Last week, we’re sloshed around at Pasatiempo in pouring, driving rain with temperatures in the low 40’s. A week later, we teed it up at Amata Springs Country Club in Chonbori, Thailand. We arrived in Bangkok late Friday night and it was 88 degrees with at least 90% humidity so it looked like we were in for a two shirt day since our tee time for Saturday was 12:30. Fortunately, Chonbori is about an hour north of Bangkok and we lucked out as the weather turned to overcast skies with no threat of rain but very little sunshine. The overcast conditions curbed the temperature to about 83 with humidity about the same–this was doable and off we went thankful for the break.
Amata Springs is a very exclusive club and has hosted a number of professional events including a European Tour event, Asian Tour as well as various women’s professional events. The course was immaculate with four sets of tees with generous rough that you could easily play out of. Lee Westwood holds the course record with a round of 60. I would rate Amata as one of the nicest layouts that I’ve experienced–it has to be the best course in Thailand. While comparisons to Augusta National would be inappropriate, Amata presents a wonderful set of visuals sculpted by a great deal of water all over the course that adds to the aesthetics rather than presenting an obstacle course. You should be able to avoid the water with a great deal of difficult except for the Par 3, 17th hole which is an island hole similar to Sawgrass in Florida. The course is great to score if you are long and reasonably accurate off the tee. Length is complemented by usually very humid conditions, which makes the greens receptive to spin and stop and certainly would give a professional many birdie opportunities. Amata has a lot of water so you had better be accurate because it comes into play on many of the holes. The signature hole is the par 3, 17th, which is a floating island. You hit your tee shot and proceed to get into the launch boat, feed the koi and hopefully have the putter in your hand. We all hit the green at 125 yards but we all missed our birdie putts but had a great sense of satisfaction. It was appropriate to play this type of hole this weekend especially when the professionals are competing at TPC Sawgrass at that famous 17th hole island green. Tiger Woods plopped two balls in the water at Sawgrass on Friday leading to a horrific 6 in his up and down round. The 17th at Amata seemed not so intimidating for an island green. It certainly seemed to hold the tee shot and not bounce around as it seems to do at Sawgrass. Nevertheless I was very pleased with my 8 iron to 25 feet and both my playing partners were inside of me. We all made pars and proceeded to the 18th tee. We played the back nine first so the 18th was really our 9th hole of the day. After I knocked another tee shot down the middle of the fairway, there was a few shrieks from the caddies. We had a spectator in a tree about 10 yards behind the tee in the form of what could only be the size of a kimono dragon–pretty decent size sort of like a baby crocodile–watching our tee shots. At this point in the proceedings, the pace of play accelerated. The 18th is a winding par 4 of 380 yards where the fairway on the left is all water and winds all the way up to the green. Greens were not fast but probably close to a 10 on the stimp meter, which is reasonably fast and putts rolled well and true. The caddies were fantastic. They read the greens perfectly, had the yardages down with the appropriate club selection. We had four of them for three players with our gracious host who really enjoyed the round with two caddies as he decided to play with two bags of clubs. He was carrying a Nakashima driver, which surprised me since I play with Nakashima clubs back in the States. I promised him that I would connect him with John Nakashima in Stockton for further advice. A very special day in Thailand.