The oldest sports club in Chiang Mai, Gymkhana, is from 1898, founded by teak merchants. Out of the early founders, only one had Thai nationality. The massive rain trees inside the compound make me associate with the lovely Botanical garden in Kandy. There is a special feeling walking through the golf course, and everywhere you see these impressive trees planted in a completely different era. What if trees could talk? And share their story from this golf course.
The Gymkhana Club in Chiang Mai is not as fancy as the cricket club in Singapore, but you feel the history present there. A sign acknowledges the founders, and the restaurant and clubhouse have that classic, timeless feel.
A “gymkhana” was used in the British Raj, initially to describe an assembly. Then the definition indicated a place where contests with skill were held. So the Gymkhanas became gentlemen’s clubs.
What facilities does Gymkhana have?
The Gymkhana Club in Chiang Mai hosts tennis courts, squash, a cricket field, a pétanque field and billiards(this room is only for members), a surprisingly cheap restaurant and a nine-hole golf course. Then there is a driving range and coaching available. There are also lockers.
A good place for a golf beginner
I want to say something about golf. I am not a golfer, but my son is an eager learner, and he has been practising with swing coaches at the stunning North Hill golf course in Hang Dong. But after all that practising and coaching at North Hill, he lacked opportunities to go out and practice on the course for a reasonable price. Then thanks to a neighbour and friend that often play at Gymkhana, we got the chance that he could walk the nine-hole path with a caddie that also is an ambitious golfer. The price for a green fee is only 250 baht!! And the caddie’s tip is 300 baht. She teaches him along the way and shares some great advice.
There is nothing wrong with swing coaches, but you can only get so much information before trying it out yourself. So Gymkhana is, in my eyes, an ideal place for a golf beginner. For me, I also enjoy walking the course, an excellent morning exercise. I am resting my eyes on the ancient rain trees. Trying to think of the atmosphere, when it was new back in the days.
Moreover, It is also such a delightful place to sit down under the over 150 years old rain tree or rest an eye on it from inside the restaurant.
The novelist and travel writer Somerset County Maugham visited Gymkhana in the 1920s. He thought that the club was worth a visit and an opportunity to step back in time for a different kind of Thai history.
Conclusively, Gymkhana is an under-visited place in Chiang Mai. Even if you don’t play any sports, sitting down under the 150 years old rain tree makes a great break from the hectic city outside. A true green oasis!
And for the golf course, remember the dress code. No jeans; make sure your shirt has a collar. For all the details, please see the sign in the slideshow above.