The remote Soi Dao Highland Golf Club is ensconced in pristine jungles and beautifully adorned with colorful flora. Water often comes into play as evidenced at the par-five 6th. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
Was this trip worth it? That’s the question about nine of us golf industry professionals were asking ourselves as we made about a four-hour van excursion from Bangkok to Soi Dao Highland Golf Club & Resort. Arriving after dark and quickly retiring to our rooms, we would have to wait until morning to find out. Peering out our 4-star hotel windows at dawn, the answer greeted us. It was a unanimous “Yes!”
Such was my introduction to the Soi Dao Highland Golf Club & Resort. A 1,580-acre tropical oasis of natural jungle greenery and spectacular beauty, the facility borders the Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, Khao Khitchakut National Park, and Namtok Khao Soi Doa (16-tier waterfall) and is a pleasant 45-minute drive from the historic coastal city of Chantaburi.
Golfers and caddies approach the beautiful island green of the par-three 7th. Soi Dai is an attractive destination for a “Buddies” or “Couples” golf excursion. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
If you seek a well-deserved golf escape, Soi Dao Highland fits the bill. This is a big, beautiful golf course with inescapable beauty spread over an expansive 395 pristine acres rimmed by the beautiful Khao Soi Dao mountain chain and nature preserve. Designed by American golf course architect, Denis Griffiths, the fresh air, blue skies, and the unusual silence present a sensorial, restorative delight. You can stay a lob web from the golf course in one of the 47 rooms onsite. Wait a moment, the sounds of nature abound here.
Have you ever been interrupted on the golf course by the roar of an elephant? As a well-traveled golfer, this was the first time that my putting stroke was disrupted by that roar, and I mean “roar” of a bull elephant. I was facing a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-three 12th, when the roar startled us all. The sounds seemed as close as the next fairway, but was likely a couple miles distant as the sound waves reverberated off the mountains. Such was the beginning of “treats” at Soi Dao Highland… and startled, I did miss that putt!
The mountain backdrops are majestic in any direction as illustrated by the beautiful downhill par-three 12th where the bull elephant roar distracted me! (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
The resort opened in 1995, but subsequently faced financial challenges and closed. I was viewing the renovated and improved version about to reopen. Imagine a full-bodied, expansive and well-bunkered layout that tumbles over the slightly tumbling terrain. Native flora adorns some fairway and greens with jungle surrounding the perimeter. And on a few holes, if you overt your attention you may discover hundreds of monkeys perched in trees curiously watching you play. All of this is just part of your golfing adventure here.
You must carry water to reach the par-four 10th. (Photo courtesy of the Soi Dao Highland Golf Club.)
The first three holes set the tone for a testy, but gorgeous layout that continues to both improve and impress. Par the two four’s and the par-three 3rd and you are set for an enjoyable round of golf over the gently rolling terrain. Bunkers proliferate, and Griffiths has fashioned nice contouring to the quick, well-manicured putting surfaces. What’s more, you’re never more than a hole or two from a strategic water hazard in the form of ponds and creeks. Playing-wise the landing areas are generously wide so you shouldn’t lose many balls, but accuracy is paramount as strategic hazards penalize the wayward. Played from the proper tees according to your true ability, you will likely use all your clubs and with a powerful tee ball, you may even be able to reach a par-five in two.
The strong downhill, bunkerless par-four 2nd hole amps up the challenge as you must have to good strikes if you hope to avoid the guardian trees and wide creek that crosses the fairway short of the treacherous putting surface. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
The rooms are as close to the course as they are to the restaurant making this a great buddies or golfing couples destination. Everything from the attentive service and the golf course is convenient and thoughtfully offered. Aside from the course, the immediate area is filled with all sorts of nature excursions that include bird watching, hiking, and the like. Just don’t expect any local nightlife as Soi Dao Highlands is well-removed from any such activity. Nevertheless, a tasty restaurant featuring gorgeous golf course views as well as drink/rest locations on the course should keep you comfortable.
As Soi Dao Highand matures into top conditioning, it is positioned to vie for the a position among Thailand’s best, and yes, the trip is worth it!
Below is the last tee shot at Soi Dao Highland. With its spacious landing area, it invites a powerful effort. but you must avoid the fairway bunkers! (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)