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Discovering the heights and delights of Santiburi Samui Country Club.

24-25We all do it. It’s an unthinking thing and out of our control: we jump to conclusions. Our brain just joins up the dots. It can’t be helped. And most of the time we don’t even know it’s happening. But, every now and again, this works against us. Like, for instance, right at this moment, if I begin to talk about golf.

     I could just as easily have said ‘camshafts’ or ‘orchid propagation’ or ‘coin collecting’. My point is that, unless you are into cars, orchids or coins (or golf!) then right away you’ll be tempted to turn to the next page. However, since you are reading through Samui Wining & Dining, hopefully you’ll be intrigued enough to stay on the page. I can assure you that you’ll miss a unique dining experience if you don’t!

     But let’s clarify things. Mae Nam’s Santiburi Beach Resort, Golf & Spa, to bestow its full title today, is one of Samui’s leading 5-star resorts. In 2003 this resort opened a tournament-standard 18-hole par 72 golf course with driving range and putting green, originally known as Santiburi Golf, just a few kilometres away, in a prime location up in the hills (which, incidentally, has some of the best views on the island). It’s located just a little way west of the resort itself and well-signposted, both on the ring-road and also at every turn of the winding uphill route. There are several roads running to it, one running alongside Mae Nam market and another leading off the well-known Soi 5, almost right in the middle of Mae Nam village.

     However, somewhere in the last few years, things began to change. And the image of a retreat solely for fiercely-dedicated golfing aficionados began to mellow and expand into a gentler and wider concept. Firstly, beginners or first-timers became warmly welcomed – you didn’t need to know a mashie from a niblick to be able to enjoy time here, on either the full course or the 9-hole alternative.

 

The restaurant at the clubhouse is
big, cool, airy and open-sided, with
a sweeping panorama of just about
the entire bay of Mae Nam


      And the other aspect was that people began to realise what a marvellous and affordable venue this was to just drop-in for a break, for a breakfast, or simply for a long, slow cocktail, or/and to enjoy what is possibly one of the most stunning sunset spots on Samui, with the green-lawned ‘parkland’ and lake spread out below. The restaurant at the clubhouse is big, cool, airy and open-sided, with a sweeping panorama of just about the entire bay of Mae Nam; a view that’ll make your eyes pop and challenge your camera’s capabilities.

      Khun Supanit Saesaid (Khun Ae) is the Restaurant Manager here and he’s put together a satisfying selection of Thai and international dishes which are not only delicious but are realistically-priced, too. In fact, when you scan through the menu your eyebrows will probably raise of their own accord as you realise what things cost. Most of the Thai dishes hover around the 100 baht mark and the most expensive item is an impressive German leg of pork with mashed potatoes (or French fries) and gravy sauce, which is excellent value at 350 baht. It just goes to show that not everything 5-star is expensive! And to accompany all this, naturally, there’s a fully-stocked bar!

      But what’s particularly alluring are the opening times. This is a golf course and so everyone goes home not long after it gets dark, including the restaurant staff, as it closes at 7:30 pm. But that also means it opens at 6:00 am, just before the sun’s glowing orb eases up into another day in paradise – directly in front of you.

       It’s another world out there! And with a full English breakfast, including back-bacon and Cumberland sausage (at only 250 baht!) you certainly won’t need a credit card.

      You’ll still hear the name ‘Santiburi Golf’, and see this on leaflets, but the official name has now evolved into Santiburi Samui Country Club. This may cause you to instinctively think along the lines of ‘private’, ‘members only’ or ‘formal dress required’. But, as Derek McKenzie was keen to explain, this couldn’t be further from reality. “It’s completely relaxed in the clubhouse,” he pointed out, “and there’re no dress restrictions – although we require a respectable turn-out if you’re on the greens!”

      Derek has been the General Manager here since September 2010, and I put it to him, how was it possible for a complete beginner (such as myself) not to feel foolish or embarrassed trying to whack a ball around, while there were flocks of professionals both chuckling at my efforts and also impatient to move on past the hold-up I was creating. He regarded me kindly, and then replied with one word. “Caddies!” he said. And went on to explain that the caddies have been specially trained to co-operate with each other, and in effect, control and direct the green-traffic. “It’s very easy-going here,” he continued, “and the caddies will immediately adjust to the needs of beginners. We quite often get sets of husband and wife teams who decide to have a friendly round. If they’re being followed by a group of expert players then the two caddies will put their heads together and shunt the experienced players past the beginners. It works well and everyone seems to be happy with this arrangement.”

      The other thing that’s worth outlining is that, unlike countries such as Germany, Austria or Holland, there’s no ‘certification’ needed to play here. It seems that quite a number of countries require players to have passed a competency test before they are permitted onto a carefully-tended green. Not so here!

      Oh! I almost forgot to mention that after 3:30 pm (plus all day on Wednesdays) you can play a full 9 holes for as little as 1,400 baht.

      So if you got this far you managed to avoid jumping to conclusions, and now know all about Santiburi Samui Country Club. So maybe see you there for breakfast sometime – it runs all day . . .

 

 

Rob De Wet



 


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