LVH exclusive - World golf swings to Thailand

Thailand has long maintained its appeal as a top destination for golfers and boasts almost 200 courses spread around the country, the majority of them located either in and around the capital or in popular tourist locations like Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

In addition to being one of today's most popular golfing holiday destinations, the Kingdom also has a proud golf heritage that dates back as far as 1905 when the games were noted in the record books of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. The first internationally recognised 18-hole golf course was designed and built in Hua HIn by a Scottish engineer back in 1924. Since then, some of the world's most famous players have followed in his footsteps, designing, and of course playing on Thai courses, which are well know for their diverse topography, challenging layouts, fine grasses, spectacular views and surroundings.

Big hitters like Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Gary Player and Greg Norman have all designed golf courses in Thailand, and many of their contemporary counterparts, including Tiger Woods, have graced the Kingdom's greens in competitive play. Woods took part in a one-day charity skins tournament in 2010, as part of celebrations marking HI Majesty King Bhumibol's 60th year as Thai monarch. A number of other PGA tour favourites have also hit the Thai fairways in recent years, including Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie.

This year, from 6 - 9 December, Bangkok will host one of the most star-studded international line-ups ever to feature in the country's professional tournament history at the second edition of the Thailand Golf Championship at the Amata Spring Country Club. Lee Westwood will be returning to defend the title he won in some style in 2011, when he enjoyed a comfortable seven-shot victory over a full field of Asian Tour players.

Westwood says he is looking forward to his defence, but will certainly be given a serious run for his money in the 1 million USD tournament this year. Players likely to challenge the top of the leader board include 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson, 2012 World Golf Championship Winner, Hunter Mahan, 2011 Open Champion Darren Clarke and this year's Ryder Cup winner Sergio Garcia. Meanwhile, a strong home grown force will be led by three-time Asian Tour number one, Tongchai Jaidee, Open Championship contender Prayad Marksaeng, and 45-year-old veteran Thaworn Wirachant, who is hoping to become the oldest champion in the Asian Tour's Order of Merit this year, after notching up his third win of the season recently in India and a record 15th career title.

Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han believes the Asian stars will relish the chance to go head-to-head with the likes of Westwood, Watson and Mahan and says the Thailand Golf Championship will be one of the highlights of the 2012 season. The quality of the Amata Spring course is crucial to the success of the event, and last year was praised by the players, with Westwood describing its incredible condition "as good as anything I have played in Asia".

The event will be broadcast live over the full four days on the Asian Tour’s global television platform and also on the Golf Channel. Fans can also enjoy the tournament as spectators with daily and a 4-day package tickets on sale.