Phuket is home to thousands of expats and retirees who choose to live here for a luxurious and affordable lifestyle. Residents can enjoy the beautiful beaches, dozens of amazing small islands, the strong infrastructure in schools and hospitals, delicious fresh food, world-class restaurants and nightlife, wonderful climate, the blend of traditional Thai culture mixed with modern western comforts, an international airport offering direct flights around the world, the strong boating community and the diverse ex-pat community. How about golf? Can we add golf to this list of things to enjoy in Phuket? Here is some information on Phuket golf to help answer these questions.
Phuket has seven 18-hole golf courses with rumors of another in the pipeline. The courses are spread out on the island with 3 up north (Blue Canyon x 2 and Mission Hills), 1 on the west coast near Bang Tao Beach (Laguna), and 3 further south in Kathu (Phuket Country Club, Loch Palm, and Red Mountain). These are the seven courses and each offers something a little different in terms of location, landscape, scenery, course design, difficulty rating, service standards, membership opportunities, course condition, and price.
Blue Canyon is a wonderful 36-hole country club located near the airport, not far from Nai Yang Beach. The majority of serious golf enthusiasts who reside in Phuket are members of Blue Canyon. The club’s glory days were in the late 90’s and early 00’s when The Canyon Course, regarded at that time as one of the finest in SE Asia, hosted The Johnnie Walker Classic 3 times (’94, ’98, ’07) attracting stars such as Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Ernie Els. Upon entry to the Club House we are reminded of these glory days with photos of Tiger, Ernie and others displayed on the wall. The Club also hosted the very successful Blue Canyon Open presented by Nike Golf which attracted top amateur golfers from different parts of SE Asia and even further afield who played 18 holes on each course over 2 days. The leaders played in the final groups on the Canyon Course on the second day which provided great drama over the demanding finishing stretch. Competitors who had already completed their rounds would sit in the clubhouse enjoying a drink looking down on all the action. These were great times to be a member of Blue Canyon but unfortunately, problems did begin for the club around 10 years ago.
Blue Canyon is currently owned by APG Group, Hong Kong who have had some setbacks in the first 2 or 3 years of ownership but do have strong intentions to return the club to where it belongs as one of the best in the region. We certainly wish them the best of luck.
The problems stemmed from disputes amongst shareholders and control of the club changed hands several times. Funds were not being sufficiently reinvested into the courses and facilities causing standards to drop. Fewer guests were turning up to pay 5,600 Baht green fees and the demand to buy memberships at 1.3m Baht dropped. It was proving more and more difficult to maintain standards although the club did manage to present the courses well for Club Championships and peak season months, mostly due to some excellent Superintendents and an experienced team of Landscape & Maintenance staff. However, the required course renovations never happened and the dreaded malay grass began to creep into the fairways, bunkers would flood following significant rainfall, the greens became patchy in places and the teeing grounds uneven (the Canyon Course teeing grounds are at present very poor and the rough is too long). The club recently tripled the annual membership fees which some members refused to pay but others felt was inevitable and still provides good value to access two fine golf courses. Memberships that once cost 1.3m Baht are now changing hands for less than 200,000 Baht + transfer fee.
Some of the Canyon Course greens have been reduced in size which is a real shame because the large, fast undulating greens were a real feature of the course. Hitting approach shots below the hole are good advice to any golfer on the Canyon Course. The club has a group of loyal members who continue to play and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the Lakes Course is normally presented in super condition. Each Tuesday the long-running Mulligans Golf Society play The Lakes Course with up to 60 players taking part, they run a good handicap system which allows different winners each week and a season running OOM for the regulars. Golfers receive 1 mulligan each 9 but taking a mulligan eliminates them from the gross category. The prize presentation did take place at the popular BB’s pub in the evening where golfers received 2 drinks tokens and tasty buffet spread but BB’s has recently changed ownership and is undergoing serious renovation works so maybe a new home will be found.
Some Blue Canyon members live in villas and condominiums within the resort. Homes 1 and 2 are large condominium developments up in the hills overlooking The Canyon Course. Some of the large villas near the 1st and 2nd holes are impressive, other villas around the course have been derelict for many years. Quite a number of members live around Laguna or Layan and the driving time to Blue Canyon is 20-30 minutes.