Nondh Amranand has worn many fascinating hats throughout his life. In this exclusive interview with Prestige Online, he tells us about everything, from his days as a copywriter for top advertising agencies to his time spent on Thai television acting as a Thai gangster. Right now, he’s settling with his love for golf and his journey towards becoming Bangkok’s ultimate swing guru.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about yourself
Hello! My name is Nondh Amranand and right now I’m a certified golf coach with expertise in the golf swing, AKA a swing guru. I’m 29 years old and I started playing golf when I was 14. In the same year I started, I hit a hole in one! If you don’t know much about golf, this means that in just one shot, the ball goes into the hole. But to be honest, that was more of beginner’s luck than talent, which came to me much later.
I was born and raised in Bangkok and attended top international schools here such as Bangkok Patana School. I decided to go to Australia to study at Charles Sturt University where I got a BA in Communications (Advertising). I know it’s a bit different to golfing but it was also one of my other interests at the time, with most of the influences coming from my Dad and uncle, Panidol and Witawat Jayapani. They are both well known in the Thai advertising industry. It just simply looked so cool back when Thai TV commercials were actually more hilarious than the Thai comedy of that time! In my opinion, they were much better than the popular Thai soap operas back when GMM 25 and ONE 31 channel weren’t born yet.
A little before and after I graduated from university, I had the privilege to work with the most creative directors at the world’s best advertising agencies and production companies, including Whybin\TBWA Tequila in New Zealand, Mumfilms production company in Bangkok and I also worked as an English copywriter for the advertising agency, Leo Burnett.
Then I worked for DTAC Telecommunications Company for three years as an English copywriter. I eventually had to quit as I was taking too many leaves to star in a Thai lakorn on channel 7. Despite my personal opinion regarding lakorns in general, I still decided to accept my first role on prime time TV as I thought that “Decha”, the main character was cool – being the head of a Thai mafia gang in กุหลาบร้ายของนายตะวัน plus a few more supporting roles for channel 5 and 7. I’m the kind of person who rarely rejects opportunities regardless of how I feel about them. I just want to learn everything.
At the age of 26, I was very heartbroken from a romantic relationship, so I was looking for an escape. I picked up my golf clubs, which I hadn’t touched in a long time and decided to take them out for what I thought would be a few swings. But it turned out that they would go with me like peas and carrots, just like the couple from the Forrest Gump movie.
It took me one year to officially go from weekend golfer to a professional golfer. As soon as I was awarded the title, I called and thanked my ex-girlfriend immediately because if it wasn’t for her I would probably have never discovered my passion and my career, all in one year.
When and why did you fall in love with golf?
As I’ve mentioned, golf started as an escape for me and to be totally honest once you get very serious about becoming the best golfer you can be, if you don’t have the right coaches and support, it can be an extremely frustrating game. But I was fortunate enough to find the right coaches along with a mental game coach who really helped me go through the qualifying school.
To answer your question, my love for golf started from the first day I hit the sweet spot (when you strike the ball clean, right in the centre of the clubface) and it flew exactly the way I imagined it, and it stopped dead a few feet away from the hole. If you don’t play golf you will never understand this but many players describe hitting the sweet spot as the best feeling in the world! Some players even have very sexual terms to describe the feeling… but I won’t go into that here! My love for golf also grows the more I coach and understand the game and the golf swing – my main expertise, which I have a burning passion for.
What has golf taught you?
To be mentally tough. Golf teaches you to focus on one shot at a time. It teaches you how to know your strengths and weaknesses, when to take risks, and when to play it safe; how to deal with emotions, distractions, and opponents; how to execute and how to win. It teaches you about honesty and sportsmanship. All the things that make a man a better man. There are just so many things to love about the game of golf.
What’s it like being a golfer in Thailand? What are the upsides/downsides?
Let’s start with the upsides. The value for money is great as the green fee is relatively cheap compared to most countries around the world, attracting tourists from all sorts of places. There are over 200 golf courses around Thailand ranging from the budget military golf courses to the exclusive private courses with still an affordable price to many. There is really something for everyone when it comes to golf, for example, night golf, indoor golf or even golf with pretty-looking caddies, plus plenty of amateur and professional golf tournaments throughout the year. Many golf courses here are designed by the world’s best touring professionals in history, such as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo.
For me, the biggest downside for golf in Thailand is club fitting (choosing the right golf club to match your swing characteristics and body type). This is a vital part of the game yet surprisingly neglected. There are not many places in Thailand where you can do club fitting and also see the real ball flight at an outdoor driving range – most club fitting places are indoors which is a real bummer as golf is as much a feel sport as it is a science. It doesn’t make much sense as golfers won’t ever be 100 percent confident about buying their golf clubs as when most of them hit a golf ball, they won’t be able to see exactly how the ball is going to react off the golf club they are interested in buying when they are being club fitted indoors. It’s like you want to test the performance and feel of a new car but all you can do is a test-drive in virtual reality. Feel me?
Do you think the golfing industry is important for Thailand?
Yes, because the golf industry helps create jobs for the diverse golf-related professions and furthermore adds billions of baht annually for the local economy. Tourists fly here to enjoy a bunch of world-class golf courses at an affordable price and their spending behavior is likely to create a ripple effect throughout Thailand as they will want to spend their money on other things, like accommodation, sightseeing and shopping as well.
How can the Thai golfing industry be improved?
We could use a lot more investment to make the Thai golfing industry more complete and integrated. There are many golf services, technologies, and infrastructures that are widely available in the US and Europe that are extremely scarce in Thailand. For that reason, I really believe that if there is more investment in the right things, Thailand will become a true golfing paradise.
How can more Thai professional golfers compete and succeed at a global level?
We need more professional golfers to succeed on the big tour. More sponsors need to step in with maximum commitment to the success of up-and-coming tour players every step of the way as in order to succeed on the big tours, no golfer can do it alone. They all need a big team of numerous coaches of different expertise, from golf fitness, mental game, and nutrition to swing coaching, putting and short game coaching, club fitting. Most importantly, they all must work together as a team for the best interest of the golfer. Right now we don’t have that, but it is a must. It is what all the best players in the world say in their interviews when they are asked about how they became so successful.
A Thai example we do have is Pro May Ariya Jutanugarn, currently the world’s No. 6 and former world’s No.1 who got there because her dad was willing to risk everything he had. He sponsored her by selling their house and is now working full time for her as a caddie! Now, who else in Thailand would have the resources or balls to do that?
Take Korea for example. The golfers all have a similar-looking swing, almost like they came out of one single factory. This is because they all follow the same strict method, a system and discipline. That’s how professional golf in Thailand should be. Golf should be treated as a sport and we need to be more like Korea.
What made you start coaching?
Since I was young, I always read a lot about golf as it really interests me and I was always intrigued as to how much more you can learn about golf. It seems like the learning curve will never, ever stop, even when you’re already a professional. We have to learn over 200 pages of rules in golf: how to play on different types of grass, conditions, and how to choose and execute the right type of shots for the situations we are in. The list goes on and on.
So I thought that I would be good at teaching because I already knew a lot about golf and I am always eager to learn more and more about the sport. From the first day I stared coaching, I have learned even more just from coaching students, especially kids – more than I ever did reading about golf. As I’ve already mentioned, golf is more of a feel-and-do sport rather than an understanding of the golf swing and the golf game. You shouldn’t overwhelm kids with all the technical golf terminology – it’s always better to just show them the right moves. It is mostly the adults who tend to overthink and thus end up not feeling their swing.
Of course, as a coach you have to use your knowledge to analyse your students’ swings but the success of your students lies in how well you determine the No.1 most important thing they can work on that day, which will make the most impact on their game. How you convey a technique into a “feel” tailored to each individual player’s skill level, physical fitness and flexibility is what really matters. What I really love about coaching is that you must have a whole bag of tricks, as there are many ways of accomplishing the desired outcome. I see teaching is an art, and it is fun to be creative with your students. To be honest, most adults and kids just want to have fun and enjoy the game so you don’t always have to be too serious about it.
Coaching has allowed me to meet new people and I enjoy getting to know people from all walks of life. At the end of the day, no matter what we do, we all need to work with other people and coaching has taught me great life skills: patience, love and an understanding of other human beings.
Which golfer has been your biggest inspiration?
Tiger Woods, of course! I had just started playing golf when he was in his prime. I remember sneaking up to see my granddad (who is also a big fan of golf) late at night to watch live coverage with him and we would cheer at the top of our lungs when Tiger took the lead. After a few more holes we would both say goodnight because we both knew that once he was in the lead, he would definitely win!
I have a lot of respect for Tiger, even more so now than ever as he is making a come back after dealing with multiple surgeries. It’s hard to believe that less than one year ago he could barely get out of bed (not to mention his personal life crisis and having to deal with harsh and ongoing media critique for years). But now he is back on the leaderboard. Only Tiger Woods can do that!
All in all, I’m just so excited that he is back and I hope he remains healthy and injury-free as he still has Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major titles record to break. I want him to officially become the best player of all time.