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A Look at Golf in the Far East – Part 2
Part 2. The Whole Chabang
Editor’s Note: In this three-part travelogue, Cybergolf’s Rick Corcoran writes about his experiences of a September 2004 golf trip to Thailand. Rick discusses his experiences on and off several golf courses, and lends his personal observations of an exotic country in the Far East. Based on what he chronicles in this Thai adventure, we don’t believe Rick will ever be the same.
The Whole Chabang
The second course on the Pattaya Beach hit parade is Laem Chabang International Country Club, which I think gets the record of longest golf course name in Thailand or it’s a triple word score in Scrabble. The Nicklaus-designed 27-hole layout is true Golden Bear: a very fair layout with lots of big bunkers. The course also has plenty of elevation changes, and it’s in very good shape all the way around. There were rock formations here and there to indicate the course was chiseled out of the mountainous hillsides it sprawled across.
LCICC has held many amateur and pro tournaments, including the Volvo Classic, the Heineken Thailand Amateur Championship and the Thai Airways Senior Professional Tour. I plan on trying out for the Thai Airways tour after I get the boot from Cybergolf for turning in the expense report for this trip, which included four massages and a bubble bath. A reasonable $60 is all that’s required to play LCICC – a great price for a very good golf course. It doesn’t make you feel boxed in on most of the holes, and you can bring the big dog out a lot with confidence.
Before reading up on Thailand, I thought there might cobras or pythons as big as buses that would slither around and crack your ribs like kindling. I also expected spiders large enough to cover your face and suck your brains out while asleep. I’m happy to report that those creatures don’t exist. But we did encounter some kind of snake on one of the holes at LCICC. We guessed it to be about 5 or 6 feet long. My playing partner Joel told the other guys after our round about how he was going to take one of his clubs and hit it in the head if it came too close. This brought a comical response from Mike, a pro at Washington National Golf Club in Auburn, Wash. Mike countered, “With your 24 handicap, I don’t think the snake has anything to worry about!”
If you thought $7 for a caddie was cheap, a looper at Laem Chabang costs only $5 for 18 holes. You’re not going to get a lot of insight as to how to play a hole, or which way the putts are going to break. But you get enthusiasm and, as usual, lots of smiles!
The course has a really cool clubhouse that offers beautiful territorial views and a very good buffet lunch. Prices in LCICC’s pro shop, as in all of the others, are very affordable compared with many American shops where you must fill out a credit report and relinquish one of your time-share weeks before buying something. I bought a nice golf shirt at LCICC for only $25. An equivalent purchase in the States would have easily set me back $60 to $80.
All in all, LCICC is a course I really enjoy playing. And it doesn’t have any par-6s, herds of water buffalo or giant pythons to interfere with a nice day of on the links.
Feel Like the King at Siam CC
The only reasons I’m going to bring up the Siam Country Club again is to remind you that it isn’t going to be on the four-course rotation for future Asia Golfing tours. It is a decent track with lots of fruit trees, an average layout and ultra-slow greens.
Another good reason to bring it up is that I felt like the biggest of big shots when I decided to hire three caddies for my round! Why? Because I could. Since each caddie cost only $5 each, I figured the least they could do was drag my sorry behind back to the clubhouse if I got bonked with a golf ball and went down for the count.
The caddies we had in Thailand ranged from high school-age girls up to women in their 30’s. Each became involved in the looping business to make a few American dollars, which go a long way in Thailand.
What do you do with three caddies? Well, since I used to ride the short bus to school, I decided to walk the course in the 90-degree heat and humidity as I needed some exercise after one too many trips though the buffet line. If you’re going to walk in this heat, you need someone to walk beside you and hold an umbrella to shield you from the UV rays, which can melt iron. My Irish skin burns like a match, so it was a fire safety issue too. The second task for “umbrella girl” was to carry the bottle of powder I use to keep my hands dry when it’s Sahara-hot on a golf course.
Caddie No. 2 had the tough duty of packing my camera, plus fetching from the cart the many cold drinks I needed while shooting an 89. Meanwhile, caddie No. 3 drove the golf cart, handed me clubs, and helped me line up putts. Once knocked in the cup, the ball made a pinging sound that was either the golf gods singing or the piece of metal that helped hold the flag in place. Most of the time one of the girls would retrieve my ball from the cup. Wouldn’t want to lean over too much and take a chance on getting dizzy, would we?
There were so many people in our group that it looked like the Invasion of Normandy as we strolled down the fairway. We joked that if you really wanted to be decadent (and who isn’t?), you could hire a caddy to carry each one of your clubs! I could imagine a scene where you’d ask for your sand wedge and be told, “It’s using the bathroom.”
Siam CC isn’t a golf course fit for Kings, but the caddies sure make you feel like one.
Lights, Camera, Lady-Boys?!
After a day on the links in the Pattaya Beach area, it’s time to see what the city has to offer. Bring an open mind while visiting here because some scenes are definitely from a Far Side cartoon.
Though not exactly a Vegas-caliber show, one of the items on the Asia Golfing tour is the Transvestite Cabaret Show in downtown Pattaya Beach. I’ve seen a few transvestites here and there in my time (don’t ask), but none of them made you think they were really hot show girls straight out of Sin City. These do. The show is only about an hour long. It involves a number of lip-synched numbers with a lead “Lady-Boy,” as they’re called, choreographing the song-and-dance act. It was pretty easy to tell that a number of the dancers were hiding their true identities, but the lead gender-benders were absolute knockouts. Did I just say that?
After the show, all of the leads went to the front of the theater to have pictures taken with audience members. I spotted my favorite lady-boy and decided to get a photo of us together. With the trance they put you under by their looks, I honestly felt I was standing next to a showgirl – even though I knew it was a guy! She . . . I mean HE – was a hottie! Did I just say that? He/she screwed my brain wiring up such that it’s taken a team of psychologists and neurosurgeons weeks to return me to normal. One thing that snapped me back to reality was when I gave her . . . I mean HIM . . . a tip for appearing in the photo with me. In a semi-deep voice, he/she said, “T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U.” The response still cuts through me like a buzz saw.
More Shows & Night Life
Thailand is well-known for its wild side. One show we attended involved various stage acts where nude women were uh, how shall I say, uh, pulling various items out of themselves. These, uh, acrobats make sane people shake their heads in disbelief, which me and the other 200 audience members (including a fair number of women) did a lot. The only comment I can make that’s fit for public consumption on Cybergolf is, go to a show just to see “Dart Girl.” It’s worth the price of admission. Put simply, “Dart Girl” may cause military planners to rethink their missile defense program.
Taking a walk down the streets of Pattaya Beach on a normal night will let you see a lot of the shops in the beach community. Some of the scrumptious menu items on the food carts include are stingray and fried scorpion. I would have gone for the scorpion, but they didn’t have my favorite sauce.
As we dipped our toes into the not-so-hidden side of South Pattaya – also known as “Hedonism Central,” we got a peek at how sex is woven into the action in the clubs and discos, which are drenched in neon and alcohol. Pretty women outside the clubs attempt to bring customers inside any way they can. When I say they try to “grab” you off the street, they literally grab anything to get your attention. If a guy suffered from low self-esteem around women before coming to Thailand, he’ll be cured in about two blocks in South Pattaya!
They also make you feel like rock stars. If I had a buck for every shout of “You handsome man” directed at me, I’d be able to buy a new Taylor Made R-7 driver. Once inside, girls were dancing on stage and prancing around the bar trying to catch your eye and maybe some of your cash. These ladies of the evening aren’t pickpockets, but for a price they’ll be your date for next few hours, the rest of the night or a whole week if desired. They all looked like women, but the lights were low. Buyer beware!
One member of our group received a massage one evening by someone who was very attractive. Our friend enjoyed the attention so much, he decided to reciprocate the masseuse’s generous treatment. On some things, I’m a quick study. This was one of the times my intuition worked. We met up with our friend in the lobby of the massage parlor. After staring at his pleasure princess, I determined that she was a HE! After we told our pal that the masseuse of his dreams was really a masseur, the blood ran out of his face and he slumped in disbelief.
Most of the seedier underbelly of South Pattaya is confined to a certain area, but sex isn’t the only thing to do on a Friday night. There are plenty of other activities for those not looking to find a date for the evening. You feel safe walking around the city and will probably find some decent souvenirs from the street vendors to bring back home. Silk robes, blankets and statues of Buddha are available at modest prices. You’ll also be told just about everything is made of silk, even Levi jeans.
While nighttime has a festive feel, daytime brings plenty of action at the beach. Great scuba diving can be found in these waters, which are the temperature of a hot tub. Other options include traveling outside the city for an elephant ride, or just exploring the beautiful countryside. You don’t have to be a golfer or a satyr to have a good time in Pattaya Beach.
If you’re in the shopping mood and need a custom-made suit or dress, Pattaya Beach is the place to come. A few of us went to Mr. Singh’s tailor shop and bought suits for around $80 apiece. The custom-made dress shirts I took home cost about $8. They’ll even ship them back to the States for you.
Seeing Mr. Singh is almost worth the price of the suits. When one of our guys went to the shop to try on his new duds, the turban-clad Singh was sitting on a stool with his eyes rolled back in his head. Maybe it was a bad scorpion he ate.
For more information about golf tours to Thailand, visit www.asiagolfing.com or call 425/644-0566.
Laem Chabang International Country Club: www.laemchabanggolf.com