dam.

 

Most of these facilities are located in remote regions, often in the mountains.  When these series of dams were being built EGAT had a difficult time recruiting skilled employees to work in such remote areas, so EGAT decided to offer up on-site recreational opportunities as recruitment incentives. Golf was decided to be a major draw for the educated engineers and skilled management, so EGAT (having no lack of funds) built golf courses on most of their sites.  

 

Tourism remains an incidental by-product, but now many of the EGAT facilities have ‘home stay’ or small hotels. Wise to book in advance and keep in mind that EGAT destinations have become fairly popular weekend destinations for the Thais.  However, during the week, the lodgings are virtually empty and you might be one of two or three groups on the entire golf course.  How wonderful is that? (These places all have websites, and most are listed in the golf courses of Thailand sites).

 

One of my all-time favorite ‘dam’ destinations is Bhumibol Dam near Tak. From Udon Thani, it is a 393.21 km drive west to Tak.  It can be done in a single run, good roads all the way. From Khon Kaen, take Hwy 12. 

 

Bhumibol Dam (named after the King) is the largest dam in Thailand and is located about 40 km from Tak. Although there is home-stay at the dam, I preferred to stay in the small city of Tak in the Tak Vieng Riverside Hotel (IGA discount, 1000 baht per night if booked in advance, 2 breakfast vouchers) and ask for a room on the south side of the hotel where you will have a great view of the mountains and the clear-running river that flows from the dam.  There is also a small Night Market with food and drink within walking distance from the hotel. For nightlife, the hotel has the Marina Disco, and of course, massage.  But not much else going on in the town.

 

It is worthwhile to take a day trip, as I did on the 2nd day, to Mae Sot on the Burma border, 110 k. west of Tak, at the end of a very good and entertaining mountain road.  There is a very large Thai/Burma day market on the Thai side along the river at the border crossing where it is best to do your tourist shopping, for Burmese items.  If you wish, you can get a ‘day pass’ to go into Myawadi for 500 baht.  The Burmese side holds your passport and gives you a pass that is good until 5 pm.  Unfortunately, there is eff-all to do, see, or buy, but at least you can have a Myanmar Lager and say that you’ve been in Burma. There is a ‘resort bar’ just over the Burma side, and perhaps some future traveler can check it out.  Since I was accompanied by my sig. other, I was reluctant to do so.

 

So, spent the 2nd night at the hotel, ate some food at the night market. Had a few beers along the river, and got up at 8 on a Monday morning to drive up to the dam, a golf course I really enjoy but had not been to for three years.  Nothing like anticipation!  But I had failed to do a very simple and logical thing before driving all the way across Thailand:  Call the course to make sure that all is well !!!

 

45 minutes up to the dam, beautiful drive!  Arrived at the golf course, no cars in the parking lot, Feelin’ good! Paid my 580 baht for greens fee and caddy, a caddy takes my clubs and off I go.  Get to the first green and I’m disappointed because it was recently sanded (top-soiled, as the Thais say).  I asked the caddy if they were all sanded…. No, and it was the correct answer.  Got to the second green but it was heavily razor-cut.  Almost un-puttable.  (Started to worry). Got to the 3rd tee and was informed that the green was closed, told to skip the hole! As the round progressed, so did my gloom.  All of the greens were either sanded or razor-cut, and three more were closed and offered only tiny little temporary greens.

 

On the bright side, the views were beautiful and I saw a bunch of weird birds that I had never seen before.  I completed the round living off the memory of how beautiful the course can be, but I had no one to blame but myself for not calling ahead to ask if there were any maintenance issues or other conflicts.  However, a bit of farang attitude did come out of me when I asked the manager/cashier why he did not tell me of the course conditions before I paid?  With a straight face, and in Thai, he said “You did not ask”.

 

I went to the clubhouse and ordered several beers. I had planned to have a couple of rounds at Bhumibol, but not in light of the course condition.

 

So when I returned to the Riverside Hotel in Tak, the first thing I did was to call the second course on my “damned” itinerary, Sirikit Dam.  I asked every question I could think of keeping in mind the answer I had gotten from the Bhumibol manager, and then I asked them all again, in reverse order just to make sure.

 

Sirikit Dam Golf Course.

 

Just over 200 kilo’s from Tak thru Uttaradit to Sirikit Dam.  From Sirikit Dam to Udon or Khon Kaen, about a 6 hour drive.

 

Another remote and beautiful mountainous EGAT Golf Course, with better hotel and home-stay options than any other EGAT facility.

 

I have been to Sirikit on about 10 other occasions and have been able to cultivate some good relationships with the hotel and golf course managers, and with a local fisherman, and as usual, it paid dividends.  I was up-graded to a suite for the cost of a home stay room, and I was invited to play in an annual employee golf competition while I was there.

 

Sirikit Dam has a beautiful golf course and is well worth the trip.  I would love to have this as my “local”. I would rank it as superior to Ubol Rat. Greens fee plus caddy:  400 baht. 

 

As is normal, the course was empty Monday til Friday afternoon, and then only moderately busy weekends  High tee offs, some elevated greens, some fairways running parallel with the beautiful river emptying from the dam. During the rainy season, the intense shades of green from the fairways to the mountains is simply stunning.  

 

This venue is highly recommended from an aesthetic point of view, for the golf, and for the value.  The EGAT restaurant is opened til 11:30 pm, the food is adequate, and a large Leo is only 55 baht (as is breakfast).

 

To top it off, I did pull a couple of fish from the river, and after-the-fact (after releasing the fish) the restaurant staff told me that they would have been happy to have cooked the fish.

 

If Sirikit does have a downside, there is NOTHING to do at night besides having a few beers at the restaurant, the golf clubhouse, or in the small village just outside of the main gate.

 

Go for the golf with your mates, or go for a few days with your ‘other’ mate.

 

Highly recommended.

 

 
 
 1st May 2012.
Tim has been on his travels again, this time in Khao Yai

One of the very best Thai golfing options is Khao Yai, about an hour south of Korat.  Khao Yai area offers about a dozen excellent 18 hole courses to choose from, and there is a central town named Pak Chong that does offer a few hotels, restaurants, and a bit of night life. Perfectly adequate stay for a multi-day Road Trip to Khao Yai.
 
Many I.G.A. members have played golf in and around Khao Yai, and one course keeps popping up as a favorite: Panorama Golf and Country Club. This is what might be considered a "resort golf course", in that it would be a mighty challenge for a Medal Round of golf. Some extremely challenging fairways, and very fast and highly bunkered greens.  But always in good condition.  However, there are 4 sets of tees, so even higher handicappers can play the course and enjoy it.  Simply put, it is great fun !  After the golf, I was able to speak to the manager, and he is pleased to offer I.G.A. card-carrying members a significant discount on greens' fees. (please see IGA Discounts) 
 
Panorama does have accommodations should you wish a quiet stay, and the course is only a 30 minute drive from Pak Chong.
 
We played a second course on this trip, and it warrents some comment.  Rancho Charnavee is a new course in the area, only 20 minutes from Pak Chong.  This too, is a resort course and it is definately up-market.  A beautiful clubhouse that might have been tailored after Singha Park, and a small lake next to the clubhouse that has a 70 foot cabin crusier anchored in the center!  There is also a private airstrip along the edge of the course.  The deck of the clubhouse offers a full view of the 18th hole.  The greens are wicked and wild and rolly-polly and lightning fast!  Great fun, making every hole a putting challenge.  However, keeping in mind that this is only 2 years old, the fairways are not yet up to par.  All of the dips and depressions are very sandy at present, and you need to play preferred lies. I'd say in about a year, this course will be super. 
 
 
 
Panorama Golf and Country Club
 
Located about 30 minutes from Pak Chong in Khao Yai.  This very entertaining and moderately priced resort course now offers IGA Members a 40% discount on Greens' fees, every day of the year (excluding their own promotional days).  The course is highly recommended and always in good nick.



1st April 2012.
Our thanks to Tim who has just sent this report on his recent Road Trip to Laos.
 

Lao(s) Country Club, and Dansavanh Golf and Country Club.

 

During the last week of March, a few golfers from Isaan Golf Association went up to Laos to meet up with several Lao I.G.A. members for a couple of rounds of golf north of the Mekong. The quality of golf well justifies the trip and perhaps some of our ex-pats will consider taking their clubs on their next Visa Run. L.C.C. is only about 4 km. from the Nong Khai Friendship Bridge crossing just off the main road to Vientiane, and Dansavanh is about one and a half hours to the north.

 

Two of us took our vehicles.  This can be done if: you are the outright owner of the vehicle, it is in your name, and you have gone to the local Thai office that issues Thai drivers’ licenses and purchased a Vehicle Passport for a nominal fee.  You arrive at the border with:  Personal Passport, Vehicle Passport, and Vehicle Ownership Book.  Keep in mind that Fridays and Sundays are the busiest times at the border, but during the week and on non-holiday Saturdays, you can process your paperwork on each side of the border in about 30 minutes. Once you ‘learn the ropes’, quicker still. It is straightforward on both sides.  No “funny money” asked for.

 

Lao Country Club.

 

This was formerly the Kilo 14 Youth Friendship Golf Course, but it was taken over by a Korean group and closed for two years while redesigning the entire course.  The result is amazing, having previously played on the old course, and most people now believe that only Singha Park is comparable in quality in our general area. The Clubhouse is 1st Class, and yes, they have Beer Lao.  Greens’ fees:  Weekdays 1100 baht including caddy.  Weekends: 1400 baht.  Quality of caddies: Some good, but mostly bag carriers.

 

The fairways are lush, bunkers are plentiful and have real sand, and the greens are large and very well maintained (and fast) with all kinds of interesting places to hide a pin. The layout is fair and the course is very playable for even moderately high handicappers. Water: Yes, plenty of it.  Distances:  4 sets of tees will accommodate all players. Men’s White, Gold, and Blues. Gold’s about 6200 yards, and Blue’s right at 6800. 

 

Currently, there is no official website, and various Golfing Package links have a lot of inaccurate information, including price. The links also quote prices for buggies which is bogus, because L. C. C. is being promoted as eco-friendly, and there are no buggies for hire.  Don’t let this put you off, it is not a difficult course to walk, unless of course, your golf game takes you on the scenic tour and doubles the distance of the course, tee to green.

 

There are no accommodations for staying over, but you are only 14 km. from Vientiane. You could also just carry your clubs to the border and arrange for a taxi, or even a tuktuk to take you to the course, and later return you to the border for a day trip.

 

Absolutely a golf course worth playing.

 

 

Dansavanh Golf and Country Club.  (www.Dansavanh.com) 

 

If you are driving, best to print out a Google earth map, but not a difficult nor lengthy drive. As you leave the customs and immigration area on the Lao side and come to the highway, turn left (a right turn would take you to Vientiane).  Go about 2 km. and take a left on Hwy 450.  Continue north to junction of Hwy 13, go left.  Continue to the junction where Hwy 13 goes right, Hwy 10 left.  Continue on Hwy 10 for about 30 km until you see the signs for Dansavanh on your right.  Turn, continue about 3 km, golf course on your left.  If you continue on this road past the golf course and drive 5 k. up over the mountain, you will come to the old Nam Ngum Casino and hotel, which is on the side of the very large Nam Ngum lake. However, the casino is very old and tacky, horrible food, and a very bad hotel.  The golf course site also has gambling rooms, on a small scale, mostly machines.

 

There is lodging at the golf course, and there is a restaurant. However, if you continue 8 km past the turn off on Hwy 10, you will come to Ban Keung.  Turn right at the river, about one kilo you will find the Vansana Nam Ngum Hotel Resort. (Vansana has a website)  A beautiful small hotel with a swimming pool and a big deck on the clear river running from the dam.  Cost: 1000 baht including breakfast. In the small village is a very good floating restaurant on the river. There is also a small country disco/karaoke in the village, but as of yet, no one has given it a try.  Perhaps you would meet up with your caddy?

 

I am also told that pick-up can be arranged from the border by the golf course, or you could easily hire transport from either the border or from Vientiane.  Please access their website, then click “Contact Us”.  For prices, also see their website. It is very reasonably priced.  Caddies: mostly bag carriers.

 

The Golf Course.

 

Whoever designed this course was either a genius or a complete mad-man.  It is carved out around the side of a mountain, it traverses over ravines and primal-looking pools of water, thru a forest where no same caddy will enter to look for your ball (speaking of which, bring plenty of balls). This course is wonderfully evil with many, many blind shots and surprises. A second round on the course will take many strokes off your first round. It is great fun, although a bit sadistic!  Worth the trip?  Absolutely.  Quality of the course:  If Lao Country Club is 4 Star, Dansavanh is 3 Star (DanCoon 2 Star), considering over-all condition, but again the layout is unique and interesting.  Greens are dangerously hilly and fast, bunkers good, fairways a bit sandy but very playable.  Views are spectacular and normally you do not see any other fairways from wherever you are on the course. 

 

Unless you are in training for an Ironman Marathon, you will want a buggy.  The course is hilly, and sometimes it might be a half a kilo from green to the next tee.  Be prepared to be humbled, and very few will shoot their handicap until you know the course.  High handicappers:  start drinking on the first tee ! 

 

 

Perhaps some of you have played that very tough 9 hole mountain course in Loei? 

 

One of our group described Dansavanh as “Loei on steroids”.

 

 

As a side note, in Vientiane there is also the 18 hole SEA Games Course, and the new 18 hole Lao Inter Course.  A new 36 hole complex is now being constructed near the Lao Country Club.

 

Maybe we need to organize a future 3 or 4 day golf trip to Laos ?

 

Dansavanh will most likely be offering an I.G.A. discount in the near future, and we are also under review by the Lao Country Club, however, being Korean-owned, L.C.C. will have many ‘committees” that must approve such a radical concept.

 

Cheers,

 

Tim