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Zen Golf in Thailand

Trip Planner: Tee Time in Thailand

Bangkok

What diversion does this Eastern "City of Angels" not offer?There’s Siam Paragon, one of the world’s largest shopping malls; the humongous Buddha at Wat Po; dining while reclining at the Bed Supper Club; Thai puppetry at the Joe Louis Theatre and Thai debauchery at Nana Plaza; scenic water traffic on the Chao Phraya River and the famously hideous traffic jams along trendy Suk Hum Vit Road.

Where to Play

Navatanee Golf Course Only forty-five minutes from downtown, this gorgeous oasis is a veritable nature sanctuary inhabited by stunning blue birds. The course is a tropical treatise in understated elegance where even the many curled bunkers seem to wait with respectful courtliness. Open to nonmembers for a $12 donation. 22 Navatanee Road, Kannayao, Bangkok; 011-66/23-761-6935; www.navatanee.com. Yardage: 6,902. Par: 72. Greens Fees: $30–$50. Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr., 1973.

Bangsai Country Club A relaxed country course an hour north of the capital, conveniently close to the stirring ruins of Ayutthaya, this is the first effort by Thailand’s top native designer, who has playfully brought in sand dunes as his homage to Scottish links (and an antidote to the bland layouts that are the rule in this region). 77/7 Moo 3, Highway Road, Tumbol Bangpli Amphur Bangsai, Ayutthaya; 011-66/03-537-1491. Yardage: 6,900 Par: 72. Greens Fees: $10–$20. Architect: Pirapon Namatra, 1996.

Where to Stay

Favorite hotels are still the historic and scrupulously managed Oriental (from $289 per night; www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok) or the more centrally located Four Seasons (from $280; www.fourseasons.com/bangkok). The Swiss Lodge (from $97; www.swisslodge.com) on Convent Road offers suitelike amenities at motel prices.

Where to Eat

My favorite food is on the street, where whole fish and noodles come in every variation. Rut and Lek offer Chinatown’s best grilled shrimp with crab fried rice. Polo Chicken off Wireless Road does divine poultry plus papaya salad.

Hua Hin

This sleepy port on the Gulf of Thailand has boomed as a resort ever since the king made it his second home—and the tsunami hit rival Phuket. The waters here are warm, waveless and murky, the beaches basic, the town over-Westernized. But there are adventures and six courses in the coastal hills.

Where to Play

Royal Hua Hin Golf Club Thailand’s original course slopes up toward verdant mountains in a narrow succession of approaches lined with hedges trimmed into animal shapes. Live monkeys add to the intrigue of reaching the picturesque fourteenth, where the spire of a Buddhist sanctuary seems nearly driveable. Damnernkasem Road, Hua Hin; 011-66/03-251-2475. Yardage: 6,678. Par: 72. Greens Fees: $30–$40. Architect: A.O. Robins, 1924.

Springfield Royal Country Club With its kiddie water park and brightly painted hotel and spa, this facility feels closer to American suburbia than the hills of mysterious Myanmar, which it overlooks. The holes are broader and flatter than most around, but it’s a strenuous and well-maintained alternative to cramped local courses. 193 Moo 6, Petchkasern Road, Cha-Am; 011-66/03-245-1181. Yardage: 7,043. Par: 72. Greens Fee: $65. Architect: Jack Nicklaus, 1993.

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