The Royal Thai Army Sports Centre, Suanson Pradipat (Sea Pines Golf Course) is the official name of this facility. Regional golfers may refer to all of these names when talking about the Course which does make it a little confusing.
The land was originally under the responsibility of the Royal Forest Department then subsequently transferred to Army control. It was then referred to as the Army convalescence and relaxation area and renamed as the Royal Thai Army Sports Centre, Suanson Pradipat later. The main focus of the facility was the relaxation and welfare of army and other officials. It is not surprising then that the golf course was designed by Major General Weerayudth Phetbuasak. The course was completed in 2010 so perhaps still a little immature with many young trees, but every year it has improved and should not be missed by the visiting golfer.
Around Thailand there are a number of Army controlled Golf Courses. In most Western countries the suggestion that the Army would own or manage a golf course would bring a wry smile to the face of golfers and more than raised eyebrows from politicians. However in Thailand this is an accepted part of Army ‘business’ and doesn’t seem to be the least bit controversial. For golfers it is of little concern who has that control just as long as the golf course provides what they expect; a true test of golf with course conditions and lay out to match. However we did hear of one story that a group of golfers would be delayed half an hour as a General and his entourage had arrived unannounced for a round and would always have priority. You’d be rather unlucky to encounter that inconvenience!
What’s Different About Sea Pine?
There is a theme about our Regional Golf Courses that is one of their real attractions. Typically these Courses are set within a valley or a foothills setting with a backdrop of mountains or hillsides alongside the fairways. They are almost always inland (The Eagle Milford and Royal Hua Hin are somewhat closer to the ocean) and although there may be ocean glimpses, the seascape is not really prominent.
Sea Pines is different because its location is right on the ocean and the prominent vista is the nearby promontory of Kao Takiab. In fact the last three holes are played alongside the beach; a very different golfing experience from most.
The fairways are only mildly undulating with frequent doglegs and a network of waterways meanders through the course. The lack of heavy and obvious dangers between fairways may lead to a sense of false security as the low growth vegetation may provide a severe penalty when fairways are missed. There is a real variety of challenges and decisions to be made. Risk/reward shots are there to be taken and decisions about taking on a water carry crucial. Wind direction and strength may also play a part as with an ocean frontage there is little protection from the elements.
Holes sixteen through to eighteen are probably the courses most memorable holes and they provide the best examples of why this course is so highly rated.
Hole 16 is a dogleg par 5 (529 yards from the white tees) which is protected by fairway bunkers and a water hazard on the right side. There is also a small bunker towards the centre of the fairway requiring a decision to be made about the choice of club for the second shot. In front of the green there is a huge lake to cross and just behind it the ocean. The difficulty is that the green is not deep so you must get the distance right!
Hole 17 is a par 3 (146 yards from the white tee) with water for almost the length of the hole and a deep bunker in front and behind the green. The green is wide and undulating though not very deep. Club selection for distance is the most important aspect of achieving your par.
Hole 18 is the most representative of the courses design and a memorable finishing hole. As the closest hole to the ocean, wind conditions almost always come into play. The first decision is about the tee shot as a canal crosses the fairway at about the 220 yard mark. To clear this hazard the drive must not only be long but straight as there is water to the right and for the really big hitters a bunker just before the beach also may come into play. This bunker continues to separate the fairway from the beach for the duration of the hole. The final challenge is a narrow entry to the green. This is a very difficult hole which can make or break any round.
Sea Pines is about 7 kilometres South of Hua Hin heading towards Pranburi. The entrance is off Petchakasim Road through the entry to the other Army facilities. Swing left after the entry and it’s easy to find.
Facilities: The modern contemporary clubhouse allows you to take full advantage of the ocean views and has a full range of food and drinks. Be aware that the driving range at Suanson is not actually on the golf course but a few minutes’ drive away. If you want to visiting it’s probably best to call in on the way; too far to walk!
Some Other Comments:
- Motorised Golf Carts (600 THB) may not be shared on this course. However this course is not a hard walk and we would suggest going around on foot is you are considering the options.
- An ‘escort’ (500 THB) is available if you need some extra assistance, although for most the caddie does this job. We found the caddie’s knowledgeable and very friendly.
- There are four tee box locations at each hole which makes it possible to ‘adjust’ the length of the course to suit the capabilities of the players. Many golfers who’s length of the tee is not quite as long as their memories of the ‘good old days’ may enjoy being able to reach the green in regulation again from the yellow markers although the more proficient will probably choose a longer option. In competition mode this need to be considered before commencement.