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The back nine of Augusta… in Bangkok?



I had heard of a Bangkok course that had replicated some of the great holes of the world on the front nine, and for the back they had just lifted the most famous stretch of holes in golf: the back nine of Augusta. So when my wife and I had to go to Bangkok, I had to play these holes.

Some quick searching came up with “The Dream Arena at Royal Gems Golf City.” The website didn’t offer much more, but there was an email address so I got in contact. Their director of sales quickly replied that while it was a members’ course, they’d be happy to give me a tee time on a “special trial rate” for 4000 baht (about $125) which included green fee, buggy and caddy fee. Renting clubs would be another $45 and a pair of shoes would cost me $15. I took my own shoes, but used their clubs: Nike Machspeed forged in an R flex. Maybe I could have asked for S-flex when I booked, but they really only made a difference with driver and 3 wood. It was too hard to explain once the caddy had arrived with them.

The course was in great condition: All the fairways had a very even coverage of Platinum Paspalum, although there was rarely a flat lie. The greens had been cored a fortnight prior, but still ran pretty true (only one putt was noticeably affected) and fairly quick — but obviously not Sunday-at-the-Masters quick. I should also commend RGGC for letting me know in its first email reply of the coring. How frustrating is it to turn up at a course to find you are playing sand greens? The course is still young: The trees are not the hazards of the original, but watch out in 10 years. I was asked to play the back nine first, so no easing into it — straight to what I was here for!

I have never been to Augusta, but apart from the blue dye in Rae’s Creek and greens that stimp at 14, it seemed to be pretty much all there. In fact, it’s more than all there, because the Eisenhower pine remains on No. 17. Knowing the standard first reaction to Augusta, I was prepared for some big elevation changes and that is also there at Royal Gems. It’s particularly downhill on Nos. 10 and 11 and uphill on No. 18. The finishing hole was also into the wind and had a back pin location, making it a driver and a 3 wood for me.

Now, I know you are a golf junkie if you’re on GolfWRX, but I’m not going through all 40 shots (do you like how I snuck that in there? Pretty happy with that for a once-a-month golfer), but allow me to take you through a couple of my favorite experiences: Nos. 12 and 15. Even in replica, I think I would be happy playing these two holes the rest of my life.


No. 12 (pictured above) was all it’s cracked up to be. Downhill. A fair bit downhill. A fluctuating breeze from right to left, slightly into players. Length: 155 yards. Ten percent off is 140 meters, which is right between an 8 and 9 iron. It was downhill enough to be a 9 iron, but I didn’t want to be in the creek like so many I had seen in 30 years of watching the Masters. But I didn’t want to be in the back bunker, splashing out downhill, downwind to the pin and the creek when the breeze dropped. Definite 9 iron now.

Quick, get up there. No, the breeze is back. Ok, wait for it to drop again (fortunately, I had no one with a stopwatch on me, so not only did I avoid a penalty, I got the caddy to take a photo of me at the top of a dummy swing). Right, the breeze dropped off again. The pin was right, but I aimed for the middle of the green. Middle of the green. Hit. Oh yes, please be the right club. Bang. Middle of the green, right where I was aiming. Piece of cake this hole.

But my caddy was having none of this percentage golf: “Second ball, go for pin!” as she tossed me another pill. “Ok, Toohey, same deal. Hit it straight where you’re aiming.”

Again I made good contact, but there was just a tiny bit of pull/fade, it was just a tiny bit higher, there was just more headwind. “Nooo, in the wat-terr.” She could have at least waited for the splash. Or for the Titleist to reach its apex. But before it had crossed the red tees, she knew. And I kind of did, too. But it started just left of the pin and was sliding gently right, gently right, right at the pin…

We golfers live in hope: “C’mon, be the stick!”


Hey, who really wants to make a hole-in-one with a second ball?

My birdie putt? Not enough borrow (I gave it a foot left on a 12-foot putt) and 3-feet past, but I rapped in the comebacker for a pretty satisfying par.

I had a similar amount of fun on No. 15. I managed to leak my drive just into the rough (or should that be “first cut?”) 200 yards out. Like No. 12, again it was downhill, into the wind and with water at the front. I was hitting off a downhill lie, out of the rough (but sitting OK) and with clubs I didn’t know. I would have loved to hit a 3 iron, but my choices were hybrid 3 or 4 iron. I suspected the hybrid was too much (and I didn’t really like them), but that the 4 would be flirting with the pond. So gripping down the hybrid a little, I ripped it. Straight at the pin. It took one hop on the green, popped up on the fringe and rolled over the back… about 20 yards. Oh man. I’m not Phil so I was not going to try hitting some massive flop into the 10 feet between the pin and collar. But I couldn’t run it too far past because that green runs and runs into the front pond. Anywhere but the pond is good.

Of course I chickened out and bunted it too cautiously into the bank, so it stayed on the top. I very nearly holed the next, but no one cares about nearly so I tap it in and walked off another victim of the intricacies of Dr. Mackenzie. With a big grin, bring on No. 16!

The front nine was nearly as much fun, playing spot the hole: there was the church pews (Oakmont No. 3), a big par-5 around the water (Bay Hill’s par-5 No. 6), Sawgrass No. 17 (pictured below. It doesn’t look quite right because it’s a mirror image!), the Road Hole (sans Hotel), the Postage Stamp and No. 18 at the Blue Monster. It was fun identifying them, and then trying to navigate them.

3 - Sawgrass 17th

At the finish of the round, I found a typically elaborate clubhouse for this part of the world with big, soft, fluffy towels, a “press here for service” button in the shower (I didn’t press it, and I didn’t ask) and very reasonable prices for food and drinks in the restaurant while the Masters Par 3 tournament played on multiple TV screens. Since I got home, it has been fun to see the pros play Augusta from similar spots as I had — and I am very glad that the Royal Gems greens are a lot slower!

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day. I will definitely be coming back — next time with a mate or two, my own clubs and we might even try to get a two-day booking!

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Brendan Toohey is a sports nut who wasn't good enough at golf, cricket, (Australian Rules) football or athletics so turned his fascination with the history of these sports into a career as a history teacher and occasional writer. He currently lives in Singapore where the cost of golf is a long way from the $1.40 he used to pay as a kid at Waverley Public in Melbourne, Australia. Brendan's fascination with the history of the game extends to still enjoying the occasional outing with persimmon but is too much of a gorilla to put one in permanent play even though he would hit more fairways.



  1. Harry

    Apr 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Did you find it be oppressively hot. I played there about this time last year. It is quite a distance away from Bangkok proper, but worth the travel. I was with a friend who is a member and I’m sure I paid less than $100 US.

    Have you played any other courses in Thailand? My list is growing and it’s up to 8 different courses including Thai CC and Siam CC.

    • Zra

      Apr 25, 2014 at 2:54 am

      Dude, April is like the hottest month of the year in Thailand, we even have a new year festival called Songkran in April, where we splash water because it is too hot! ; )

      Siam and Thai, I heard, are great courses. Also try Amata, Burapha, Chiangmai Highland and Blue Canyon, great courses outside of Bangkok.

      • Harry

        Apr 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm

        Oh, I know. We went up to ChianMai for the weekend during Songkran. What a blast!

    • Brendan

      May 1, 2014 at 4:58 am

      Hi Harry. Yeah, it was hot. If you check out my shirt in the first picture, there are already some pretty good sweat marks. This was after two holes in a buggy! That is a very good reason why there are no other pictures of me later in the day. Unfortunately, we left just before Songkran cranked up.
      Zra, thanks for the tips for other places to play – I normally have the kids in tow as well, so don’t always get to play on holidays.
      And I agree, Ryu, 4000 baht is pretty pricey for Thailand but for what I figured was probably a one-off was worth it. And given I live in Singapore, there is not much cheap golf unless I pack a passport and use up a whole day going to Malaysia or Indonesia.
      Thanks for the comments, everyone, I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  2. Ryu K.

    Apr 21, 2014 at 12:12 am

    I am a native Thai amateur who has been a member at the Royal Gems golf city for a few years, I have always liked it. The reason not many people know about it is because the course is a new course and it has been closed to the public for quite some time. Although the course says it’s in Bangkok(It’s in a region called Rangsit) , it’s a pretty long journey from the center of town (about an hour). For the average rates of fees in Thailand, 4000 baht is pretty expensive (with buggies and a caddy). I would love to show you around the course, mail me when you are planning to come to the Royal Gems city 🙂

  3. Tony Lynam

    Apr 17, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Every hole at Renditions: Golf’s Grand Slam Experience in Davidsonville, MD is a exact replica from courses that have hosted a major championship. Amen Corner is there (awesome!!! bogey-par-birdie for me)as is the Church Pews from Oakmont (double bogey) and No.17 at Sawgrass (par). Just a great fun course to play and each hole has a placard with major championship historical notes about that hole.

    • Shawn

      Apr 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      International World Tour in Myrtle Beach is the same way. 27 holes, all replicas. Great course, layout, and customer service!

  4. Zra

    Apr 15, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Very cool. I’m thai living in Bangkok, and didn’t know about RGGC having Augusta’s back nine.
    It sure is expensive though, the membership going rate i believe is Baht 1.2 million ($40,000)- higher end of any golf club membership you can find in this country.

    Your rate of $125 was it on weekend or weekday, Brendan? I am temped. Especially the Road Hole.

    • Brendan

      Apr 15, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks, Zra. Played on a Thursday, so I don’t know weekend rate or availability.
      I misread the membership rate – i had only a very quick look and thought it was 12 million baht! Crazy price. 1.2m sounds reasonable in comparison 🙂

  5. Sharkhark

    Apr 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Very cool story. Thanks!

  6. Rich

    Apr 14, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    That’s pretty cool. There is a course here in MD, that replicates lots of holes from Championship golf. They have Amen Corner and its always a fun place to take friends that are in town to knock it around.

    • Brendan

      Apr 15, 2014 at 6:41 am

      Thanks, Rich. I kind of expected it to be a bit kitschy, or for the design to be there but the fairways to be cow grass or terrible bunkers, but the conditioning was amongst the best I’ve come across in Asia. After 30 years of watching the drama every year, it was great to (attempt to) replicate some of the shots. It was most definitely fun.

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Hidden Gem of the Day: George Dunne National in Oak Forest, Illinois



These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member DeeBee30, who takes us to George Dunne National in Oak Forest, Illinois. The course is a part of the Illinois Forest Preserve golf system, and in DeeBee30’s description of the course, the challenge provided is underlined as just one of the highlights of the course.

“Really fun tree-lined parkland layout with some interesting holes that cover rolling terrain that you don’t find in many Chicago-area golf courses.  Coming in at 7262 yards and 75.4/142 from the tips, Dunne offers four sets of tees that will provide a good test for most golfers.  The course gets a lot of play, but it’s always in great condition.”

According to George Dunne National’s website, 18 holes during the week will cost in the region of $40, while the rate rises to $75 should you want to play on the weekend.




Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Gearhart Golf Links in Gearhart, Oregon



These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member Mr Guy, who takes us to Gearhart Golf Links in Gearhart, Oregon. Established in 1892, Gearhart Golf Links is the oldest course on the Oregon coast, and in his description of the track, Mr Guy praises the design of the course.

“Super fun links design out on the northern Oregon course. Ocean not visible but right near it and there a few holes that would not be out of place anywhere.”

According to Gearhart Golf Links’ website, 18 holes can be played for $50, however, to play in peak summer months will set you back $85.




Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Exploring Ireland: Where to golf, drink and stay on the Emerald Isle. Pt. 4. Bearna Golf Club, Galway



In these series of articles, I will be taking you around the Emerald Isle providing you with great golf courses to visit in some of the loveliest spots in Ireland. I’ll also be highlighting the best and most authentic Irish bars in these spots, as well as places to stay, eat and how to get there. Whether you’re taking a golfing holiday to Ireland in 2019 or are interested in doing so sometime in the future, I’ll make sure to let you in on the best places to spend your time.

In Part Three of our Exploring Ireland Series, we went west and focused on Spanish Point Golf Club in Clare. Now it’s time for Part Four, and we’re staying on the west coast and taking the short trip up to County Galway.

Galway city is famous for its bustling nightlife, and in terms of bars to choose from, there are few better places in Ireland. Whether it’s a quiet night out and a meal, enjoying a few pints with some live traditional music, or a wild all-nighter you’re looking for, Galway certainly has you covered. Conveniently, the city also homes some top golf courses, which makes it a must-visit destination for anyone coming to this island.

Bearna Golf Club, Galway


Galway Golf Club and Galway Bay Golf Resort are usually the two golf courses that people think of when they mention this county. But lurking under the radar is Bearna Golf Club, which will provide you with just as incredible an experience as those two courses, at a lower price.

Located within a 15-minute drive of Galway City, Bearna GC offers an authentic Irish golfing experience. Surrounded by bogland, you can expect your nose to take in all of the scents of Ireland as you navigate your way through the rugged land of humps, gorse bushes and ditches that will give your game a real workout.


Creeks will appear on most fairways, so don’t expect to be able to turn up and grip it and rip it. Bearna is a golf course that is going to make you think, and with the challenges provided, will most likely test your patience as well as your skill.

The track offers five different sets of tees, all of which provide for a fun test. The course ranges between 4,897 yards and 6,271 yards and plays as either a Par 72 or 71 depending on the tees you choose. Thirteen holes feature water, and the one relief that you will find here that is different than other courses in the area is the lack of fairway bunkers.


Robert J. Browne designed the course back in 1996, and as well as the feeling you will have of being amongst nature, you will also have impressive views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and the famous Burren.

During the week, 18 holes around Bearna GC will set you back just under $50, while to play on the weekend the rate rises to $75. Don’t be surprised if after your round you want another crack at this deceptive course.

Food & Drink – Tig Coili, Galway


There is no “best pub in Galway.” The city has an inordinate amount of amazing watering holes to spend your night, and it just comes down to personal taste and what experience you are looking to have for your night. As someone who loves the feel of an old traditional Irish pub though, Tig Coili gets my vote.


Located in the Latin Quarter of Galway City, this place will often have swarms of people flooding out from the bar onto the street. Traditional music plays here every night, with 14 music sessions each week. The pub prides itself on its music, with pictures of famous musicians that have played here in the past covering the walls.

Also, Tig Coili’s pint of Guinness is renowned for being one of the best in the area, and it’s what 90 percent of folks will be drinking for the night here.


As for food in Galway, it can only be oysters. Described by multiple top chefs as the “best flavoured in the world,” the oysters here come from Galway Bay and are so popular in the city that should you visit here in September you can enjoy Galway’s three day Oyster festival.

You can hop into most bars in Galway serving food and throw back half a dozen oysters, but if you want to experience them for a sit-down meal then go and visit Oscars Seafood Bistro, where the flavour will blow your socks off. An early bird two-course meal of half a dozen oysters and a plate of steaming hot mussels with fries will cost just $20. The perfect drink pairing for oysters? Guinness. Ideal.

Where To Stay

My recommendation is to stay in the center of Galway. We’ve gone traditional in our visits to Donegal and Clare, but for Galway, the city is so alive that you will want to stay right in the heart of it. The Jury’s Inn is a solid option, which will leave you within walking distance of the best bars, restaurants and sights to see in the city. A double room here will set you back in the region of $100 a night.


If you like to shop then visit Quay Street, where you can take in the shops while plenty of buskers on the street entertain you, while the bronze statue of Irish writer Oscar Wilde and Estonian writer Eduard Vilde is an imposing outdoor sight that is a trendy spot for a photo.


But as we’re sports lovers, then when in Galway do whatever you can to catch a game of hurling. Galway’s hurling side are currently one of the best teams in the land, winning the All-Ireland title in 2017, and they possess some of the most passionate fans. Just try not to mention the last final when you get here.

How to Get There

Galway is about as accessible as it gets from anywhere in the island. You can take the train from any major city in Ireland, and it’ll take you right into the city center of Galway. A direct train from Dublin City will arrive in Galway in just over two hours.

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