Els Club Teluk Datai, Langkawi, Malaysia. Image © Tourism Malaysia.
If your vacation simply isn’t complete without a trip to a golf course, then your upcoming trip to Southeast Asia will certainly deliver.
Golfing seniors will find all that they desire in Southeast Asia: magnificent courses laid out amidst some of the most beautiful landscapes in the region, often designed by the world’s top names in the game; luxury accommodations coupled to the golf course itself; and regular provisions for equipment rental and caddy services.
Throughout Southeast Asia, golf has become an indispensable part of business. As opposed to the Western work ethic of never mixing business with pleasure, executives in Asia strive to connect personally as well as professionally. So around the region, the golf course is a natural extension of the boardroom… and as business has thrived in Southeast Asia, so has the popularity of the sport itself.
Golf course in Thailand. Image courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand, used with permission.
Teeing off in Thailand
Thailand has led the way, with over 250 courses within the Kingdom. As Thailand’s topography can be incredibly varied from place to place, you can be assured of getting a completely different golfing experience from one course to the next. But if you have to pick one place in Thailand to make your golfing home base, you can’t go wrong with Phuket, the storied battleground of many modern golfing greats.
It was in Phuket where Tiger Woods roared back from being 11 shots behind Ernie Els on the last day of the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic, beating the South African champ with a 15-foot birdie putt. The site of this upset – the Blue Canyon Country Club (www.bluecanyonclub.com/golf) – will let you play in the shadow of these greats. Tee off on one of the club’s two 18-hole par-72 courses, and retire afterward to one of the five-star resorts within walking distance.
Three other Phuket courses worth checking out are Mission Hills Phuket (www.missionhillsphuket.com), a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed course on Phuket’s eastern coast; Red Mountain Golf Course (mbkgolf.com/redmountain), carved out of a Phuket mountaintop; and Laguna Phuket Golf Club, a beachside resort course attached to no less than six luxury resorts.
Golf in a Volcano’s Crater at Bali, Indonesia
One of the best spots in Indonesia for the ancient sport, Bali in Indonesia plays on its strengths as a golf destination – its scenic fairways, its touristic detours beyond the golf courses, and the presence of some of the world’s finest hotels just beyond every 18th hole.
You can choose from one of four 18-hole courses around the island. Bali National Golf Club (balinationalgolf.com) in Nusa Dua and the links-style New Kuta Golf Club (www.newkutagolf.com) are perhaps the most accessible, being located less than an hour’s drive from the airport and next to some of the island’s finest accommodations.
But to really enjoy Bali’s rugged beauty, drive further north to the Nirwana Bali Golf Club (nirwanabaligolf.com), a Greg Norman-designed course built to take advantage of the area’s rice paddies and rugged coastline. Hole 7 looks out to the Tanah Lot directional temple facing the Indian Ocean, providing excellent views as you play through.
Another golf course you can write home about: Bali Handara Country Club (www.balihandaracountryclub.com) offers the singular novelty of playing in an extinct volcano’s crater. The course’s elevation at 1,142m above sea level allows golfers to play in cool weather, despite the island’s location close to the equator.
7th hole of Nirwana Bali Golf Club, Indonesia, just off the Tanah Lot Temple. Image © Matt_weibo / Creative Commons
Danang, Vietnam’s Scotland-Style Links
The courses on Central Viet Nam’s wind-swept beaches provide a similar environment and challenge to the birthplace of golf in Scotland. The scene in Viet Nam may also appeal to boomers who may have experienced the local conflicts first-hand; a peaceful day or two on the links may exorcise memories of their last visit.
The Greg Norman-designed Da Nang Golf Club (Da Nang City, www.dananggolfclub.com) is a local favorite, challenging players with its windy fairways. A slightly different experience awaits at the adjacent Montgomerie Links Golf Course (Quang Nam Province, www.montgomerielinks.com), which takes advantage of the natural contours of the land and native vegetation.
Finally, the Sir Nick Faldo-designed Laguna Lang Co Golf Course (Thua Thien Hue Province, lagunalangco.com/golf) stands out from the centre of Laguna Lang Co Resort facing Lang Co Bay – the course permits hours of pleasurable play for both beginners and experienced players alike.
Langkawi, Malaysia’s Scenic Fairways
Langkawi, Malaysia’s varied topography presents a breathtaking backdrop for golfers who fly into this resort island looking for the perfect game. The Els Club Teluk Datai (elsclubmalaysia.com/teluk-datai) is a perfect example of the kind of views provided to avid golfers: the fairways on this 6,762-yard par-72 course skirt ten-million-year-old rainforest cover before terminating at the 18th hole facing scenic Datai Bay and the Andaman Sea.
The 99 East Golf Club (99east.com/langkawi) near Pantai Cenang is more accessible to travelers, and follows the Els Club Teluk Datai’s cue in working with the local topography. Course designer Ross Watson found inspiration in the original Scottish links courses, but incorporated local touches such as rice terraces and native vegetation.
Rounding up the Langkawi golf scene is the Gunung Raya Golf Resort (golfgr.com.my), a course repurposed from an old rubber plantation; the namesake mountain serves as a magnificent backdrop for players, and the fairways offer an easy golf experience with relatively few hazards.