I ENJOY KHAO YAI
A SUPERB GOLFING DESTINATION IN THAILAND
My media colleagues and the tour operators from Singapore, all 15 of them, cheered for me as I blushed, then was in two minds about taking up the offer.
"Thanks, but let's see," I replied bashfully as someone screamed "give him a skirt".
With those words ringing in my ear, I drove the buggy to the 14th tee-box, my starting point on the beautiful Rancho Charnvee course in Khao Yai, Thailand.
From the white tee box, I sauntered to the "red", some 50 metres in front after seeing that one of my playing partners from the Philippines was waiting there.
He was a month older than me so he decided that he would take advantage of the club ruling. I needed no convincing as I joined him.
So it was a great outing for me, needing no woods but irons for my second shots on the par-fours and wedges on three of the four par-threes.
A round of 13-over 85 - a sub-90 score that I had not done in four years - placed me eighth among 40 golfers, the second-best score only behind Jackie Teo among the 13 players from Singapore.
If that was a highlight of my five-day stay in the idyllic setting a dream getaway in northern Thailand, a three-hour drive from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, I came away from Khao Yai with some of the fondest memories of the working holiday.
No doubt, it was mainly a golfing trip where the Tourism Authority of Thailand showcased some of the best golf courses in Thailand, a country that not only parades some great players such as Thongchai Jaidee, Prayad Marksaeng and the Jutanugarn sisters, Ariya and Moriya, but also boasts of a tourism hideout that mixes golf with the sun, sea and authentic Thai culinary delights that would leave you wanting for more.
Thailand has more than 200 superb golf courses on different terrains, in Chiangmai, Bangkok, Pattya, Kanchanaburi, Hua Hin, Phuket, Koh Samui and, of course, Khao Yai.
Sir James Golf Course at Forest Hills Country Club was our first stop in Khao Yai. It is a well-designed golf course that provides an enjoyable and challenging outing. It is a parkland course and a golf resort.
Our next stop at Kirimaya Golf Resort and Spa is set within natural surroundings with panaromic views of the Khao Yai National Park.
Rancho Charnvee is a rather flat Bob McFarland resort course that is fun to play on and caters to golfers of all abilities as they enjoy some stunning views.
Lakewood Links, our final destination, is the most recent course to open near Bangkok, an hour's drive from Khao Yai.
Because of its newness and the trees having not matured yet, the winds can play havoc on the unusual links-style layout with two unique signature par-threes - one in the shape of a starfish and the other in the shape of a crab.
The National Park aside, Khao Yai serves as an ideal place to escape from the ordinary everyday life, the cowboy town has verdant landscape and scenic waterfalls. Also there are wineries and endless fruit and vegetable orchards.
One of the specialities of playing golf in Thailand is the easy availability of competent caddies. As one Thai tourism official boasted: "In many parts of the world, you have one caddie to four people, but in Thailand you have one caddie, or more, to each golfer. You are spoilt."
At Rancho Charnvee, I was not just spoilt, I was also privileged.