When you think of golf in south-east Asia, the likes of Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore immediately spring to mind, right?
Before too long, though, Cambodia could be joining its neighbours in the region in becoming a major player in the golf tourism industry.
At present, there are just nine courses in the country: four in capital Phnom Penh, three in Siem Reap, and two on the coast at Dara Sakor Golf Club.
However, with a further two Faldo Design courses set to open soon at Vattanac Golf Resort – a development just 15km from the centre of Phnom Penh – the potential of golf tourism in Cambodia is starting to be realised.
“We see the importance of golf tourism in Cambodia as well but for Cambodia it is still at an early stage,” remarked Chea Bora, Secretary of State at Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism, although he added that the country was seeing ‘a significant increase’ in the number of people playing golf.
Cambodia’s lure for golfers is underpinned by its appeal as a tourist destination, with the main attraction being the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site temple complex near Siem Reap that includes Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument. It was named the world’s top UNESCO heritage site by review website TripAdvisor in November.
“We have one of the best destinations in the world in Angkor Wat,” added Mr Bora. “If tourists want to come to see our temples, at the same time they can play golf. I think that’s one of the main reasons why we can become one of the best golf destinations.”
Currently, it is thought that there are as few as 1,000 active golfers in Cambodia, with the ratio of tourists to locals as high as 85% to 15% on some courses.
One of Mr Bora’s aims is to increase this number and he hopes to do this by opening more golf academies - there are two in the country at the moment - as well as increasing the number of professional golf tournaments it hosts.
There are also plans to expand the number of courses further, with three more in Dara Sakor and a development in Sihanoukville. With the addition of those, Mr Bora feels Cambodia can become a very attractive proposition for overseas golfers.
Watch this space.
For more information, visit tourismcambodia.org