The Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort is located in the scenic hills of northwest Thailand and its Schmidt and Curley-designed 18-hole layout is a shot maker's course, making full use of the rolling terrain.
Built on the hermitage of Kuba Sivichai, the deeply respected monk who founded the Doi Suthep temple, the course is laid out in a very tranquil environment, where golfers can take time to breathe in the cool fresh air and connect with the natural surroundings.
The course’s Paspalum fairways and Bermuda grass greens translate into verdant playing corridors and consistent, firm and fast putting surfaces, with closely mown green aprons allowing the option of playing a ground shot, a short pitch or even putting the ball up to the hole.
The large and undulating greens are certainly difficult to master, especially since bunker complexes that are often deep and penal guard them. The sand traps are artistically designed and beautiful to look at but they’re to be avoided at all costs.
Feature holes at Chiangmai Highlands include the par four 4th, with water threatening on both sides of the fairway, and the short par four 11th, where topped tee shots and pulled approach shots will inevitably result in a wet (and lost) golf ball.
The course is in excellent condition with lots of open fairways, offering bigger hitters and many risk-reward drives. Fairways are 2-3 layers, so make sure you get your approach shots right.
Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Club is located a very pleasant 30 minutes drive from the centre of Chiang Mai. The rolling landscape is perfect for golf, and Schmidt Curley design have done the site justice with a course that is both interesting and testing.
Schmidt Curley are an American golf architecture firm who have had significant success with their designs in Asia. Their portfolio includes the complexes at Mission Hills Shenzhen & Haikou, Stoneforest International, Amata Spring, and Siam CC.
Chiang Mai Highlands has won many awards and is regarded as one of the better courses in both Thailand and Asia. In late 2015 a further 9 holes was added- again designed by Schmidt Curley. All 27 holes feature paspalum fairways, and TIF eagle greens.
The three nines are known as: - Valley Course - Highlands Course - Mountain Course. On this day we were fortunate to experience each of the three nines.
We played in the height of summer, and the greens were firm and fast, requiring precise approaches. The green complexes are reasonably large with plenty of movement, and good variety of pin placements. For the inexperienced the grain in the greens was a significant factor in reading putts. Additionally the light rough surrounding greens and fringes proved a challenge…
Each hole is framed by many bunkers, both in the fairway and around the greens. Overall the course incorporates more than 130 bunkers. On the original 18 hole layout the distinctive bunkering features high ‘lips’, but the latter nine holes are a little less prominent.
Water also abounds, often used in conjunction with bunkering at either side of a landing point in what I would consider classic penal design.
Clearly Schmidt Curley were asking for accuracy as a priority, rather than giving players options on how they played particular holes. Nevertheless ,Chiang Mai Highlands is a quality layout in a beautiful setting. It is also well maintained.
I preferred the original holes to the new ‘nine’ which I think needs a few years for the turf, and surrounding vegetation to mature. And I preferred the more prominent lips on the older bunkers..
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort opened in December 2005 and immediately made an impact. In its first year, it was ranked as the #3 ‘New Courses in Asia’ by Asian Golf Monthly. In 2013 it was voted as the ‘Best Value for Money Experience in Asia’ and in Top 10 of the Best courses in Thailand by Asian Golf Monthly Readers. Located just east of city in the foothills of the mountains, they offer 27 holes of championship golf, that start from 5056 yards but can stretch out to over 7200 yards. There is also a 300-yard driving range, two putting greens, and a short-game practice area to warm up at. We did not get to play the Highlands Course but hopefully I can on my next visit.
The Mountain Course starts with a difficult par-5 dogleg left where your approach shot is protected by seven intimating bunkers. The third hole is shorter par-4 but this dogleg right forces you to carry a multitude of bunkers on your tee shot to a green that is protected by six more bunkers in front. Accuracy is more important than distance here since you need to avoid these deep, punishing bunkers at all costs.
I also found the rough to be very deep and sticky where sometimes your ball will almost disappear. As well the greens have large undulations so heed the instructions from your caddy.
The Valley Course has even more bunkers that come into play, so be prepared. My favourite hole is the 7th, a par-5 that features a creek running down the entire right side. Your approach has three large bunkers in front and two behind on this raised green so proper club selection is imperative.
To be honest, I found this course to be very difficult for my game. The rough and the bunkers are penalizing, and the greens are difficult to read. My only negative is that bunkers are shallow, and the sand is pebblelike. What I did notice is that the forward tee are usually 100 yards ahead of the white tees giving a big advantage for short hitters.
Overall, I loved this course but need to play it more strategically the next time.
Dave Finn is a 5-time award winning golf travel writer and photographer from Canada. Read more about his adventures at www.golftravelandleisure.com
Schmidt Curley have yet again done a fabulous job with the design and the course layout. Along with Alpine golf club this is a course worth playing if you are in Chiang Mai. The natural hilly terrain allows some serious elevation changes and the bunkering is brilliant. Plenty of water comes into play as well, The most memorable of the water holes is the drivable par 4, where the tee box is at a height and a lake all along on the left. To read more about Chiang Mai Highlands and other golf courses in Chiang Mai visit https://www.golftripz.com/golf-courses/chiang-mai