I need help here. This is intended to be the definitive guide for golfers new to Pattaya. It’s not about how to hit a golf ball. Rather, it’s about all those things you need to have in place before, during and after your first game in Pattaya.
This is a first pass, a draft, if you will. It is highly likely, therefore, to miss important pieces of advice a newbie needs to know. So please, think back to your first few rounds and recall those things that caught you out – things you wished you had known about at the time. Add your thoughts in the “comments” section that follows this post and I will incorporate them into this document. Then the next time a newbie asks, ‘What do I need to know about playing golf in Pattaya?’ just refer him/her to this post.
The first point to grasp is that the great majority of golf venues, or outlets, are keen to meet new golfers and have them play with their group. Golf in Pattaya is set up for the visitor, whether they intend returning or not. You will be welcomed.
Most golf venues are run out of bars which fulfil the role of “clubhouse”. It is here that golfers will sign-up on preceding days by adding their name to a list, usually portrayed on the bar’s notice board. The sign-up sheet should advise the course, date and time of play, along with the ETD to the golf course on the day concerned. It should also give the name and phone number of the golf organiser.
Golfers will usually meet the organiser at the bar on golfing days to confirm their entry and organise transport. Most venues meet from 0800 onwards, and plan to leave between 0830 – 0930. Beware, TIT; times could change. Ninety five per cent of courses are situated within one hour’s easy drive.
When determining which venue to play from, you could review either the IPGC or PSC websites, both of which list their member venues including the name and address of the bar from which they are based. Venues worth your custom should give you a schedule of where and when they are playing, along with meeting times, etc. If you can’t be arsed doing this research, then you could do a lot worse than turning up to the friendly venue I normally play from, the Pattaya Golf Society (PGS), whose address is c/o the Elephant Bar – here. The golf organiser, a Welsh geezer named Mr Len, has been organising golf in these parts for as long as it has taken Wales to win the World Cup. A lovely guy, nonetheless. Tell him Golfnutter sent you.
The Elephant Bar has clubs available for hire, if required. Ask for mine host – Rabbi – who will gladly organise same.
Aside from clubs, you will need golf shoes – spikes not allowed on most courses – and balls, plenty of them. Many courses have roadside shops positioned nearby. It is a good idea to stock up with these cheap, pre-loved versions, than to pay top baht for new ones. Most transport will oblige with a brief stop, especially if water is a major feature of your destination, which invariably it will be.
Venues associated with the IPGC and PSC play competition golf. They also run and administer a recognised handicap system on behalf of their thousands of members. Cost of joining either organisation is circa 500 baht per annum. This amount is easily accounted for by the savings on green-fees made after one or two rounds. Because it is competition golf, satisfactory proof of a handicap from a recognised authority is required by most reputable outlets. If this is not available, then golfers are asked to return cards from three rounds played with the same outlet, before a handicap is issued. If the venue does not insist on satisfactory proof of handicap, choosing for example to simply take your word, then be very worried.
As mentioned, the subs you pay for membership of either IPGC or PSC are recovered through reduced green-fees, within the first few rounds played. In addition, both organisations provide the infrastructure needed to run successful golf administration. This includes maintaining a full handicapping system, negotiated terms of play with local golf courses, the provision of Local Rules, and the hosting of many subsidised tournaments. On becoming a member, the golfer is free to choose which venue or outlet he/she plays with on any given day. Having signed up with the PGS, for example, you are able to play out of any other IPGC outlet you choose. The same is the case with the many PSC outlets. If you want to play with either, you would need to join both, as indeed many do.
When you turn up on the actual day of play, allow 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time, more if you’re planning on having breakfast. On meeting the golf organiser, expect to pay circa 500-700 baht, depending upon the venue. This is to cover transport costs to and from the course and competition fees which will probably include a “twos” competition. It is not compulsory to enter the competition.
Competitions are usually played in groups of four and based upon stableford. Occasional variations include par, pairs, scramble and medal competitions. If the numbers competing warrant, the organiser will split the field into equal divisions, determined by handicap. A field of 30, for example, may see 15 players with a handicap of, say 12 and under, compete in div 1, the remainder in div 2. Three divisions are not uncommon. Prize money from competition fees is divided equally amongst the podium finishers of each division. The twos comp and other technical prizes are also subject to divisional split.
Playing partners: In the absence of any request, the organiser will probably place you in a group of similar ability (handicap). Other factors he may take into account include whether you are walking or carting, nationality, and transport requirements.
Transport: Most venues will rely on a combination of private cars and minivans. The cars are owned by fellow golfers, the minivans usually by a local Thai operator. Minivans are capable of taking up to 12 golfers plus bags. The organiser will pay the driver a fixed amount whether the van takes eight or 12 people. No shows – people whose names were on the sign-up sheet who stated they required transport and don’t turn up, can be a direct cost to the organiser. If your circumstances change such that you can’t make it, advise the organiser beforehand, even if it’s on the morning concerned. Don’t, under any circumstance other than death, be a no-show!
Items in your bag should include water and a hand-towel. Some courses are a bit remiss in that they will close an on-course watering-hole (refreshment shop) without notice. This could mean going nine holes without liquid refreshment. Keep a bottle of water permanently tucked away in your bag, just in case. Depending upon your physical condition, the towel becomes a necessity around Apr/May/Jun. This is normally the hot and humid season, whereby sweat will be constantly dripping, in some cases pouring from your forehead, every time you play a shot. To those of you not used to playing in the tropics, beware it is not so much the temperature that will get to you, but the humidity. I played in Perth, Australia, a wee while back. I lugged my clubs around the course in a carry-bag, on a cloud-less, windless, mid-summer’s day of 41 degrees Celsius. It was a carefree walk in the park compared to playing a Pattaya-based course in 35 degrees in April. Many an expat, me included, have taken more than one disbelieving, unprepared newbie to hospital, after collapsing on the course. Water and a towel are the bare minimum. You can get whatever else you need from the many refreshment stops.
Money; sounds obvious eh? I mean money in small denominations, like plenty of hundred and twenty baht notes for use on the course. It has always amazed me as to how little change the on-course shops carry – about the same as motor-bike taxis, which is none. And don’t expect your caddie to have change when paying the tip.
Change of clothing. This is a basic necessity, no matter the time of year. I recommend you purchase a golf bag designed to carry golf shoes and a change of clothes – any of the many golf retailers will sell these. All courses have showers and provide soap, shampoo, towel and other toiletries as part of the green-fee. Not all provide sun-screen.
At the Course:
Upon arrival at the bag-drop, you need make sure of two things; the number of the caddie that took your clubs and the make and number of the vehicle that brought you to the course – you will need to find both – one 15 minutes after you arrive, and the other in about five hours. If you intend to hire a cart, this is the time to tell your caddie.
Next you join the queue at reception where you pay green-fee and caddie fee. If you are with an IPGC or PSC venue, you will receive the maximum discount available. If you are with a golf tour operator, or some other “independent”, it is possible you will be paying a great deal more. When you pay, make sure you state which group you are with and whether you are walking or carting. “IPGC, walking, khrup,” will normally do it, providing you have your membership card to back it up.
In the locker room you will be given a locker key, a fact acknowledged by your signature. Loose this key and your day will be an expensive one.
When you emerge from the clubhouse, your clubs will be with your caddie who will be amongst a horde of similar-looking shapes all dressed in identical outfits, with hats. But that won’t worry you because her/his number, which you remembered, is prominently displayed on her back. As soon as you locate her, she will require the dockets that the office gave you at reception. This she gives to the starter to confirm you have paid your green-fee. Docket for your cart, if applicable, is also handed over here, whereby she will smile with gratitude and go fetch your motorised buggy. A note of caution here – damage to the buggy will cost you money, irrespective of blame or who was driving.
Advice on managing caddies can be found here.
Having sourced your clubs and squared away your caddie, your next job is to locate your organiser to confirm you are present and correct. You need to know your start time, the number of your playing group, and who you are playing with. This can be a testing time for your organiser, so don’t go AWOL without first letting him know you’re there. Often-times the starter will tell the organiser to go early, maybe 30 minutes early. Lesson – don’t take the tee-off time given on the sign-up sheet as gospel. Now you can use the practise facilities to your heart’s content. My advice – get to know the surface on the practise putting green.
Prior to teeing off, you will be required to swap cards. You will mark your playing partner’s card, and he yours. You have a responsibility to the rest of the group to ensure his score is correct and that he plays by the Rules of Golf. If unsure, ask.
When your round is complete, your caddie will take your clubs to the car park where you may have to direct her to the appropriate vehicle. If you have travelled in other than a minivan, and the vehicle is locked, ask your caddie to leave your clubs at the bag-drop, for you to pick up later. Otherwise, your minivan driver will be standing by to take care of your clubs.
This is now the time you tip your caddie. But you’ve already paid a caddie-fee when paying your green-fee, you ask? Well, yes you have, but the caddie will receive only a portion of that, depending on the course’s policy. Tipping caddies in Thailand is mandatory. Most venues will have a standard amount, probably 300 baht. If you feel your caddie’s attitude or service was outstanding, then a larger amount is fine. Some golfer’s pay their caddie extra for “twos”. Beware over-tipping is not popular as it can lead to increased expectations from caddies – not a desirable situation for regular golfers on limited income, who live in Pattaya and play several times a week.
If you haven’t already done so, agree scores with your marker, sign and swap cards. Before heading off for that most sought after shower, don’t forget the locker key that’s probably in the bottom of your bag.
After ablutions, most will make their way to the on-course restaurant. Your first job is to return your card, correctly completed and signed by both you and your marker, to the golf organiser. Whilst most on-course restaurants offer good value for money, before ordering, check your ETD with your transport provider.
Some golfers may choose an alternative 19th hole, such as portrayed here. This is fine providing you make it back to the bar in time for the presentation.
Most outlets will wait until their golfers arrive back at their host bar – the “clubhouse” – before commencing the presentation. Here the organiser announces the day’s winners and near winners, along with any other relevant news including up-coming events.
For the newbie, this is the place and time to get to know your fellow golfers. Some will stay for dinner, others just for a few beers. The assembled will, in all likelihood, represent a range of nationalities and cultures, as well as an assortment of golfing skills. This is part of what makes Pattaya’s après-golf so special.
Course costs vary depending upon the course played. Most courses played by either IPGC or PSC venues will charge circa 1000-2000 baht green-fee caddie fee (low season-high season). A reasonable budget for a day’s golf, walking, would be:
- Competition fee: 300
- Transport: 300
- Green-fee caddie fee: 1400
- Caddie tip: 300
Total: 2300 baht, plus refreshments.
Cart costs vary. Some courses allow two golfers per buggy. Say circa 500 baht.
A day’s golf in Pattaya can start with breakfast at the golf bar and end, if you so choose, with dinner at the same place. The 12 hours in-between can be amongst the best of experiences golf has to offer. Enjoy.
So, what have I missed? Your inputs please………..