The concept of clubs owned and managed by the members through a committee, annual elections and another mechanisms is completely foreign in this country.
Other than courses, of which there are very many, owned by the military and other organisations like the electricity commission, Thai golf courses are largely real estate ventures.
In the boom up to 1997, the typical business model was to engage a name designer, grab some land from the peasants, and build a course which was right in the centre of a huge real estate development with, in some cases, hundreds of blocks of building land and major apartment blocks/towers.
Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Peter Thompson, and such names have in some cases two or three courses to their credit in the country. Fine courses can be found all over the country but there are concentrations of first-class venues in Bangkok, the eastern provinces surrounding Pattaya, Phuket in the south, Kanchanaburi in the west, and near Hua Hin on the gulf coast south of Bangkok.
Many of these resort courses have excellent accommodation is available on the course or nearby. Good dining and other recreation facilities including spas, massage facilities and similar are also clustered in these areas. Excellent holidays can be built around a core of playing golf. Prices we compared with those paid in the West for similar quality venues are reasonable.
Still, the commercial nature of golf in Thailand is at times wearing especially for those of us who live here. In boom times greed means that courses can be overcrowded and prices for drinks, buggies and caddies pumped up. Memberships convey only the right to play golf free. All peripherals must be paid for and a member has absolutely no input on course management. Memberships usually take the form of a debenture which subject to the payment of a transfer fee can be sold. There is an active market for memberships in the better courses online.
As a visitor to Pattaya where I live, the best way to play golf is to use Image Golf who will arrange a round of golf inclusive of private transport, green fees, caddy fees and carts for as little as 1900 Baht (USD50.00) based on 2 golfers.
Image Golf also
Image Golf alsoarranges golf holidays packages in Thailand and these provide an avenue for obtaining discounted accommodation and green fees as well as putting together an interesting schedule of varied courses in the area you wish to play in.
Thanks to my good friend Hugh for this article.