Thailand’s golfing industry has defied the global downturn, but awarding the star billing in this success story is tricky – at least, for a golf expert who had a spanking good time on a top course in Pattaya.
Paradoxically, one factor that boosted Thailand’s 260 golf courses is the world’s recent financial storm.
Mark Siegel, the director of golf tour operator Golfasian, told Reuters that, for golfing, ‘the recession is actually helping Thailand’. His company has seen belt-tightening North Americans shift golfing breaks to Thailand from Scotland and Ireland, fuelling a 10% lift in the firm’s business.
Golfers at Phuket’s Blue Canyon – possibly the swankiest of all Thai courses – pay only a third of the $495 that Pebble Beach in the United States would cost them.
The world slump also deserves credit for fast-tracking the Golf in a Kingdom initiative, which markets the cream of Thailand’s golf courses to overseas golfers. Most of its 13 members report no impact from recession and several have seen more rounds played this year.
The flashy Golf in a Kingdom website tells about the quality of courses’ conditioning, ‘spectacular verdant terrain’, and the ‘state of near bliss’ induced by the quality and variety of the amenities on offer – although it warns that ‘the sheer size of Thai clubhouses may at first take some foreign visitors aback’.
But recent visitors to WorldGolf.com get a simpler perspective on Thailand’s emergence as a top golfing destination. It’s all down to the caddies.
‘In Thailand, female caddies are as much of a draw to golfers as the golf courses themselves,’ writes Brandon Tucker, who claims the ‘army’ of helpful women make him play his best-ever rounds in the Land of Smiles.
‘When there is a wait on the tee, sometimes they’ll give you a quick shoulder rub while another caddie fans your neck,’ he writes. ‘This is how Thailand does golf, and it’s tough to ever go back.’
But he stresses that players should not take this hospitality too far – but should limit themselves to a spanking.
‘The occasional high-five or shoulder touch is okay, and at my round at Siam Country Club’s Plantation Course in Pattaya, my caddie spanked me when I missed a 10-foot putt an inch short.
‘But that’s about the extent of how flirtatious you should get.’