I want to take you back… Way, way back to my teenage years. I’m an enthusiastic golfer. My school was on a hill overlooking the town golf course. I’m looking longingly down at three golfers playing the last hole. I want to be there too.
The bell rang and, with adrenaline pumping, I found myself running away from my next class and down that hill to indulge in my favourite pastime.
I am in Chiang Mai, Thailand, some 50 years later. I’m standing at the driving range of the Gymkhana Club. The course is over 100 years old. The buildings have a Victorian resonance—with a little decay thrown in.
This was not a golf course originally, but rather a racing venue for the rich and entitled English gentlemen who lived and worked here. Old photographs on the wall testify to this. Anna’s son from the classic tale, Anna and the King of Siam (or The King and I) was one of the early teak merchants here and a founding member of the sports club. Even way back when, it was a hub for gatherings of the expat community.
I moved to Chiang Mai a few years back and decided, in my 70s, to take up golf again. Here, it’s an affordable indulgence. I even have my own coach, Boopi. A personal golf coach will cost you around $10 an hour, but you may need to bargain.
A round of nine holes here at the Gymkhana Club is also $10, but you will need to have a caddy with you the first five times you play. They’re provided by the club for a fee of $8—including tip. The practice range costs are hard to beat too, $1.50 for 40 perfect practice balls and you don’t even have to pick them up, a machine does it for you.
The best time to play is in the cool season; from November to February. Humidity is lower and temperatures range from 16 to 35 C with light breezes and clear skies. The rest of the year your best bet is to get out early, around 7 a.m., when it’s cool, if a little sticky.
There are not many expat women who play at this course but there a quite a lot of Thai women who play and they have a monthly competition for women which includes expats. I decided to “groove” my swing before playing in competitions and I’m nearly there.
Night golf is also popular here at the 18-hole courses—of which there are about 12. That includes resorts. The larger courses also have golf buggies for hire and any other paraphernalia you might require for golfing.
I might have been thought too old to take golf back up in my 70s but I have discovered a wonderful secret: You can play like a well-oiled machine if you hit the ball correctly. That’s why I have spent so much time employing a professional coach. I developed golf elbow and thought, “Oh no, this is the end, not the beginning!”
Happily, Boopi corrected my swing and my golf elbow disappeared. He’s my special “fix-it” man and thanks to his excellent correction I’ve ironed out any body problems—including an old spinal issue—and intend to be playing for many years to come.
I decided I didn’t want to hire clubs so I looked online to find some second-hand sets. They’re not hard to come by. I actually bought three sets—with the first two being advertised as ladies’ clubs but they weren’t—so I had to resell them, which was quite easy. The ladies’ clubs I finally bought were pink and purple so I knew these had to be the right ones. They cost me $100. I sold the other two sets for what I paid for them.
The Gymkhana Club I play at is in the city, the other 18-hole clubs are a little farther out so you will need transport to get you there. We now have Grab in Chiang Mai which is a very affordable option to get you around the city and is a popular choice among expats.