There are many countries the names of which are almost synonymous with golf. It is probably fair to say that Cambodia isn’t one of them.
The Southeast Asia kingdom, with all its troubled recent history, has enjoyed something of an upturn in its fortunes since the dark, dark days of the 1970s and 80s. Nevertheless, to think of it in anything like the same terms as, say, Florida or the Algarve would be perverse.
All the same, a number of quality golf courses have already begun to emerge, mostly in fairly close proximity to the capital Phnom Penh, and that trend looks like growing further.
With tourism becoming an increasingly important contributor to the national economy, Cambodia is looking to attract sporting types from overseas who want to play golf in a comfortable and dedicated environment amid a little comfort and luxury.
Cambodia is situated on the Indochinese Peninsula in the far Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and has a total population of around 17 million. It is an an elective constitutional monarchy.
After having gained independence from France in 1953 it was at first neutral during the Vietnam War, was later for a while politically aligned with the West, and then in 1975 fell under the control of the Khmer Rouge.
This led to a period of global isolation due to the murderous nature of its regime, which was eventually ousted following a war with Vietnam. A coup in 1997 created the conditions which led to the establishment of Cambodia’s present system of government.
Although still relatively poor, Cambodia presently is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. As well as agriculture, building and textiles it derived much-needed income from the expanding tourist market.
Golf in Cambodia
The kingdom today has some excellent golf courses, mostly centered around Phnom Penh. For the serious golfer, a Cambodia golf holiday is these days a viable option. And importantly for golfers, it is warm all the year round.
Whilst the number of top tier golf courses is relatively small by comparison with some American and European regions, there are certainly enough to focus the attention of the golf tourist. Here we list a few of them
Garden City Golf Club, Phnom Penh
A beautiful par-72 course on level terrain which opened in 2013, this club is a short drive away from Phnom Penh international airport. Designed by Weerayudth Phetbuasak and built by LYP Group, it offers first-rate amenities as well as a challenging playing experience.
In 2019 this venue won the vote for the Best Golf Course in Cambodia at the World Golf Awards.
Angkor Golf Resort, Siem Reap
This handicap-only course was designed by British golf legend Nick Faldo and opened in 2008, immediately becoming one of the most prestigious golf courses in the whole of the region. When Faldo designed the course it was built upon former rice paddies and features discreet undulations, water hazards and some daunting bunkers.
In 2012 the Angkor golf resort played host to the Handa Falco Cambodian Classic on the Asian Tour.
Cambodia Golf & Country Club, Phnom Penh
The first established golf club in Cambodia when it was opened in late 1996, it is nicknamed the “Sugar Palm Course” because it is surrounded by sugar palm trees and features no fewer than ten holes which employ water hazards – one also with an island green. As well as offering first class sport this select country club also serves as an elite social venue.
Vattanac Golf Resort, Phnom Penh
Actually situated about forty minutes away from downtown Phnom Penh and about an hour and a half from the city’s international airport. Vattanac features two 18-hole golf courses designed by Nick Faldo, using water in an imaginative and innovative way to creat a challenging playing experience.
Add a driving range and a luxury and striking clubhouse into the equation and it is clear this is truly one of the great golf courses in the region. The East course is open to the public, whilst the West is private.
The Grand Phnom Penh Golf Club, Phnom Penh
A private members club located away from the city (despite its close proximity to the airport), resulting in a liberating feeling when playing here of being away from it all and of enjoying the benefits of clean, fresh air.
Designed by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, participation is restricted exclusively to members and guests.
Siem Reap Booyoung Country Club, Siem Reap
One of Cambodia’s premier golf clubs with facilities to match, this superb resort in Siem Reap town lulls the player into a false sense of security with its serene, scenic beauty which hides a prevalence of demanding water features or sand traps on almost every hole.
Japan’s Kentaro Saro is to thank for the compelling design of this unique golf course.
Phokeethra Country Club, Siem Reap
Managed by the hotel chain Sofitel, this scenic course has hosted the Cambodian Open and the Johnnie Walker Classic.
A restored bridge between the 9th and 10th holes is just one unique feature of this magnificent course, which alone makes it worth a visit.
Royal Cambodia Golf Club, Phnom Penh
A favorite with expats and locals due to its proximity to the city’s airport, this is where the political and economic elite are often to be found at play.
Native palms and flowers are used in an environmentally-aware approach to golf course management, its attraction for many lies in its defiantly level terrain.
Though it may be in its infancy, a lot of money and hard work has gone into raising the profile of Cambodian golf, investing in good condition greens and also in the infrastructure of the country’s golf courses and clubs.
Many argue that golf in Cambodia really came of age when the Phokeethra was opened in 2006, in an area famous for its Angkor Wat temple complex. When it did an irresistible admixture of modern luxury and ancient tradition was thereby created, and the tourists were always going to come.
Plans are afoot to open a golf course at the Dara Sakor resort, where Cambodia’s only casino facility currently resides. The masterplan is set to feature 54 holes designed by a local firm of architects who go by the name of Ocean, Mountain and Links. We shall see.
Meantime, Cambodia already offers enough by way of golf to present a viable alternative to the usual suspects from Europe and the United States of America. For those who seek a change from the average amid the promise of warm and dependable whether, it’s worth a trip.