A day out playing golf
Golf courses are found aplenty in and around Bangkok. They are usually fairly accessible to all and are mostly not more than an hour’s drive from the city centre.
Wanting to play a round of golf though, requires quite a bit of planning. A guide to what’s essential – locker rooms are available at all golf courses and are used! Apart from your golf bag, pack a bag with a change of clothing – 18 holes in the relentless heat and accompanying humidity will leave you drenched in sweat, wanting nothing more than a cool shower and that beer (more often, not the first one you will have consumed). Sun protection in the form of sun block, a hat and an umbrella are all items you need to include with your clubs.
Arriving at a golf course though is where the first of many differences to one’s usual playing experience begins. Follow the bag-drop signage – driving up to the clubhouse and ‘bag-drop’, a host of well covered, uniformly dressed (usually) women will be waiting. You will be met by a caddie master of kind, who will enquire if you have a booking/tee-time reservation (it is highly advisable to always book a tee-time). He will scribble something on a piece of paper and hand it over to you, in exchange for your bag, which will then be allocated to one of the nearby seated caddies – the same group of well covered, uniformly dressed women you had first seen on your arrival. You will soon realise that this piece of paper, has your car registration and the number of the caddie you will have for your round of golf. Don’t be fooled into thinking that their total cover up is due to modesty reasons, it is for vital protection against the harsh Asian sun.
Most golf courses will have a golf registration counter, sometimes separate to the pro-shop, sometimes in the pro-shop, so look for signs that may indicate something slightly different to your club back home. It is compulsory to take a caddie and you are required to pay a nominal amount for her or his services, which is also then added to your green fee.
Depositing your change of clothing in the locker room, and ensuring that all sun-block is well rubbed in, you are now faced with the task of identifying your bag and caddie amongst the milling groups of other like-minded golfers. Don’t think that your unique head-cover or golf bag insignia is going to be identified first off – it takes something more like a bright green or pink golf bag to stand out amongst all the more usual black bags. Luckily for you, you do have a back-up in looking for your caddie via her number and she will direct you to your bag.
You are now ready for the first hole. Great drive, umbrella handed over to you, you walk down the first fairway. A quick Thai lesson on golf phrases is now invaluable. Most courses have a lot of water, and learning to ask ‘tok nam?’, means you realise that that hook which was troublesome at your home club, has now allowed you to learn Thai faster than you may have wanted, as well as probably doing a mental check of how many balls you actually have in your bag, as you look around and suddenly realise how much water there is on each and every hole. Other valuable words include ‘mai’ for a wood and ‘leg’ for an iron, as your caddie dutifully hands you your next club. This interaction with your caddie does extend to her doing doubl-time duty on the greens, as she repairs your pitchmark, marks your ball and then points out the line of putt. Inv ariably they are well trained in reading the greens, but don’t rely implicitly on their advice – you do need something to do after all!
Drink stops are regularly placed at every fourth hole, allowing you to run through the three ‘rs’ - rehydrate, rest and re-evaluate your game.
Another difference in playing here in Thailand is the presence of ‘call-holes’ and five-ball groups. One is to speed up play and the other is to definitely slow play and I’ll leave it to you to decide which is more of a curse.
It is customary to tip your caddie at the end of a round, usually the equivalent or more of the caddie fee you had paid with your green fee. The rewarding smile definitely indicates how much they did or not appreciate your constant wayward shots.
With so many golf courses to choose from, I’m surprised you’re still reading the is article and are not out playing – happy golfing!