Mark & Stuart’s tales from Thailand
By Stuart Thompson, Golf Holiday Specialist at Chaka Travel.
After such a dreadful cold and wet start to the summer I was delighted to fly out to Phuket with Mark to try out some courses that I have had my eye on for a number of years. The handicaps and format of this latest “Chaka Challenge” was agreed over a few beers en route to Dubai.
After a couple of hours in Dubai we flew on the new direct route to Phuket. It was great to get off the plane and feel the heat which was a far cry from cold, wet & windy Belfast, and within 35mins of stepping off the plane we where standing in the Outrigger Laguna Phuket hotel lobby.
My initial thoughts about the hotel were that it had a resort feel similar to some of the superb resorts I’d been to in Mauritius. After dinner and a few beers we headed to bed as we had an early start and 27 holes planned for the next day.
After an early start and breakfast we had a 25 minute transfer to Mission Hills Golf Club where we were to play 9 holes. On first impressions the course looked great with a few challenging holes. I think this is a perfect course to start your holiday as it is challenging but nothing compared to what was to follow.
The course has some really picturesque holes along the beach with stunning views over to the limestone islands made famous in the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”. At the end off the first 9 holes Mark held the lead 1-0.
Favourite Mission Hills Golf Club hole : 18th
A long par 4 with water on the right and trees on the left of a narrow fairway. There is no room for error on the drive and the semi-island green requires a tricky long iron approach shot.
After a refreshing drink we headed off to Loch Palm Golf Course, as we drove in we could see this was going to be a completely different challenge with a mixture of trees, lots of water (hence the name Loch!) and narrow fairways. I have to say it has the strangest driving range I have ever seen as you hit the balls into the water with floating yardage markers!
As for the course itself from the 1st to 18th hole this is a really good test of golf. Water is prominent on the front 9 and a driver isn”t required all that often until the back nine. After 27 holes on the first day it was all square 1½ pts each in the Chaka Challenge.
Favourite Loch Palm hole: 11th
This Par 5 is not the most exciting hole in the world but when you stand on the tee you think boy this is will take 3 good shots to get too the green.
It was about 30 minutes drive back to the hotel where we ditched the clubs and headed to the sea for a well deserved swim and a few refreshing cold beers to cool off. The golf had been fantastic and we were looking forward to another 27 holes the following day!
We were lucky to get a little lie in this morning until 0730 before having breakfast and heading off in torrential rain to Blue Canyon Golf Club and one of the courses I have heard so much about as it hosted the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2007. When you drive in to the clubhouse you realise this is going to be a brilliant course with no room for error but a must play when you’re in Phuket.
After getting signed in and caddies sorted we walk past an interesting plaque showing that Tiger Woods holds the Amateur course record, now that says a lot! We played the back 9 of the Canyon course and all I can say is “WOW”. Tee to green was a challenging experience and with the undulating greens this is a great course. In the Chaka challenge I was now leading Mark 2 ½ / 1 ½.
Favourite Blue Canyon hole: 13th
A superb risk and reward par 4 where Tiger drove the green! Your tee shot is either play safe and go around the canyon or have a 260 yard carry over the Canyon (I did manage this on my second attempt, I’m sure my first ball wasn’t the only one in the canyon!)
It was off to Red Mountain in the afternoon, to play one off the best courses in Thailand and I have to say that walking through the clubhouse and onto the balcony with the view off the 18th to my right and the 9th in front I could see why! It is a course that has been created in an old tin mine and what a job they have done as it is pretty spectacular! The 17th is a superb par three with a very elevated tee box and requires only a wedge and has an amazing hang time.
Favourite Red Mountain hole: 18th
A wonderful par 5 with water crossing the fairway making a 3 wood the better choice off the tee, the second shot is a long iron onto a green protected front and right by water.
I have to say it was an enjoyable experience and glad that we had played it! After day 2 and another 27 holes my lead was extended to 4 pts to Marks 2 pts which meant I wasn’t going home from this trip with a defeat. Mark had to win the 18 holes on the last day to force a draw!
Day 5 – Phi Phi Island
It was nice to get a day of rest after 54-holes in the last 2 days! We had a tour of the newly refurbished Outrigger Laguna Beach in the morning which is a fantastic resort with good size rooms and set on a lovely beach. After this we transferred to the Marina to get the speedboat to Phi Phi Island. The trip lasted around 1hr 20 mins and was lovely to get a view off the surrounding islands off Phuket before we arrived at the idyllic Outrigger Phi Phi.
I have to say it is everything I expected and just like the photos, crystal blue lagoon with a white sandy beach and little thatchedcottages as rooms. This is a perfect location to break your golf trip and kick back and relax.
We spent a relaxing afternoon at the pool bar enjoying a few cold beers and some banter regarding the forthcoming Ashes cricket series with a few Aussies! We took a tour of the resort before an excellent dinner.
I’m sure Mark was planning his round for the next day as he didn”t want to go home defeated!
Day 6 – last day
After breakfast we took the speedboat back to Phuket and then a short transfer to the Outrigger Villas which again are very impressive. We had a 3 bed villa with private pool and this offers families or groups the chance to have a self catering option but be within the Laguna Resort area.
After a bite of lunch at the clubhouse we headed to the first tee of the Laguna Golf Club for the last 18 holes of the trip. Again I really liked this course which had a resort course feel, for anyone who has played the Belle Mare Plage course it is a similar feeling. The course is well set up and is very accommodating for golfers of all handicaps. Mark played really well on the front 9 and nearly forced a draw but I think the heat got too him in the end and I was victorious taking the trophy home on the flight winning 5 – 3.
Favourite hole – Laguna resort hole: 17th
When you stand on the tee of this challenging par 5 you have water on both sides of the fairway so the drive needs to accurate. With your 2nd and 3rd shots the water is again in play. This excellent par 5 could be a card wrecker so late in the round.
We had a drink and reflected on the fantastic 72 holes we had played in Phuket before heading back to the airport for our flights home. I have to say having been to other parts in Thailand before and played golf this has to be my favourite and cannot wait to return again sometime soon!