THE ROYAL & ‘NEARLY ANCIENT’ – HUA HIN GOLF COURSE

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In 1834 King William IV agreed to become Patron of the Club and the Society of St Andrews Golfers became The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland.  The R & A built the New Course in 1895. Accordingly this is considered by many to be the ‘home of golf’ and is revered by golfers worldwide.  In Thailand there is some evidence that golf was played at the Royal Bangkok Sport’s Club Golf Course in 1906 as accounting records show green fees stood at 74.17 THB.  However Royal Hua Hin is accredited with being the Kingdom’s first ‘real’ golf course.

Certainly not as ‘ancient’ but undoubtedly no less ‘Royal’.

 

In researching the history of this Course there are some conflicting pieces of information in various websites and publications.  It is stated that construction commenced in 1919 however it is also stated that royal permission for the construction was given in 1923.  However the ‘official’ version is best presented by the Course itself with many photos in the Clubhouse to verify events.

 

It’s well worth taking the time to browse the walls of the Club house and take in some real golfing history.  One photo shows the inauguration ceremony of the initial nine holes presided over by His Majesty King Vajiravudh the Great (Rama VI) on June 28th 1924.  The King’s younger brother was assigned to supervise construction and was also the Patron of the Thailand Golf Association.  The Course was completed in 1928 during his reign as King Prajadhipok (Rama VII).  The present King of Thailand is also shown on the practice putting green.

 

One of the reasons for the Course construction was that in the 1920’s Hua Hin’s popularity had increased as the railway line from Bangkok was completed and Klai Kangwon Palace became a Royal summer retreat.  With the Railway Station almost on the Course it’s not hard to imagine golfers, including Members of the Royal Family, disembarking from the train golf bags in hand!  One of the features of the Railway Station remains the Royal Waiting Room used to welcome the King and his Court when visiting town.

 

A Scottish Railway Engineer who was working on the new railway line is accredited for the Course design.  He is described as Mr A. O Robin (also referred to elsewhere as O.J. Robin and A.O Robins).  Little other information was forthcoming about Mr Robin.  Perhaps he was familiar with the R & A or perhaps his name was ‘A’ for Andrew, as in Saint Andrew’s, but that’s just a guess!

 

The original clubhouse has been preserved next to the 10th tee and the 18th green with the current premises being completed in 1985 along with some other ‘modernisation of the Course.  This coincides with the Boon Rawd Brewery (Singha Beer) assuming management of the Course which has remained to the present date.

Location

Royal Hua Hin is located as close to the City of Hua Hin town as you could imagine with only the Railway Line and Station separating it from the City Centre.  The Hua Hin Railway Station is regarded as one of the most beautiful a valued railway stations in the Kingdom.  The architecture is an epitome of the King Rama VI style and a unique mixture between Thai and European design.

 

It’s quite possible to walk from hotels nearby.  It’s also possible to be disturbed by amplified announcements from the Station however this is just an added charm of the Course.  As soon as you have commenced your Round it becomes very quiet with only the sounds of nature audible.

 

About The Course

It would be futile to compare Royal Hua Hin with Regional Courses such as Black Mountain, Banyan or the other contemporary resort style courses that are recognised as amongst Thailand’s best.  This Course does not pretend to offer that sort of experience but something quite different.  Perhaps a bit like trying to compare Pebble Beach with an old Scottish links course.  One is not necessarily better, just different.

Although you are playing right next to the city, the atmosphere is very tranquil, and during our early arrival it was even calming to hear the local school children singing at morning assembly next to hole 12.

The Course wanders through tree lined fairways with gentle contours, an easy walk.  Some of the trees are very old and large, spanning between the fairways and often extending their limbs and foliage to narrow your shot options.  Many trees are hundreds of years old and may have their horticultural names affixed to them. There are virtually no water hazards on the Course.

Most greens are raised and not very large, so approach shots to the Green need to be precise and stopping the ball on the green is important.

At the Western end of the Course a backdrop of the nearby Hin Lek Fai hillside comes closer and some panoramic views towards the ocean add to the scenic experience.  Unusually you start with two par fives in the first three holes followed by back to back par 3’s. The card describes hole 17 as being the handicap 1, but our caddie said that they had more trees in the early days and hole number 3 is now perhaps a worthy handicap No 1. It has a long 535 yards dog leg right fairway uphill to a raised green which slopes off at the back.

Most golfers’ favourite hole was 14 which is a par 3 teeing off at the highest point on the course, with a sunken valley up to a fairly small green.  The green has a raised back section so staying on the correct level is important as negotiating a change of levels is tricky.  Putting back towards the Tee Box you will see a crematorium tower and towards the back of the green a distant temple. We were told that the ‘locals’ talk about putting towards heaven or hell!

Some Other Points of Interest

  • If you are unsuccessfully looking for the distance markers they are a little unusual. At the 50, 100, 150 and 200 yard mark you will consistently see a cactus-like succulent plant (Agave tequiliana?), sometimes on both sides (but not always) of the fairway.  But be cautious as the plants have very sharp spikes at the end of the leaves so backing up too close could result in a painful injury.  I think the more conventional markers (with the distance described) are probably preferable.
  • You may also not easily see the hole description markers on Tee boxes.  This is because they are showing their age and at ground level.  Look towards the back of the tee box although only giving the hole number and distance.  Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade with some basic information on Course (distance markers and tee box descriptions) as golfers really need this to be clear.
  • Check out the first kiosk where there is a range of ‘one hit wonders’ (golf balls) on sale.  In fact all the kiosks (many) are independent operators so you can support local businesses on Course.
  • Around late afternoon monkeys may be foraging at the side of the fairways; particularly on hole 15.  Many a story has been told about their inclination to steal balls.  You may also wish to consider other items of your personal property if monkeys are becoming too inquisitive.

Incidentally a monkey (or any other animal) interfering with your ball under the Rules of Golf is considered to be an ‘outside agency’.  If it is known or virtually certain that a ball has been moved or for that matter taken, then it can be replaced or a new ball put into play without penalty.  However you cannot just assume a lost ball has been stolen – if you don’t know go back and play another shot just like any lost ball; with a penalty

  • Many sculptured hedge plants (old fashioned topiary) adorn the Course (including on the fairway) taking the appearance of various animals and adding to the ‘mystical’ quality of the Course.
  • If you’re looking for some spectacular views of the Golf Course, Hua Hin City and the coastline, you need search no further than Khao Hin Lek Fai (Flintstone Hill).  It is situated about 3km west of the town centre. Follow Chomsin Road over the railway line and instead of bearing right with the road to Pala U, keep going straight ahead. It’s a steep climb to the top and to lookout platforms, but worth it once you’re there.  Early morning or late afternoons are the best times.
  • This is one of the few Regional Golf Course where Memberships are not available.  Perhaps adding to the feeling that you are playing on something akin to a European public Course.
  • The current Club House which opened in 1985 offers adequate male and female locker rooms and has a pro shop with club rentals and souvenirs for sale and there is a bar and restaurant on the upper level.

Final Word

Royal Hu Hin is one of nine Regional Golf Courses taking part in the Hua Hin & Cha-Am Golf Festival in August and September this year.  This is a great opportunity to check out this Course at bargain prices.  As an added incentive Royal Hua Hin is offering a free golf cap for every player during the Festival.  A fantastic souvenir to show off if you are a visitor and to use as a ‘prop’ when you describe being a part of the history of this local treasure.

 

Royal Hua Hin Golf Course Tel: +66 (0)32 512 475.

 

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