At first thought, “Vietnam” and “golfing” might not seem like bedfellows, but it just so happens that this country’s landscapes and current economic growth have teamed up to make Vietnam one of the premier golf destinations of Asia.
Image source: erci.edu.vn
This might be why the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) voted Vietnam the “Golf Destination of the Year in 2016 in Australasia”.
We talked to Staffan Scherz, the owner of boutique golf tour company Passage to Asia, to find out why you should hit the fairways in Vietnam, and which courses around the country give you an unforgettable golfing experience.
A Rising Industry
As Staffan tells us, “The good thing about Vietnam’s golf courses is they’re all relatively new, so they are in very good condition.” The majority of Vietnam’s courses are less than 10 years old! Besides being new, the majority, Staffan reports, are designed to an international standard, are exquisitely maintained and expertly managed. Many of the best are designed by famed golfers like Greg Norman, Luke Donald and Nick Faldo.
Right now you can visit around 35 golf courses in Vietnam, but expect this number to rise steadily. Golf tourism has become a big industry here, and in Southeast Asia in general, so developers are responding. While business meetings have traditionally been conducted in karaoke bars and bia hoi, who knows? Maybe in a few years the putting greens join the list.
The good news: this course is gearing up to be one of the most beautiful in Vietnam. The bad news: it’s not open yet. Designed by Schmidt-Curley with input from Nicklaus Designs, this project includes an 18-hole, 71 par links-style golf course on a 153 ha ridge overlooking the majestic karsts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay. Guests will be able to enjoy training fields, a 2,000 m2 clubhouse, hotel and villas.
Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune, Phu Loc District, Thua Thien Hue Province | +84 234 369 5881 | email@example.com | lagunalangco.com | Rates for 18 holes (visitor): VND 2,000,000 during regular season (1 April-31 Dec); VND2,100,000 during peak season (1 Jan-31 March)
Designed by Sir Nick Faldo and opened in 2013, Laguna Lang Co between Danang and Hue in Central Vietnam might be the most interesting course to play. This championship course was designed with Vietnam’s many natural landscapes in mind, with fairways that weave between trees, over rice paddies and streams, through impressive rock features and along a stunning and tranquil bay looking out to the picturesque East Sea.
Described as the best of the 26 courses Faldo has designed, this par-71 beauty is a must for anyone who considers beautiful scenery integral to a well-played game of golf.
Da Ron Commune, Don Duong District, Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province | +84 28 3822 1122 | firstname.lastname@example.org | dalat1200.com | Rates for 18 holes: VND2,550,000 (weekdays); VND2,990,000 (weekends)
Image source: bazaarvietnam.vn
“I would still call Dalat at 1200 a hidden gem in Vietnam,” Staffan says. The designers took full advantage of the unique vegetation and climate here and neatly integrated the layout into the surrounding scenery. Professional golfers Peter Rousseau and Kyi Hla Han both had a hand in the design, which, located on a 2,100-acre lakeside estate, has a microclimate of its own, with breezes even at the height of summer.
Opened in 2012 and designed by An Lee Hwan, Staffan calls Sky Lake “scenically one of the most beautiful in Vietnam”. Just 45 minutes from Hanoi, this course features two PGA-standard courses with a yardage of 7,625 – the Sky Course, which is open to everyone, and the Lake Course, reserved for members. The Sky Course is surrounded to the east by unique natural forests. Other features include 200 trained caddies, a driving range, a restaurant serving both Western and Asian cuisine, and a golf shop selling internationally recognised brands.
Opened in 2011, this beautiful course was built, along with the 5-star Vinpearl Resort Nha Trang and Vinpearl Amusement Park, on 800 metres of coastline on the island of Hon Tre, in a bay off Nha Trang that was named one of the 30 Most Beautiful Bays on Earth by Forbes Magazine. And if that doesn’t convince you to visit, this will: there’s a special “twilight special” rate for people who tee off after 2:30 p.m.
Here’s high praise from Staffan, who knows what he’s talking about: The Bluffs are “probably currently the top course in Vietnam”. What gives? Let us count the ways. First of all, this Greg Norman-designed course, just 120 km from HCMC, was built along coastal sand dunes that range from 5 metres to 50 metres above sea level. With little vegetation, the sand dunes steal the show, as well as the temperamental, rapidly changing weather. And if you’re feeling rusty, feel free to warm up at the elaborate practise area, complete with short game and long game shots.
This beautiful, rolling golf course was the perfect setting for Luke Donald’s first design project. Rather than alter the landscape, Donald took advantage of the Central Highlands atmosphere to create natural slopes and elevation changes that both frustrate and inspire golfers.
The first half is done in a more traditional style, while the second half winds through the twists and turns of the surrounding hillside (Staffan: “The back nine holes will leave an everlasting impression”). This must be why the course won the World’s Best New Golf Course trophy at the World Golf Awards in 2016!