Though Thai golfers are alleged to follow the rules of golf as set down by the R & A and the USPGA, the truth in fact it is they have put their own unique spin on the game.
Not to my knowledge, anywhere else in the world are five and six balls quite common. It is my guess that fear of loss of face or favour means that no Thai is willing to exclude someone from his golfing group until that reaches of practical limit which locally is six people.
Rules related to playing order and use of the same ball through a hole are flouted. For people who have come to golf only recently and whose prime experience is watching golf on TV, strokeplay is the only possible choice. Everybody putts out on every hole. One can imagine with six people on the green and six caddies plus occasionally six umbrella holders as well this process can be immensely time-consuming. Added to this is the exchange of the ball used to play the hole for one reserved solely for putting and almost weeks can seem to pass.
The Thai people are innately courteous but completely oblivious, when golfers, of the practicalities of golf etiquette. As each player in the group hits off, he heads off down the fairway relying on divine intervention to avoid being hit by the remaining players. This is referred to locally as the “Thai snake”. Even if one is called through, you can imagine the chaos that ensues with maybe 20 people in the fairway all at different stages of playing the hole.
It is necessary also be quite careful about disturbing other players on the course as Thais are notoriously heavy betters on golf matches. It could be that the people who are not calling you on all are being particularly slow could have thousands of dollars riding on a putt.
Still like nearly everything in Thailand, it pays to maintain a steady and friendly demeanour and you will find your fellow players helpful, friendly and kind.
Many thanks to my friend Hugh for this article.