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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Putters' paradise

Singaporeans are drawn to overseas golf courses' challenging greens and sightseeing opportunities
The Straits Times - August 2, 2011
By: Nicholas Yong
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Putters' paradise -- PHOTO: MONTGOMERIE LINKS

At least four golf resorts have opened in the region in the last three years, giving Singaporean golfers even more excuses to travel overseas to play golf.

What these resorts have in common - courses designed by world-famous golfers such as Sir Nick Faldo, breathtaking views and personalised caddy services that are getting harder to come by in Singapore.

One popular destination is Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which opened in 2008. Almost 20 per cent of its visitors last year were Singaporeans.

Retiree Arnold Kang, 65, has played there thrice since it opened, and is returning again in October for another golf holiday with some sightseeing thrown in.

Mr Kang, who spends about $2,000 on each trip, says: 'The golf course and Angkor Wat are within half an hour's drive from my hotel, and it's a Third World country, so things are also cheaper.'

Another regional course that is popular with Singaporeans is Montgomerie Links Vietnam in Da Nang, which also opened in 2008. About a third of its guests are Singaporeans.

Mr Tan Thian Seng, a freelance human resources consultant, played a round of golf there during a recent work-cum-leisure trip and was very impressed.

The 67-year-old says: 'As it is a new course, the facilities are first-class. The cafe that overlooks the links provides excellent service and drinks, and the golf station is well organised with trained female caddies.

'The course is very windy and full of bunkers to entrap the straying ball, but that's all part of the challenge.'

Travel agencies, such as Chan Brothers and CTC Travel, tell Life! that overseas golf tours have long been popular with Singaporeans because they are drawn to the cooler climates and challenging courses abroad.

ASA Holidays has seen a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in sales for golf vacations, largely spurred by requests from small private groups. It offers packages ranging from $100 for a day trip to Bintan to about $1,500 for a four-day trip to Kunming. Golfers range in age from 35 to 50.

Chan Brothers is also anticipating an increased demand for golf vacations, and has plans to launch more tours to destinations such as Hainan Island within the next few months.

And the demand will grow with more golf courses opening in the region, especially in China.

Mr Tan Ju Kuang, editor of Golf Digest magazine, estimates that there are at least 100 golf courses currently under construction in China. 'In Vietnam, there are about 10 in the planning stage. The growth areas are places such as Indochina, and the golf courses in Vietnam are actively promoting themselves,' he says.

Mr Sazali Bava, an adviser with World Golf Championship (Asia-Pacific) which organises amateur golf tournaments, says: 'These overseas golf destinations are not only for golfing. Golfers want to see what the country has to offer. They want to have the sea and beach to relax after an 18-hole round of golf.'

For Mr Darren Lim, 30, who helps run his family's trading business, venturing abroad gives him the chance to play at a variety of golf courses. 'No two courses are alike. Every course has its own distinctive features, and some places are more challenging weather-wise,' he says.

He goes on golf holidays once a year to countries such as Indonesia and Japan, usually in a group of four.

Mr Nicklaus D'Cruz, 44, who runs a golf services company, travels up to five times a year for golf trips around the world.

One of the things he appreciates about playing overseas is the personalised caddy service, given that few courses in Singapore have caddies.

He says: 'Most of the Asian courses come with caddies. It is partly more enjoyable when there is someone taking care of your equipment, and to help you with reading the greens.'

Life! checks out four of the newer golf courses in the region.



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