PATTAYA, Thailand - The LPGA in February will again open its schedule in Thailand at Siam Country Club for the Honda Classic, about a two-hour drive south of Bangkok. Lorena Ochoa won the 2009 tournament at the new Plantation Course at Siam, though in 2010, the tournament returns to the Old Course.
You might want to play both. Their unique designs include equally, top-shelf facilities. And chances are, your golf group won't agree on the better course.
Here's a quick glance at the Siam Country Club golf courses, worthy options for kicking off your Thailand golf trip:
Siam Country Club, Old Course
Siam's Old Course was the first privately built golf club in Thailand, opened in 1970 by Isao Mazumi. Until then, the government built all golf courses for local workers, not international tourists.
Schmidt-Curley Design completed a full renovation in 2007. Bunkers were rebuilt and added to total 101. The renovated Old Course features contoured green complexes, reseeded paspalum fairways and TifEagle greens - a popular and successful combination in southeast Asia.
The golf course remains routed in a classic, back-and-forth style, with parallel fairways separated often by just a row or two of trees. The modern design component is most visible around the greens, defended by deep bunkers and collection areas.
On a hill above the clubhouse and constantly in view from the lower-lying course sits a tall, golden Buddha. Putts always slope away from Buddha. On what other course does that rule apply?
Siam Country Club, Plantation Course
A six-kilometer drive from the Old Course, the 27-hole Plantation Course opened in 2007. In 2008 when the Honda Classic arrived, officials warned players of its difficulty in comparison to the Old Course. Ochoa's 14-under, in fact, was seven shots higher than Suzann Pettersen's winning score on the Old Course a year earlier.
Showier than the Old Couse, the Plantation Couse requires no more evidence than its 20,000-square-foot, triple-green beneath the clubhouse. It’s said to be Asia's only such putting surface. Views from the Plantation are more panoramic, thanks to its position high on a hillside, looking back toward the city.
The clusters of bunkers on the par-4 opener and the par-5 fifth hole, in particular, provide an eye-opening visual. The fifth features a splattering of sand, requiring golfers to cross their fingers and choose a path to the left or shortcut right.
Siam Country Club Old and Plantation Courses: The verdict
Mark Siegel, Managing Director of golf-tour operator GolfAsian.com, said he steers golf groups with limited time toward the Plantation, because of its spectacular nature. The Old Course is more traditional, even with the recent renovations.
The Plantation punishes errant shots, so be warned. If you're looking for a more traditional layout that remains a championship test - as the Honda Classic in 2010 will show - head for the Old Course.
When in Pattaya with time at your disposal, play both. If you plan to visit Pattaya's beachside Walking Street on the night before golfing, consider a later tee time.
Caddies are mandatory at both courses and cost 300 baht (about $9) per person, plus tip.
From downtown Pattaya, it's about a 30-minute drive to Siam Counrty Club. From Bangkok, budget 90 minutes.
Stay and play in Pattaya: Woodlands Resort & Suites
The beach city of Pattaya is certainly worth a golf trip. You'll find in excess of 30 tourist-class golf courses, plus all the standard activities of a southeast Asian beach town.
The Woodlands Resort and Suites is located on the main drag, a short cab ride to famous Walking Street and a quick walk to the beach, not to mention plenty of local street shops. Though the hotel is more than 20 years old, the property was renovated in 2005 as management added 74 fully-equipped, apartment-style units. It includes numerous options and a full-service spa and pool.