Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Chiang Mai -- What a load of balls!

For most golf courses a signature hole is enough. But not for the Alpine Golf Resort. Oh no, sirrreee ... they have an entire signature zone. That's right a signature zone comprising three holes -- the 14th, 15th and 16th -- of their mountain-ringed course.

We arrived at this 4-star resort in the afternoon,with enough daylight to go and hit some balls on the 230m driving range. Without even warming up, I was consistently driving 200 to 250 ... er, centimetres. My air-swings sounded like a whip-testing factory. Or the rotors of small helicopter passing by. Then when I finally got my eye in, I was slicing the rotten balls over the side netting which must be all of 10 storeys high. I really hate golf.

There have not been this many lost balls since Lance Armstrong underwent surgery, jing jing!

After a chilly night during which the mercury descended to an, ahem, ball-raising 9 degrees Celsius, I awoke to a lovely panoramic vista from our room. The golden-teak studded mountains of the San Kampaeng National Forest were all misty and mysterious in the background, and the dewy green-green greens glistened in the foreground.

By 6:30am, it was action stations. Buggies swung into action in seemingly syncopated choreography as the golfers tried to beat the heat. Because, while the lowest daytime temperatures might be around 12 degrees here in the foothills, a norm of 30 is more likely.

And so to the signature zone: Hole 14 is a 553 yard par 5. Excuse me, but 553 yards is a drive in a car not a walk with a one-wood in your hand. It is characterised by lots of deceptive undulation (don't you just love how smug golf course designers can be?).

Hole 15 is a cheeky little 169 yards. Piece of proverbial piss, you think. Uh-oh, you didn't spot that the green is actually on an island. And the flag is strategically placed on the leading edge.

After a dozen or so more lost balls (which a team of scuba divers will no doubt retrieve and sell back to you at the club house later) you move on to the 16th hole. The third of the signature zone. A 462-yard dog's leg to the right, with a lake in front with bunkers on the leading lip. You can almost hear the cackles of the wicked course designers as they connive to spoil your day in sooooooo many ways. Bastards!

Oh, that's right, old chap, it's only a game ...

The 19th hole can't come too soon, and the clubhouse keeps the  chilled beer flowing nicely, followed by a replenishing meal of Thai, Japanese, and Chinese food.

My shots improved with each retelling, my handicap came down with each successive beer, my strike rate on and off the course outdid Tiger Woods. Another beer, khob khun khrub. I love golf! Did I mention that?

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