Red Mountain Golf Club

Words by: Luke Davies
Photography by:Patricia Henson

Red Mountain Golf Club

It’s Christmas Eve and I have forsaken my family to play golf.

Do I feel bad?

Sure, but Christmas comes every year. The opportunity of a short scooter ride to play the crown jewel of Phuket’s golfing paradise, Red Mountain Golf Club, comes far less frequently.

I wake up early to avoid any awkward exchanges. I don’t know what kind of family you come from, but our holidays are run with military precision. Each minute meticulously planned and accounted for. Whether it’s a post lunch snooze, or a trip to the shops, if it’s not in the itinerary, there will be consequences.

Today is no different, there will be a price to pay far greater than the 3,500 Thai baht green fee. I picture my mother’s disappointment. The envious stares from my brother and cousins from behind the impenetrable bars of the holiday regimen. They weren't bold enough to take the plunge, to trade a few hours of family time for the unadulterated joy of discovering a new course. The path of adventure is reserved for the brave.

Any feelings of guilt soon subside as I reach the clubhouse veranda and look out towards the course: towering limestone cliffs sprawling with dense tropical vegetation.

A sign reads “Welcome to Red Mountain Golf Club”.

It might as well say “Welcome to Jurassic Park”.

There are so many good holes at Red Mountain that its hard to single out favorites. The opening hole sets the tone, a lush green fairway meanders its way towards the dramatic red cliff in the distance. After two low hooks into the undergrowth, I noticed that the delivery of the line “I’ll walk this one” becomes a little easier in surroundings like this.

When it comes to my taste in golf courses, I’ve realised I’m a bit of a tart. I can, of course, appreciate the soft undulations of a fairway that was laid in 1894 by the hands of Old Tom himself, but if I’m being honest, I’m far more shallow.

I like a course that keeps me guessing with surface level gimmicks: flashy elevation changes and spectacular vistas that slap you across the face and demand your attention. I’m into risk/reward holes that tempt you into being a bad boy, only to punish you when you hook a third ball into the left jungle. Mmm. That’s the kind of course I like, and let me tell you, Red Mountain was pressing each and every one of my buttons.

The course itself is a botanical labyrinth, and to conquer it requires constant communication with your caddy. With limited English on their end and non-existent Thai on mine, each tee box demanded a masterclass in non-verbal communication. The caddy would begin a symphony of gestures, pointing left and right, thumbs up, thumbs down, head shaking, finger wagging. Analysing the possibilities became a group effort. Sometimes I nodded confidently, pretending to understand, but truth be told, I already knew where my ball was destined to end up.

As you might have already gathered, my miss is left. Hard left. A hook so committed that it could run for public office. The Jeremy Corbyn of golf shots. However what my caddy lacked in language skills, she more than made up for in ball hunting. A beacon of patience and determination, repeatedly venturing into palm fronds to retrieve my Pro V1’s.

Red Mountain saves the best holes till last. The 16th is a drivable par 4, with danger left, right, long and short of the green. Your options are clear: lay up with a 7 iron or go for it with driver. You can guess by now what I opted for.

Then you arrive at the 17th, a ‘drop shot’ par 3, where the main task is to calculate how much to club down in order to compensate for the 300 foot elevation change to the green below.

And to finish, an absolute brute of a par 5. The view from the tee box presents nothing but water and jungle. Yet the caddies encourage you forward with such confidence that you have no choice but to envision the runway sized fairway sitting just out of sight. From here the hole bends around a large lake, the green tucked neatly behind the overgrown palms. Taking this on in two is possible, but having already donated golf balls so generously to the undergrowth, I think it best to stop my philanthropy.

So, was it worth it? Leaving my family, wrapped in the warmth of Christmas cheer, to pursue this golfing paradise?