Once in Chiang Mai, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to playing golf
For a spectacular golf holiday in Thailand it pays to head north, away from the main tourists crowds to the city of Chiang Mai.
This may not be the place you see when looking at photographs of Thailand in a holiday brochure but it is a very special place for a golf trip. The province in which the city lies shares the same name and you can spend days, months or even years in this region of Thailand playing golf.
If you have played golf previously in other parts of Thailand, you will be pleasantly surprised by the climate in Chiang Mai. The temperature remains warm throughout the year but thanks to the moderate elevation, they can drop at night, especially during the cool season which falls between mid-October and mid-February. This is regarded as the best time to play golf in Chiang Mai.
When planning to play golf in Chiang Mai, you must know how you are going to reach the destination. The Chiang Mai International Airports accepts both international and domestic flights, making it the first port of call for most visitors. Direct flights from Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, South Korea, Qatar and Singapore are available. However, if you are travelling from outside Asia, your best bet is to fly to Bangkok and catch a short connecting flight to Chiang Mai.
You can could even spend a few days in Bangkok, playing golf before catching your onward flight to make the most of your time.
Its takes 55 minutes to reach the course from downtown Chiang Mai and one hour from airport
Once in Chiang Mai, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to playing golf. There are some fantastic golf courses in this region of Thailand with arguably the best being Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Resort.
This golf course is located 25 miles east of the capital city and has been designed by Lee E. Schmidt and Brian Curley. Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Resort is home to a 27 hole championship golf course which plays to over 7,000 yards from the back tees, regardless of which two sets of 9 holes you combine during your round. However, there are five tee positions to choose from on each hole and that makes the course playable for golfers of all abilities.
The golf course uses the natural terrain perfectly, with rolling fairways and undulating greens. The bunkers are deep and punishing, making them the biggest threat on the course and a sound strategic approach is a must to score low. The greens run to between 9.5 and 10.5 on the Stimp-meter and are very consistent throughout.
One of the many highlights of playing at Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Resort is the range of shots playable from off the green. In addition to the bunkers, you will find plenty of water present on all three sets of 9 holes but the Valley and Highland Courses in-particular have some daunting shots over water for those who want to play attacking golf.
Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Resort is kept in magnificent condition throughout the year and is often voted as one of the best golf courses in Asia, it really is that good. Facilities include locker rooms, function rooms, restaurant, spa, pro shop plus on-site accommodation if you wish to stay in the area and play more than one round.
You will struggle to find a better way to begin playing golf in Chiang Mai than a round at Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Resort.
Its takes 30 minutes to reach the course from downtown Chiang Mai and 30 minutes from airport
However, that’s not to say it is your only choice and you have several top golf courses to enjoy, including Gassan Legacy Golf Club.
If you like the challenge of water on the golf course, Gassan Legacy Golf Club will be right up your street. Just 45 minutes from the city of Chiang Mai, Gassan Legacy Golf Club is an 18 hole, par-72 golf course which was completely renovated and re-opened in 2014. Accuracy is the key on this golf course and although distance off the tee can be important for clearing water hazards for those in an attacking frame of mind, shot placement if more important throughout the 18 holes.
You will face a choice on several holes, with attacking options for experienced golfers and layup areas for those who want to keep their ball dry, whatever the circumstances. The risk and reward holes are excellent and some players will be tempted to try and reach the green on some of the par-4 holes from the tee.
However, the threat of water and bunkering is present throughout and anything wayward off the tee or on approach to the green will be punished.
The clubhouse may not be the most up to date in Thailand but is adequate for a drink and snack following a round. There is also accommodation should you decide to stay and explore the area further.
Its takes 60 minutes to reach the course from downtown Chiang Mai and 60 minutes from airport
In addition to the Gassan Legacy Golf Club, you will find two additional golf clubs which come under the ‘Gassan’ name in Chiang Mai. The first of these is Gassan Khuntan Golf Resort, which is regarded by many as being one of the most scenic golf courses in the whole of Thailand.Located next to Khuntan National Park, the stunning scenery will take your breath away but at the same time you need to try and focus on the course. Many challenges await at Gassan Khuntan Golf Resort, with several doglegs, steep bunkers, water carries and islands greens just some of the tests which players will face. The course expanded from 18 to 27 holes in 2018 and although the 9 holes are a short par-34 course, they play through train tracks, which makes for an interesting round.
It takes 35 minutes to reach the course from downtown Chiang Mai and 35 minutes from airport
The third Chiang Mai golf course coming under the Gassan Group is called . Previously known as the Gassan Marina Golf Club, the course re-opened under the current name in 2017 and at 7,761 yards is one of the longest golf courses in Asia. The course has been designed around a large lake and coupled with the mountain backdrop and lush greenery, Gassan Panorama Golf Club lives up to the name.
Interestingly, there are no par-5 holes on the golf course but there is one par-6 hole which plays to 666 yards from the back tee. Whether you think this is a gimmick or a genuine challenge, every player should give it a go as it offers something completely different to a standard round of golf.
Having completed the round, players can retire to the luxurious clubhouse which boasts Thai and international restaurants, locker rooms, pro shop and banquet hall. The Gassan Group have been hard at work in Chiang Mai and the results are superb.
It takes 45 minutes to reach the course from downtown Chiang Mai and 50 minutes from airport
Another of the highly rated golf courses in Chiang Mai is the Alpine Golf Resort. This golf course opened for play in 2008 and takes up an enviable position in a valley between mountain ranges and the forests of San Kamphaeng. Having hosted the Asia Tour in 2013 and the Chiang Mai Classic in 2014, Alpine Golf Resort is regarded as being one of the best courses in this region of Thailand.
Designed by Ron M. Garl, Alpine Golf Resort has nature in abundance and wherever you look, from any hole of the golf course, you are surrounded by magnificent scenery. The course plays to just over 7,500 yards from the back tee and this will provide a challenge to the very best golfer in your group. However, there is a choice of tee boxes on each hole which makes the course suitable for players of all abilities.
There are 27 holes in total at Alpine Golf Resort and they consist of three sets of nine holes which are known as the Pine Tree Zone, Wetland Zone and Paddy Zone. Each name gives an idea of what to expect, with trees surrounding the fairways and greens of the Pine Tree Zone, marshes feature on the Wetland Zone and rice fields are present around the Paddy Zone.
Look out for the par-3 hole which is surrounded by rice fields and forms Thailand’s only rice paddy green. There are several memorable holes on the golf course and you will be tempted to stay and play a second round to ensure you enjoy every hole on the course. The four-star resort features accommodation, restaurant spa and pro shop, making it a lovely place to spend the night.
It takes 35 minutes to reach the course from downtown Chiang Mai and 50 minutes from airport
Just 20 minutes from the centre of Chiang Mai city you will find Summit Green Valley Chiang Mai Country Club. This 18 hole par-72 golf course opened for play in 1990 and is designed by Dennis Griffiths. With pine trees surrounding the course, lovely mountain views and the fresh northern air, a round at Summit Green Valley Chiang Mai Country Club is hugely enjoyable.
That’s not to say the course does not present a challenge and playing to 7,200 yards from the back tees, the distance is testing. The fairways can seem wide from the tee box but the water hazards and bunkering combine on several holes to make accuracy very important. With plenty of elevation changes, Summit Green Valley Chiang Mai Country Club is not an easy golf course to master and if the wind picks up during a round, things can get even more difficult.
The golf course drains well, so even if you are visiting Chiang Mai during the wet season, you can still enjoy a round of golf at Summit Green Valley Chiang Mai Country Club. The floodlighting means you can also play at night, which adds to the experience of playing a round at this golf course.
It takes 70 minutes to reach the course from downtown Chiang Mai and 50 minutes from airport
One of the first of the modern crop of golf courses to appear in Chiang Mai was Royal Chiang Mai Resort, which opened for play in 1996. Designed by Peter Thompson, this golf course is located in a valley, surrounded by mountains and is great for amateur and experienced golfers alike.
Royal Chiang Mai Resort features waterfalls and streams and being located on the site of a former fruit orchard, you will find a wide range of plants and trees around the golf course. Reminiscent of a British links course, the distance will not prove a problem but the undulating fairways and pot bunkers make accuracy essential for a low score. The high-lipped green side bunkers are especially tricky and if you find your ball inside one of them, you must produce a good shot to get out and onto the putting surface.
The clubhouse affords great views of the golf course and surrounding area and is a nice place to have a drink following a round at Summit Green Valley Chiang Mai Country Club.
Having the city of Chiang Mai as a base, you are only a matter of minutes away from a wealth of courses in the region. You can stay in the city or choose to stay at various accommodation throughout the Chiang Mai province.
Either way, you will have easy access to the golf courses featured above plus many others which includes Chiang Mai Inthanon Golf Resort, Gold Canyon Golf Club, Hariphunchai Golf Club, Mae Jo Golf Club and North Hill Chiang Mai Golf Club.
Most of these golf courses can be reached from Chiang Mai city in under an hour. Many of the courses have a rural feel and you will enjoy the sensation of being out in the northern Thai countryside while playing the sport you love.
Chiang Mai is a fantastic place for a golf holiday but is often overlooked for the other areas of Thailand in the south. Don’t make the same mistake and make sure you play golf in Chiang Mai at least once in your lifetime, it is a place you will never forget.