It takes a little time to travel to the Sawang Golf Course but the rewards are waiting. Rewarding because of the quality of the Course but also rewarding for your pocket; as this is one of the most inexpensive Course in the Region.
The Course is situated in a valley in the Khao Yoi area, North of Hua Hin and Cha – Am and at the Northern border of Petchaburi Province. I travelled to Sawang with a group of golfers from Cha – Am. This informal group of friends play at Sawang twice every week and quickly dismiss the distance issue. After all, it’s an easy drive following the main Hua Hin to Bangkok highway for almost all the way. Sharing a mini bus adds 300 THB to the day’s costs but that means you are free to relax and not be concerned about any driving issues if the 19th hole was a long one! This group were very eager to describe how much they enjoy playing at Sawang. Some were Members at the Club though not all. One of the enjoyable features for them is a feeling of being personally welcomed and taken care of almost as VIPs.
The Course has character and they feel very much ‘at home’. You’re certainly not just another golfer. The Management of the Course was taken over by a Korean Company in 2008 and they immediately showed their intentions to upgrade the facilities. This is still ‘work in progress’ however improvements to the Course since then are clearly evident. Because the Company has offices in South Korea and connections with travel agencies, Korean golfers have really discovered Sawang. However tee times are usually available without any fuss even in the high season. The local management are hoping that other golfers in the Region will also soon make this discovery.
QUICK FACTS How To Get There? Sawang is not a hard Golf Course to find with a little knowledge. If you are driving from Hua Hin or Cha – Am head North towards Bangkok. There are only two turns to make from the main highway. From Cha – Am to the Course entrance is almost 70 kilometres, so if you are going there for the first time consider making a note of the KMs on the odometer as you leave the traffic lights in Cha – Am. After passing through Petchaburi start to look for the exit to the left when you have travelled about 65 kms. This just before the town of Khao Yai, if you find yourself in town you’ve gone too far! Look for a PT Station followed by a bend in the highway which opens up views to the large hills on the horizon to the right. Then immediately after a pedestrian overpass take the exit left. After a few hundred metres you will see a sign to the Course, 3 kilometres to go. You won’t miss the Course entry on the right on this road. With our careful driver (100 KPH) travel time from Cha – Am was almost exactly one hour.
About The Course If you go internet searching you may find some reference to there being three nine hole courses at Sawang. The Management made a strategic decision some time ago to concentrate their efforts on getting 18 holes right before re-opening the third nine sometime in the future; but not just yet.Designed by Mr. Isao Katsumata’s the course opened in 1993. It occupies a 900 acre site beautiful landscaped and taking full advantage of the natural lakes and other features of the local environment. Not too hilly to walk although gentle contours on the fairways open up some very pleasing views of the surrounding hills and other parts of the Course. Nature is on display with many birds and native vegetation adding to the experience. (photo 7)
One of the recent improvements has been to clear out low vegetation between trees. Apart from the aesthetics and helping golfers find their wayward balls, one golfer commented on how it has also improved playing conditions by allowing a cooling breeze to travel across the Course. Driving around the Course I couldn’t help noticing the small armies of workers busily tidying the grounds. Even the caddies participate in these duties if there is a shortage of golfers. Many of the greens were being hand watered to keep them in good condition even during the driest period of the year. (Photo 6)
Some Small But Important Touches On the tee at every hole very clear signs give important information to golfers not familiar with the Course. They clearly show the relevant distances both from the tee to green but also to hazards including water (lots of it!) and bunkers (lots of them too!). These signs are very well positioned and the information is shown on both sides. You can take a final glance before making the tee shot. I sometimes think that golf courses do not give enough attention to this information with signs often neglected and looking very tired! (see photo one).
Much to my surprise there was also a sign outside the club house showing the speed rating of the greens, on this day the reading was 9.6. This is a green speed rating using a ’Stimpmeter’ named after the inventor of the device. It measures the distance travelled by a golf ball across a flat surface of the green surface when rolled down a standard sized and angled slope. This is important information for the serious golfer and rarely available other than during big tournaments. The day’s rating of 9.6 indicated that the green speed was quite fast, 7 would be considered slow and over 11 dangerously fast! Very clear signage showing the distance to the green from 100, 150 and (par 5’s) 200 yards was also on display.
I always feel reassured when there is no doubt about these distances. Although caddies are typically very accurate with their advice, somehow seeing it for yourself removes any uncertainty. In my opinion expecting golfers to realise that a particular palm or some other unmarked indicator is a distance marker is not really good enough.(see photo two) An issue for me with many golf courses is the marking of water hazards. The markers at Sawang are there but just need a small amount of maintenance. If Course markers are too far apart, not placed correctly or not replaced when damaged it becomes impossible to play within the Rules of Golf. A fairly simple item but very important!
BEST PAR THREE (photo three)
Hole 4 is 165 yard (white markers) par three which although slightly downhill to the green appears somewhat daunting from the tee box. A large lake and front of the green must be cleared with a severe slope to the water likely to result in the ball finishing in this hazard even if it lands on dry land but not on the raised green surface. Additionally large bunkers to the left must also be taken into account. A mishit sand shot from one of these bunkers with the green falling away towards the lake may also result in hazard entry. The only advice would be simple. Keep it straight and get the distance right!
BEST PAR 5Hole 2 is rated as index 6 and is a 489 yard from the white markers. Water follows the length of the fairway on the left though there should be plenty of room on the fairway to avoid this lateral hazard. Be aware that the fairway slopes towards the water so a hook is not the sot to play if you are a right hander. There is a water hazard about 30 yards from the front of the green so get the distance right if you are laying up or be sure to clear it if you are attempting to make it in two. There is also a large bunker left of the green. This is a typical Sawang hole, lots of water and risk/reward choices to make.
INDEX ONE (photo four) Hole 17 is a 354 yard (white tees) par four hole which is index one for good reason. From the tee you can see a sweeping left turn in the fairway which follows a lake which is a lateral water hazard for the length of the hole. This is one of a series of lakes on the back nine which are a feature of this more open back nine. You must decide how much of the lake you plan to ‘take on’. If you are accurate enough the further left the closer the distance required for your second shot. For most the line would be over a small bush just left of centre.The approach shot to the green must clear a water hazard directly in front of the green. If you are not close enough and thinking of safety consider your lay-up distance carefully. The entry to the water varies from about 50 yards from the right side of the fairway to about 80 yards from the left. Maybe stay a little left in case you are long. On the left of the green is a very deep bunker just to add a little more challenge.
Resort/Accommodation Options and AmenitiesIt may not be very obvious however the facilities for guests at Sawang allow you to consider staying over to enjoy the Course for more than just one round. Accommodation includes Golf Lodges alongside some fairways which are available for up to
12 guests. The three storey, 4,000 square metre club house includes 20 deluxe hotel rooms as well as seminar rooms. There is also a swimming pool, fitness centre, games room and a rather ‘stately’ dining room. (see photo five) The facilities at Sawang are not just basic. This Resort does not pretend to provide five star facilities but offers all you really need to be comfortable at an affordable rate.
A Final Word
Sawang remains largely undiscovered for local residents and visitors alike. However it seems certain this will soon change as the final touches to improvements are completed and word spreads. Considerable energy and determination is being shown by the management to ‘get things’ right’. They also have a stated intent to continue to offer inexpensive golf. The rate displayed outside the club house for all to see includes weekday green fees for only 600 THB.‘Unpretentious’ is a word that springs to mind when describing this Golf Course. However this is not a negative comment and the Course has become a favourite of those regularly enjoying this great golfing experience.The group I joined on my visit are clearly very pleased about their ‘discovery’ of Sawang. However my feeling is that before very long there will be many other golfers realising what is on offer. Contact: 032707034-6 Website:www.sawangresortgolf.com