Close to the city of Chiang Rai, in the Thai northwest, lies one of Thailand’s most highly polished golf courses. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr and opened for play in 1992, Santiburi Country Club – named after Santi Bhirombhkadi, club owner – is not only one of the best-conditioned courses in the country, it’s also one of the most exclusive, semi-private clubs.
From the hilltop, the scene is set for a very enjoyable round of golf. The surrounding Chiang Rai mountains provide a magnificent backdrop and the course itself is routed thoughtfully across pleasantly undulating terrain.
In fact, Santiburi has two distinct flavours. The front nine features water at seven holes and the topography is undulating but reasonably level. The back nine, on the other hand, twists and turns up and over a wooded hillside with water appearing only on the closing two holes... and what a fine finishing it is.
The 17th is a do-or-die short par three with water all the way down the right side. The wide and relatively narrow green abuts the lake and if the course manager is feeling evil, he may cut the flag on the right side of the green which means you’ll have to play either a high fade or a bold shot straight across the water at the pin. A double doglegged par five home hole is perhaps the best closing hole in Thailand. With water on the left, which then cuts across the fairway to form a large lake on the right, adroit fairway bunkering and a dual tiered and dual bunkered green, a par here on the 18th is no mean feat.