It was late on New Year’s Eve, somewhere close to Walking Street, when I was accosted by an aged street vendor. After a haggle she convinced me to part with 200 baht. I left with my prize firmly tucked under one arm and headed home.
The following day I awoke to find my purchase of the previous night lying beside me in bed. It was a highly polished, four-foot long gnarled stick, complete with pointy end. It had magical powers; at least that is what the old lady had convinced me of the previous night, after my zillionth beer. With this “wand” I could make ten wishes for the new year; provided they were related to just the one subject. I chose golf.
Forget Christmas – any time will do.
So with wand in hand I stood on my balcony overlooking the back sois of Pattaya and made my wishes for 2015:
- That the hiring of caddies becomes voluntary, thus cutting approximately 700 baht off the cost of a round to those not requiring one. That is 2,100 baht per week to many golfers.
- That Pattaya golf venues adopt one set of local rules.
- That Pattaya golf venues adopt one administration to negotiate terms and conditions of play with all courses.
- That one handicap system for all Pattaya golf is accepted by recognised golf venues – one that does not permit individuals to record and submit their own scores without independent verification.
- That pace of play improves to a point where 4-hour rounds become the norm.
- That the trend towards mandatory rental of golf carts is reversed.
- That recognised golf venues sign up to a minimum standard of behaviour and enforce it. A golfer banned from one outlet for unacceptable behaviour be banned from all.
- That Rory McIlroy wins the Masters.
- That Phil Mickelson wins the US Open.
- That Tiger Woods wins one of the other two majors.
Having made my ten wishes, my thoughts turned to some of the courses I had played over the past 12 months. Some observations:
Mt Shadow: please ensure more fairway grass on holes where balls tend to gather; e.g. from where one plays the approach shot (that’s the third shot for most of us) on the par-5 third. Also, anti-slip mats in the new showers will help prevent an accident just waiting to happen.
Crystal Bay: one of the friendliest of layouts, and many golfers favourite because of that. But please, use rotation of your three nines to better effect so as to prevent a return to the terrible state your putting surfaces suffered for much of last year.
Khao Kheow: great course, but please ease up on the watering just short of the greens.
Pattana: ease up on the watering, period. Oh, and please compact the sand in those bunkers.
Pattavia: magnificent upgrading achieved, but shaving those greens as fine as you do, without due watering, can make them unfair and bordering on unplayable. Please fix that road.
Emerald: this course does not warrant the fee structure in place, not when compared to what’s available elsewhere. I hope it finds a wise, long-term owner soon.
Eastern Star: great layout, good fairways and bunkers. Be great to get those greens up to the same standard as the rest of the course, and then kept there.
Green Valley: all courses could use this course’s standard of presentation as the benchmark. With possibly the greatest volume of traffic, Green Valley receives more excellent reviews than any other.
Siam Old Course: that you rescind your decision to impose compulsory carts on your members in 12 months’ time. This is yet another message that infers you don’t really care for your long-time members, although one suspects you’re not unduly concerned.
Phoenix: now under good management. Excellent decision to rescind compulsory cart deal. Despite improvements however, most venues will struggle to get support for this course at 1,850 baht green-fee/caddie fee.
Plutaluang: giving a golf venue one hour 40 minutes notice of cancellation, prior to tee-off, is unacceptable, even for those used to setting their own rules. The manner with which you told a long-time customer (with 32 golfers) to go away, last November, was breathtaking.
Treasure Hill: a tough test of golf, this. However, once a deal is agreed, please honour it. Changing the price when we arrive is unprofessional, unfriendly and unlike you. Please desist.
Bangpra: well managed and well presented.
Greenwood: ditto above.
Bangpakong Riverside: arguably the best presented course of all.
The award for courses that, during most of 2014, represented the best value-for-money, in no particular order: Greenwood, Treasure Hill, Pattavia Century, Khao Kheow, Bangpra, Mt Shadow, Plutaluang.
The following night I went back to the same area from where I obtained my magic wand. Spotting me, the old lady gave a toothless grin. “You make wish?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, noting she had a bunch of sticks, just like the ‘one and only’ wand I had bought.
She looked at me, shaking her head in disbelief, “Rory, Tiger and Phil winning, maybe, but as for the rest, pigs may fly.”
May 2015 be a good to you all.