Golf Courses in the Khao Yai Region, Thailand
Course-by-Course Introduction to Golf in-&-around the Khao Yai National Park, Saraburi and the Korat Region, Northeast of Bangkok, Thailand
The End Will Always Justify the Means!
The genesis of golf courses around (or may be inside) the national park
The region about 150 kilometers north-east of Bangkok boasts of no less than nine golf courses. Easily accessible via the highway, it is also where the Khao Yai National Park, now a world heritage site, is.
Back when economic development was more than zealously pursued, controversies abound over what should be built and where should these great creations by creative pioneers with ‘visions’ be sited – inside the park?
Much was left to those brutishly equipped with words and endowed with real power to seek divine truth in the natural beauty of the primary forest the saga of which nonetheless brought greater fame to the golf courses listed individually below.
In hind-sight, if the economic developement that had taken place so far has been any success by any standard and the region proved environmentally harmonised after all (Read: No one’s talking about it anymore at least!), it owes no less to the boldness and bravery of these creative pioneers who not only championed the cause but also made it into reality, albeit with a pinch of salt you might ponder whether the laws of the jungle for which Khao Yai is also famous had been freely applied?
Remember, with the ball up against a small blockade leaving no space for any movement behind, Vijay Singh once used the toe of his putter to chip the up-against-the-wall ball out of the thick grass just outside the lip of the green and did pretty well?
Ingenuous and creative, unconventional and every-which-way but did it also suggest a good end will always justify the means?
Mission Hills Golf Club of Khao Yai – Yet another of the Mission Hills’ brand of golf resorts. Well-tucked in between two valleys at the foothills of the national park and covering an immense area of over 1,500 rai (1 rai=0.4 acre or 0.16 hectare) in all, Mission Hills Khao Yai reputedly enjoys a temperature some 6 degrees lower than the national average. This 18-hole Par-72 7,058-yard cool beau, designed by Jack Nicklaus, opened in 1993 not only to provide yet another great venue for golfers but also aimed to preserve as much of the prestine original forest through which the fairways weave in and out. The favourites are the dogleg Par-5 Hole#2 and Hole#12. Of late, there’s been some rumbling about the poor grass condition of the course. We are awaiting report of a possible upgrade.
Friendship Meadows Golf & Country Club – Friendship Meadows Golf Club is situated in a beautiful rolling countryside about two hours’ drive from Bangkok along Route#2 and in between Saraburi and the town of Pak Chong. Albeit a 27-hole course, the 18-hole Par-72 6,569-yard standard for tournament is designed by Nelson Wright & Haworth. Relatively a short course, it features narrow fairways and greens well-guarded by water hazards and sand traps. Good course management and accuracy are the keys to a good score here.
Rooks Korat Golf Resort & Country Club – This is a beautiful 18-hole Par-72 6,842-yard inland course surrounded by mature trees and local vegetation. The Par-4s on this course are generally challenging and the layout is a good test for all levels. The greens are relatively small but attackers are freely assisted by the presence of trees at the back of the greens facilitating good judgment of distance to the pin. Roots Korat Golf is an enjoyable course to play in if the comfortable lodge and good clubhouse facilitities are not impressive enough.
Kirimaya Golf Resort & Spa – Set on the edge of the national park, Kirimaya Golf Club – known formerly as Khao Yai Country Club – is a nature retreat a mere 150-km of easy drive along the highway to Korat from Bangkok. Together with the other golf clubs in the vicinity, it provides an escape from the hectic city life in addition to a truly memorable golfing experience.
A Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole 7,115-yard Championship course, Kirimaya provides a panoramic view of the lush green surrounding rising to the top of the Khao Yai Mountain range. Its fairways weave through what was primary forest in a single track design layout giving the visitor a certain feeling of ‘privacy’ playing here. The course design makes use of bunkers and water hazards cleverly carved out of the natural habitat. It is a challenging course to say the least.
Bonanza Golf & Country Club – The Bonanza is another popular course in the vicinity of the Khao Yai National Park. Measuring 7,480 yards, this 18-hole Par-72 course was designed by Bob McFarland and opened in 1996. The terrain over which the fairways meander is generally considered mountainous as there are quite a few spots with steep slopes demanding a higher level of control for a good score. In particular the Par-5 Hole#4 is additionally long and calls for more accurate shot making. Players with a handicap of 24 and above are generally advised not to start from the longest tee.
If the natural beauty of the surrounding mountain range and the all-enveloping lush green and fresh mountain air are not enough to bring visitors back to the earthy nature of the place, the carefully crafted site probably will. Here, the accommodation features western style log-cabin type of houses giving it a rustic country feel of the place. There is also an orchid nursery over a 100-acre large, a Koi pond and a Macaws Park within the compound of the club.
Voyage Panorama Resort & Golf Club – Voyage Panorama is another one along Route#2 to the town of Pak Chong. Designed by Golftech Corp Ltd & Elm Consultants of Florida, it measures 6,901 yards long and is a Par-72 18-hole course.
Opened in 1993, this pleasant course was built along the natural contour of a valley with water play on Hole#3, #4 and #15. The most memorable has to be the difficult Par-4 Hole#10 where the tee shot carries over a valley onto the slope of a hill for a second landing shot to a blind green.