I had been asking around the office to see if there were any golfers around here. It seems that there are a few and one of them was kind enough to offer me a lift to the course and some clubs to borrow.
We headed out to the KM6 club. So named because it is 6 kilometres from the Presidential palace as the crow flies. Having peeked through the gates it is clear there is no KM0 club. There is also the KM14 and KM18 clubs on the way to the Friendship Bridge.
My host was surprised at how busy things were in the carpark. He was quickly grabbed by a girl who is apparently his regular caddy and I was paired up with a girl who had her own buggy. She was pleasant enough company for the day but she spoke almost no english and I have bugger all Lao so we spent the day smiling and pointing. She seemed to take a great interest in my forearms. Repeatedly pulling on my sleeve and touching me between my watch and my elbow. I will likely never know what that was all about. I'm still quite mystified by it.
KM6 is a 9 hole course so we paid to go around twice and queued up for the first tee. With 2 groups in front of us, there were a lot of people hanging around here. Groups of 6 seem to be the natural order and everyone has a caddy each. This makes for a massive entourage heading down the fairways. Rules of golf also seem to be somewhat optional with 2 of my group taking mulligans before leaving the first tee. I held my tongue and adopted a "when in Rome" attitude to the day.
The course is very lush kikuyu style grass with a bermuda mix for the greens. Mixed with rocket or curly endive I think, as it was pretty tough to get the ball rolling well on them. If I were burdened with expectations I might have been a bit cranky with my putting performance but I was really just out for a look, a walk and a talk. If you want to look thin, hang around with fat people. If you want to look like a gun golfer, play at KM6. I say this as it didn't seem to take much to impress the caddies. Sure these girls are paid to follow us around and be nice to us, but I was able to draw gasps from our little gallery by pumping out a couple of decent drives. I then airmailed a couple of greens while I calibrated my distances with the unfamiliar clubs, and the wide-eyed look of confusion on my caddy's face was pretty funny. By the second lap I had things mostly worked out and was able to hit of couple of irons close. This drew warm applause from our little gaggle of loopers. It was good for the ego.
One thing that wasn't included in my borrowed club set was an umbrella. This was bad news as while we were finishing our 15th hole the skies, which had building ominously throughout the morning, let go. Big, fat, tropical rain. It didn't last long, though, but it did mean getting up close with a playing partner and his caddy under their umbrella. We finished the round and retired to the clubhouse for lunch and some well earned beers. It was a sultry morning and fluids needed to be replaced.
As far as courses go, KM6 is pretty short and pretty bland. The 3rd and 5th are probably the best holes without too much in the way of flaws. Both are listed as par 5s although 3 is really only driver, 7 iron. I suspect the water carry on the second shot needs the locals to lay up which changes the par. 5 is a shortish par 5 but requires a drive close to the water if you want a chance to go for the green in 2. As such I rate it as the hole with the most architectural merit. However, the 9th is an outright abomination. A 230m par 4 with turns at right angles to the right with a big fence down the right hand side and the tees lined up right beside it. It forces you to play 9I-Wedge and is just dreadful. It is actually worse than the 5th at Westgate (the infamous dogleg par 3 - but at least you have some room to get around the fence).
I will definitely be organising myself to play more here. It was fun.
Update: I've been told that the arm thing was almost certainly to do with my whiteness. Sounds completely plausible to me.
If you want to know what I thought about the course in particular rather than the experience of the day (architecture vs atmosphere) you can see it here: http://www.thegolfforum.com/index.php?showtopic=5673 Be warned though if you explore that forum that it has a bit of a locker room vibe and as such some topics are not for the faint hearted.