The problem with golf (well, one of its problems) is that you often need to spend a fair amount of time, effort and money before you figure out if you even like the game (or are any good at it). But it’s not necessary to wake up before sunrise and drive long distances to expensive courses. If you’ve been thinking of taking up golf, you may want to use the rainy season to develop your swing at one of these downtown facilities.
By far the most advanced center of its kind in Thailand, Wilding is an ultra modern, almost clinical facility that resembles a bunker control room with all its high-tech equipment. There are four swing bays outfitted with AboutGolf simulators that can measure and record distance and trajectory but also stats like club head and ball speed, carry and spin. Like huge video games, you’re hitting balls into a hanging “screen” that can show a virtual driving range or one of 32 courses. The two putting “studios” are similarly wired. Instruction is by a team of around 10 international pros (including one Thai). Other services and facilities include equipment performance testing, massage and other treatments and a café corner.
Who goes there: Serious and established golfers who can afford the very best. Very few beginners. They claim a 65% Thai clientele, and you’re liable to see young stars with PGA hopes whacking the shit out of ball after ball.
Birdies: The AboutGolf simulators, which can show frame by frame comparisons with famous golfers (or yourself). Video analysis is “live” (no downloading) and with two cameras from different angles. On-site club customization services, and really nice loaner clubs for use for free. Air-conditioning.
Bogies: The price. Small and popular, so don’t even think about just “dropping by” to play in the evening or other peak times.
The price: Lessons (swing, putting or on-course) are B2,500/hr, packages (including equipment performance analysis, swing instruction, putting instruction and, in some cases, practice time) are B15,000-74,000. Practice time starts at B1,400/hour, with discounts when you buy packages of five (B5,000) to 100 (B60,000) hours.
Ocean Tower II, 75/1 Sukhumvit Soi 19, 02-661-7115. Open Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat-Sun 8am-8pm. www.wildinggolf.com.
Doug Hood Golf School
Opened in 2002 but recently renovated, this facility sits on one of the rooftops of the Dusit Thani parking lot, in what was once a tennis court. The fence-enclosed “range” features bright green artificial turf, with a real flag sticking out of the ground providing a target for chipping from either of the two covered outdoor bays. American owner / pro Doug Hood gives lessons and provides computer / camera-aided assessment.
Who goes there: Mostly expats, including a fair number of Japanese, hotel guests and the occasional young Thai.
Birdies: Great location. Though only 30 yards long, you still get the outdoor feel and you can see the trajectory of the ball. It’s also quiet and fairly private. Free use of locker room in the hotel fitness center.
Bogies: The bays are covered, but to some extent you’re at the mercy of the elements. Though the camera-computer setup works, it’s outdated. Clubs for rent are old.
The price: Trays of 40 balls are B50. Club rental is B50 (irons) and B100 (woods). Lessons start at B2,000/hr (B1,500/hr for beginners), packages from B10,000/6 hrs.
Dusit Thani Hotel. Rama 4 Rd., 089-924-2071. Open Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat-Sun/holidays 8am-5pm. www.doughoodgolfschool.com.
In the Fitcorp Asia Golf Fitness program, you work with a personal trainer to create a dedicated program of exercises and routines that can get you swinging smoother. Certified by the Titleist Peformance Institute (TPI), assessment involves 12 simple physical tests that are used to assess your body’s flexibility, strength, balance and stability and how these will affect your play when out on the course.
Who goes there: All ages (as young as eight all they way up to 76), but mostly male expats.
Birdies: It works! For us, the test identified a tendency to favor one side of our body, which explains why we can never drive straight. They claim that by following the exercise program you can start hitting the ball 10-50 yards longer.
Bogies: You can feel pretty stupid doing the routines and you don’t actually get to play any “real” golf.
The price: B2,500 for the assessment, though it’s complimentary if you sign up for a program of 12, 24 or 36 sessions; prices start at around B1,500 per session. Half-day workshops are B4,000, full-day workshops B7,000; these include TPI assessment, a Golf Specific Warm Up Program, Strength and Flexibility Programs.
Fitcorp Asia. 20/F Ocean Tower II, 75/34 Sukhumvit Soi 19, 02-661-7900. Open daily 9am-6pm. www.fitcorpasia.com.
Located in the Piyarom sports complex, the three-level, 60-bay TopGolf is like many other driving ranges, only out in the field are huge holes in the ground, like bombed-out craters. Originally the gimmick was balls that are implanted with microchips that can be used to gauge distance and location. There is a choice of electronic games that are displayed on monitors in each bay, with the interactive experience being similar to bowling. Now they also offer normal balls as a cheaper alternative.
Who goes there: Mostly Thai clientele, pretty quiet during the day except during school breaks.
Birdies: Games help with motivation and can be a good practice tool. Black Canyon-style restaurant and a True Café. Real putting green.
Bogies: Opened in 2005, the facility is showing its age.
The price: For one game (two trays) it’s B100, B200 for four games. Or you could go all the way with 20 trays at B700. There are also packages from B1,000-5,000. Lessons start at B800/hr, packages from B7,000/10 hrs.
Piyarom Sports Club. Sukumvit Soi 101/1, 02-393-8228. Open daily 9:30am-10:30pm. www.thaitopgolf.com.
Grand Millennium Sukhumvit
When it comes to urban golf it’s hard to beat the set up at the Grand Millennium Sukhumvit (30 Sukhumvit Soi 21, Asoke, 02-204-4000). Based on a whim of the golf-mad general manager, they’ve gone and stuck an 18-hole putting course on their roof. Very nice and pretty demanding it is, too. The astro turf course is broken into three sections with six holes on each and plenty of steep slopes and contours to challenge even the most professional of putters. There’s also a small driving range where you can practice your chipping and of course the all important 19th hole complete with bar and sofas for you to relax after your round. The one downside is that it is currently only open to guests at the hotel, though you can book the space for a team building session or even a private party. However, there is talk that they might be opening it up to the public in the not too distant future, so we can all enjoy some sky-high putting practice.