Golfnutter: Crystal Bay’s problems continue


This column has, over some period of time, been very supportive of most matters to do with golf in the kingdom. Furthermore, respect for things Thai – ranging from culture to caddies – can be seen in many previous columns. But there comes a time when circumstances conspire to thwart even the best intentions of reporting golf in a positive light. Such circumstances currently exist at the Crystal Bay Golf Club, on State Highway Three near Chonburi.

Recently, the group I was involved with played a Stableford round at Crystal Bay. Extensive records of local courses kept over many years show Crystal Bay historically at, or near the top, in terms of the number of Stableford points needed for a winning score. In short, to make the podium following a round at Crystal Bay a golfer may well have needed 40+ points. There could be many reasons for this; here’s two: a relatively friendly layout and good putting surfaces.

Asian Turfgrass Centre’s research facility near Bangkok - and the best type for Crystal Bay is?Asian Turfgrass Centre’s research facility near Bangkok – and the best type for Crystal Bay is?

Whilst the layout remains friendly, the putting surfaces are not.

I understand this golf course is owned by the same organisation that owns Mountain Shadow. Unlike Mountain Shadow, Crystal Bay has three nines. Unlike Mountain Shadow, Crystal Bay can close one nine indefinitely – allowing it to fully address any problem. If Crystal Bay wants to see how to present putting greens, they should visit their sister club – a club with only 18 greens – to see how putting surfaces can be presented, week after week, month after month, year after year.

Currently, putting surfaces at Crystal Bay may contain as many as four different grass types. One challenge confronting the golfer is that each grass type has a different speed. A twenty-foot putt, for example, may well encounter three grass types on its hazardous journey, and, when nearing the hole, suddenly find no resistance as the surface becomes bare. Judging pace becomes impossible. Judging line is equally fraught; as well struck putts will be shoved off line as soon as they hit the equivalent of a speed-bump. Three-putts can become the norm; four-putts may not be uncommon.

Both Crystal Bay and Mountain Shadow currently charge 700B green-fee. At Mountain Shadow that represents very good value-for-money. But Crystal Bay, whilst its greens present the challenge it gave us, has no right to charge anything like that amount. In fact, if golfers knew the standard of those greens before they played, they would go elsewhere.

The current malaise affecting the greens is not new. So far the remedy appears to have been limited to patching – a process that currently sees two-foot square blocks of turf replacing worn areas. This does not detract from the number of differing grass types, nor does the recent coring and sanding. Unfortunately, for a few years now, this appears to have been the extent of Crystal Bay’s efforts at fixing the problem.

With three nines, why don’t they close one for as long as it takes to completely dig up, re-build and re-sow every green, resulting in a finished product similar to their sister club a few kilometres up the road? One answer may be finance, with this year’s available expenditure going to upgrading the shower block. But these greens have been substandard for some time, which suggests the core problem may lie elsewhere.

If there is any chance that management of Crystal Bay, or people close to them, happen across this article, then please be assured, your golf course will not survive if you keep presenting greens that are simply not fit for purpose. You are losing goodwill with nearly every customer you currently inveigle to your course.

It is in the interests of all golfers in the province that courses survive and prosper. What is happening at Crystal Bay has been happening for far too long. The standard of those greens are simply unacceptable. They discredit not just the golf course, but also any organisation that mistakenly takes customers there. Our golf group felt as though we had let our golfers down. We will not make that mistake again.

There are some Farang who have had their best round ever at Crystal Bay, back in the day when their greens were admired. This isn’t rocket science, surely. Please, Crystal Bay, get your greens back to the standard they once were.

In the meantime, as a gesture of openness and honesty, consider erecting a notice at reception to the effect that whilst the greens are being rebuilt, a 50% green-fee discount will apply. Such action would be seen for what it is – a gesture towards establishing goodwill – something that will be required if the course is to survive.