Three times the host of the Johnnie Walker Classic, won here in 1998 by a certain Mr. Tiger Woods, the Canyon Course at Blue Canyon Country Club offers you the opportunity to measure yourself against the greats on what is consistently recognised as one of the best courses in Thailand. Weaving its way around an abandoned tin mine and taking advantage of the sheer cliffs of the canyons themselves, the course is a treat for any golfer and a must-play course on any golf holiday in Thailand.
Following a relatively benign front nine through palm-oil trees (not withstanding the narrow fairways and lightning-fast greens), the course toughens up with a spectacular series of holes from 11 through 15. Having birdied it only once after multiple tries, we can attest that you should be content with bogey on the 600 yard par-5 11th where only the longest of drives can clear the stream across the fairway, and only the most accurate of approaches can avoid the water and marshes protecting the green.
Following the cresting 12th with a spectacular approach over water from way above the green, we reach the famous 13th, where a plaque informs you on the tee of that Tiger once drove the green (it doesn't mention that he three putted!). This is where extra balls come in handy as you’ll definitely want to have a go at matching his feat. Even a more conservative shot needs to clear a vast chasm to put yourself in position for a decent second. If any brave soul were to scour the depths of the canyon they would find literally tens of thousands of balls hit by the optimistic, unlucky or just plain incompetent. If you can make par here then you can claim you are good as Mr. Woods (sort of).
The back nine's two par-3s are especially memorable; the 14th where your tee shot from an elevated position right by the large clubhouse must land on an island green, a tricky proposition given that the distance if very hard to judge and the fact that you are likely to have other people looking on as they enjoy their post-round drinks. The 17th, once described by Gary Player as “the best par-3 I’ve ever seen”, is very intimidating, particularly from the black tips where you must carry over 200 yards of water to a pin that is often located behind a massive greenside bunker. You can play it safer by hitting to the left side of the green, but you risk not being in line of sight of the pin due to the unusual shape to the green.
The round finishes with a long par-4 lined with water and playing to a treacherous, elevated green that sits right in front of the clubhouse, adding a little pressure to your attempts to avoid a three-putt finish. Another plaque marks the point, some 300-odd yards from the black tees, to which Tiger once drove, one more opportunity to measure yourself against the greatest before grabbing a well-earned drink after your round.
The clubhouse features a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the course, a well-stocked pro-shop offering club and shoe hire, and there’s even on-site accommodation with an attached spa (although we wouldn’t recommend staying as there’s not much to do in the area after dark). While the locker rooms have seen better days, that’s no reason not to include a round (or two!) at the Canyon Course at Blue Canyon Country Club on any Thailand golf holiday.