It’s no surprise that Spain, the United States and the British Isles are favorites among golfers. But Asia, particularly Thailand, is a new contender.
By year’s end, more than 600,000 golfers will have visited the Thai kingdom in 2012, spending an estimated $2 billion on ground arrangements alone, according to industry statistics. The double-digit growth comes despite a worldwide recessionary drop-off in travel.
Asia is benefiting because golfers have a never-say-die attitude, said Mark Siegel, the president of Golfasian, one of the largest golf tourism companies in the region.
"It's counterintuitive," he said. "You would think that golf tourism would decline during a recession, but it doesn't. Golfers just go to less expensive places." He said Thailand's low-budget tourism industry and multiple non-golf attractions are key reasons for the growth of golf tourism there.
The nation’s popularity with golf travelers has resulted in the expansion of facilities: Siam Country Club near Pattaya, which relies entirely on visitors to its two adjacent courses, totaling 45 holes, has started work on an additional 18-hole layout that will make it one of Asia’s busiest golf destinations.
Another Thai course, Black Mountain Golf Club near Hua Hin, has opened a new par-3 course and a waterpark and waveboard park complex. The course is the only one in Thailand to make U.S. Golf Digest's 2012 list of the Best 100 Courses Outside the U.S.