Swinging Through Asia

Thailand may not have the golfing tradition of, say, Scotland or England, but with such spots as the resort town of Phuket or the jungles and mountains of Chiang Mai, golfers in Thailand can play some challenging holes in up-and-coming golfing destinations.

As delegates to the upcoming ASTA Congress in Bangkok will find out, golf courses are sprouting up throughout Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Some of the most comprehensive golfing packages to Thailand are available through the national airline, Thai Airways, and its Royal Orchid Holidays. Once in Thailand, golfers can choose from packages in Bangkok, Chiang Rai on the Burma and Laotian border, and the popular beach town of Phuket.

THAILAN

A Surprising Number of Golf Packages

Thailand Packages

All the packages start with two nights and include transfers between the airport and hotels and to the golf courses, breakfast, and greens and caddy fees. All air fares are extra. Rates are based on a minimum of two people booking the tours and sharing a hotel room.

In Bangkok, two-night land packages begin at $220 and include a first-class hotel. Players can choose from 12 different courses in and around the city. North of Bangkok is the Pinehurst Golf and Country Club, which features 27 holes and other sporting facilities. The Rose Garden course is home to the Thai Open and is popular with locals. At a horseracing track located in the city center is the Royal Dusit Golf Course, on the grounds of the Royal Turf Club.

A real change from Bangkok is the city of Chiang Mai, in north-central Thailand. Here jungles give way to mountains, and elephant safaris and visits to the villages of the primitive hill people are popular tourist activities. But the area is becoming famous for such good golf courses as the Lanna Golf Club, which hooks around some 20 lakes and water hazards.

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Land packages begin at $83 for two nights at the Chiang Mai Hills Hotel. Top rates include two nights at the Westin Chiang Mai, located on the Mae Ping River. Two other top courses are the Chiang Mai Lampoon and Golf Club, featuring difficult greens, and the Chiang Mai Green Valley Country Club, in the shadow of the mountains that surround the course.

Many tourists to Thailand make a stop in Phuket. Famous for its great beaches, diving, and seafood restaurants, Phuket is also a popular golfing destination. Two-night land packages start at $101 at the first-class Cape Panwa Hotel on the beach. Prices at the top-end Dusit Laguna Resort start at $168. A medium-priced package costs $111 and includes two nights at the Thavorn Palm Beach Hotel on Karon Beach. Two waterfront courses are the Thai Muang Beach and the Banyan Tree, both on the Andaman Sea. Other popular courses include the Phuket Golf and Country Club and the Phuket Century Country Club.

Just as diverse as Thailand are its courses. Just outside Bangkok is the beach resort of Pattaya, which features the Siam Country Club, considered one of the toughest in the country. In western Thailand, popular golf courses include the 27-hole River Kwai Golf and Country Club and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Mission Hills Golf Club. In the north is the Robert Trent Jones-designed course at the Santiburi Country Club in Chiang Rai, a city at the border of Burma and Laos.

Singapore Swing

While Thailand is an easy stop for ASTA delegates, a golf swing through Singapore and Malaysia can be just as easy. There are currently some 200 golf courses in Malaysia, including courses in and near the large cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and seaside courses on the South China Sea.

Singapore boasts some 13 courses in the metropolitan area. The Singapore Tourist Board publishes a Golf in Singapore brochure, which outlines a five-day golfing package including play at the Keppel Club; the Robert Trent Jones-designed course at the Raffles Country Club on the Tengah Reservoir; the Singapore Island Country Club, which dates back to 1891; and Sentosa Golf Club, which includes a second hole green located on a reef.

San Francisco-based Vacation Land offers golf land packages to Malaysia. Prices range from $265 for two-night packages to $575 for three-night packages. They include courses in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kuching, Langkawi and Kota Kinabalu. Vacation Land also offers golf packages to Thailand.

Long Beach, Calif.-based ITC Golf Safaris offers customized golf packages to the Far East. Although the company requires at least a five-night stay, most groups go for at least three weeks; ITC has made arrangements for stays of up to six weeks. Costs vary, but a sample three-week, seven-country trip last year cost $4,200.

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