Vietnam Golf Explosion Continues

Vietnam Golf Explosion Continues

By Denise Langdon PaR nz Golfing Holidays

Vietnam launched itself on the golf market in the early 1990's and has grown substantially in popularity and golf offerings. Having travelled there for some years now, the team at PaR nz Golfing Holidays is staggered by how quickly this socialist republic has so many top courses being built with big name designers. Here’s an overview of three of the latest.

Greg Norman’s 77th course, The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip, is getting rave reviews, some say it's his best yet. Norman is carving out an impressive portfolio of world-renowned courses with 37 currently under construction, The Bluffs being his fifth in Vietnam. Sadly, there is none yet in New Zealand.

The Bluffs will host the inaugural Ho Tram Open, a lucrative US $1.5 million Asian Tour tournament in December this year. A links-style course along a natural coastline near the small town of Ho Tram, The Bluffs is about two hours southeast of Ho Chi Minh City.

Many fairways funnel into amphitheatre type fairways with sandy dunes on both sides covered with indigenous brush and trees called ‘tram’, pronounced ‘charm’. The course is subjected to high winds most days, however, it's not all tough. There are wide fairways and a manageable 45 metres difference in elevation between the lowest and highest points.

The 1st opens with a wide fairway joined with the 9th – so it's important to take careful note of which hole you are playing. This start is typical of many of Norman’s holes with wide tee shots beckoning followed by challenging, tight approaches to the green.

Jack Nicklaus is famous for his 'risk and reward' style of courses. Norman has his own catchphrase, 'opportunity and danger', which applies neatly to The Bluffs. Norman stated confidently at the opening: “I absolutely believe The Bluffs has the potential to be one of the top courses in the world”. 

The total Ho Tram Strip complex, where construction started in 2006 after a two-year planning process, includes The Grand – a five-star, 541-room hotel with a casino. Three more hotels are planned in a multi-million project undertaken by Ho Tram Project Company, which is owned by Canada-based Asian Coast Development Limited. New Zealander, 2005 US Open Winner Michael Campbell played in a charity exhibition match at the opening golf gala late last year.

Today, there are fewer than 50 golf courses in Vietnam, which for a population of more than 93 million may seem modest compared to New Zealand's 400 courses for 4.5 million residents.

What Vietnam lacks in course numbers, however, it makes up for in quality. Take, for instance, Sky Lake, Hanoi’s twin 18-hole PGA championship courses. Managed by IMG Prestige, the most recent of the two, the Sky Course has been open for only six months, while its sibling, known as the Lake Course, opened in 2012.

Ahn Moon Hwan, a Korea-based course architect, designed both courses, which stretch over countryside where French military and Vietnamese opposition forces clashed during the first 'Indochina War', which ended in 1954.

Both courses are semi-private members clubs with limited public access. The Sky is the more accessible.

Sky Lake is only 20km from Hanoi’s historic centre and offers stunning vistas off the tee and fairway with sweeping limestone mountain views of Van Son. The Vietnam Golf Association voted the Lake Course as the most challenging course in 2012-13 reviews.

The Lake Course is a links-style challenge with grand lakes and mountain views surrounded by indigenous jungle. The Sky Course is more park-like with rolling hills and fairways, and farmland views.

On the starting blocks is a world-first for the former number one, Luke Donald, with a new course due to be opened at the end of this year. Also managed by IMG, much of the course views are still under wraps and, at the time of writing, no images or designer drawings had been made public.

What is confirmed is that Donald’s Ba Na Hills in Danang is due to open on September 2 with the clubhouse and driving range both in full operation. Located about 30 minutes from Danang, on the Central Coast bordering the South China Sea, the course has minimal elevation changes and its bunkers are predicted to be a big feature.

PaR nz Golfing Holidays has been told that the “bunkers will include bright white sand with soft low sand lines, and big bold grass bunker edges leading onto soft long undulating greens”.

Ba Na Hills is not, however, another seaside course but a mountain course with a mix of topography and vegetation. The opening tee shots are aimed at generous fairways that tighten with the many bunkers planned.

Donald will be in the company of greats in the Danang area with Greg Norman’s Danang Golf Course, Colin Montgomerie’s, Montgomerie Links, and Sir Nick Faldo’s Laguna Lang Golf Courses all operational and in high demand.

It’s a case of watch this space with Vietnam, as more golfers discover its charms. The number of domestic golfers is small, with only 5000 registered, but the fairways are being filled with international guests daily.

The advent now of a PGA tour event at The Bluffs coupled with opening celebrations later this year at Ba Na Hills will keep the interest in this golf destination alive.

The team at PaR nz Golfing Holidays have just released our 2016 Vietnam and Cambodia Golf Tour – Come play!