Friday, January 22, 2010

Santaburi-Golf-Koh-Samui Smile, you're in Thailand.
not a suggestion here, it's practically a requirement. Thai people
begin every interaction with a smile: Go into a store, smile; pass
someone on the street, smile; order a fried curry with squid and a
Singha beer, smile. All this smiling becomes contagious. The friendly
people, inexpensive massages, delicious food and tropical weather don't
hurt either.
I was lucky enough to spend this past New Year's
Eve in Koh Samui, a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand. I had just
gotten married in Bangkok (my wife's father lives there), and after the
reception the wedding party (all 14 of us) flew to Samui to celebrate
New Year's, relax on the beach and of course play golf.
only organize two things: how they're getting beer and where they're
playing golf," my wife said when I told her about my morning tee time
at Santiburi Samui Golf Club. Our foursome (me, my father, my brother
and my brother-in-law) took a 30-minute cab ride (about $15 U.S.) from our
resort to the course. The course is less than 10 years old and the
clubhouse has decent rental sets and all the tees, gloves and balls
you forgot to pack, plus an outdoor restaurant overlooking the coconut
jungles and white-sand beaches of Samui for your lunch or post-round
The course is carved into the island mountain and the
elevation changes make it virtually unwalkable. Instead each player has
a cart and a caddie. The caddie experience is what makes golf in
Thailand so remarkable. In Asia, the caddies are almost all women, as
is often
reported with an unseemly wink. It's not like that at all. First, the
caddies are completely covered to protect themselves from the sun, so they look about as provocative as Scarlett Johansson in a beekeeper's suit. (OK, bad example.) Second,
the caddies are all
about the golf: they give yardages, select clubs and read
putts like any chain-smoking Scotsman, they're just a
lot sweeter. And just like at those Scottish courses, your caddies get
into your round. If you're playing well, you'll hear a lot of "good
shot" and soft applause. My father was the biggest hit with the caddies
at Santiburi, who took to calling him "Papa" and cheered loudly when
his tee shots split the fairway.
Santiburi Samui course is a challenging resort track: generous fairways
and large greens, but enough doglegs, tricky greens, ravines and
bunkers to make you think. The views are the real treat though. The
downhill par-3 sixth plays into a natural waterfall, and on the par-4 16th [see photo above] you play
toward the ocean and nearby Phangan island, site of Samui's legendary
full-moon parties.
And the best part is that once your round
is over, you're still in Samui. After we finished our round and settled our
bets over a beer, we headed back to Chaweng Beach, which hosted a New
Year's Eve celebration the likes of which I've never seen before. Take
a look.

Santiburi Samui Golf ClubKoh Samui, Thailand 6,930 yards, par 72Fees: Green Fee 3600 baht ($110); Caddie fee 250 baht ($8); Caddie tip: about 300 baht ($9); Cart: 600 baht ($18); Clubs: 1000 baht ($30) For more information on golf trips to Thailand, visit (Photo courtesy of Santiburi Samui Golf Club)

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