The Muang Kaew is close to bustling Bangkok, but you don’t sense the city at all. You play among lakes and trees so as to feel immersed in the golf experience.
The par-5 home hole in the foreground.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the course for me was the Lee Schmidt-sculptured bunkering as you approach the greensites. (Schmidt enhanced the course in 2003 with new green complexes.) The tongues and raised ridges remind me of the exquisite Tillinghast bunkering at the San Francisco Golf Club.
Otherwise the lakes and push-up greens define the challenge here at Muang Kaew. As I review the photos I took and particularly the professional ones provided for me, this course appears spectacular. It is definitely a golf course that is extremely photogenic. If this were a beauty contest, however, you’d be dazzled by the photo shots, but disappointed in person. The fairways are deadpan flat with little of interest to frame them and the routing has too many back-and-forth, side-by-side holes to inspire interest so early in the round of both nines. Whereas the greenside bunker is excellent, the fairway mounding and minimal fairway bunkering, for the most part, are uninspiring.
The fact that the contouring of the putting surfaces was average as was the conditioning with the grain being exceptionally strong did nothing to elevate the course.
Below are the exciting par-3 seventh and par-4 eighth holes.
I particularly enjoyed the par-threes and fives, but on the whole the two-shotters were indifferent and repetitive. Each of the 3’s and 5’s had enough difference and aesthetics to keep your attention and I did enjoy the par fours at 8, 15, and 16. With a distance of 7,025 yards and plenty of water there is nothing anemic about the challenge, though it is very playable for average golfers.
Perhaps the most damning point is that I played here with a group of about 13 other golf journalists, and with the exception of one other person and myself, everyone was disappointed and wondered aloud why we were scheduled here. Lest you assume that Muang Kaew is a bad course, it’s not, far from it. One publication ranked this the 5th best course in Thailand to which I’d respectfully disagree, as it was unanimously the weakest of the eight we visited. It just lacked the interesting terrain, artful fairway bunkering, and it was a tad less well manicured than the rest.
Fagan Rating: B- The wonderful greenside bunkering and some interesting challenges overcome an otherwise featureless flat and somewhat uninspiring routing. The use of water hazards particularly on the par-fives is strategically exciting. Muang Kaew is far better than an average golf course, but neither is it an elite one. Criticism aside, I rather liked Maung Kaew though it would not be on the top of any trip itinerary.
Below a “deception bunker” adds character to the par-3 seventeenth.