TRAVEL | VIETNAM
Since the end of its eponymous conflict, which dogged the country between 1955 and 1975, Vietnam has gradually reinvented itself as a country and made great strides in repositioning itself as a popular tourist destination.
Indeed, between 2000 and 2012, international arrivals to the country more than tripled, from 2.1 million to 6.8 million, thanks in no small part to its blossoming popularity amongst backpackers, culture and nature lovers, beach-lovers and military veterans.
Golfers, though, are starting to make significant contributions to that number and, considering all of the exciting new golf developments available for them to play, why wouldn’t they?
The latest count estimates that the total number of courses in Vietnam now exceeds 30, with the Bluffs Ho Tram Strip chief amongst them. Designed by Australia’s two-time major winner Greg Norman, it opened for play in October 2014.
It is located less than two hours outside of Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnamese capital, and lies on a coastal plateau, with holes routed around huge seaside dunes. It is, quite simply, a spectacular place to play. But don’t just take our word for it; check out what former US Open champion Michael Campbell had to say after sampling it on the day it opened.
“I’ve played a lot of courses around the world,” said the Kiwi, “and this is as good as it gets.” Praise indeed. Designer Norman added: “It’s an incredible natural golf site. It’s how golf courses used to be built a hundred years ago.”
Another Greg Norman design awaits visitors to Danang Dunes. Since opening in 2010, it has enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and was even named the ‘Best New Course’ at the 2010 Asia Pacific Golf Summit.
You’ll enjoy the stunning par-3 16th hole in particular. It backs on to a stretch of sand ranked as one of the world’s ten most luxurious beaches by the prestigious Forbes magazine. The views of the Cham Islands in the distance are the cherry on top.
The nearby Montgomerie Links Vietnam - conceived by eight-time European Tour No.1 Colin Montgomerie - and the Sir Nick Faldo-designed Laguna Lang Co combine with Danang Dunes to make up the Vietnam’s very own ‘Golf Coast’. Monty’s track has made the most of the natural characteristics of the site, so expect large greens and undulating fairways, whilst Faldo’s creation is widely considered to be the best of the six-time major winner’s twenty-plus course designs worldwide.
Elsewhere, the Dalat Palace Golf Club is home to one of the oldest courses in Vietnam, whilst Van Tri and the Lee Trevino-designed East Course at Vietnam Country Club are also well worth putting on your itinerary.
A trip to Hon Tre Island, meanwhile, will give you the chance to play 18 holes on what was once the site of a jail. An island located just off the east coast of Vietnam, Hon Tre Island is home to Vinpearl Land, an impressive five-star resort operated by Vietnamese billionaire and property developer Pham Nhat Vuong.
The resort includes an 18-hole course, designed by IMG, which offers stunning sea views from every hole on the course. The par-3 16th will linger long in the memory, where the South China Sea provides a stunning panoramic backdrop.
Of course, it would be a shame to go all the way to Vietnam and not make time to see some of the country’s famous tourist attractions.
Ha Long Bay, in north Vietnam, is one of the most photographed areas in the country. The ‘Bay of Descending Dragons’, to give it its English name, features thousands of islands, all of which are covered with thick jungle vegetation forming a truly spectacular seascape. The Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue is also worth checking out, whilst the Sa Pa rice terraces in the Muong Hoa valley, between Sa Pa town and Fansipan Mountain, are unmissable.
With a favourable exchange rate, a good selection of accommodation and the opportunity to broaden your cultural horizons, the reasons to consider visiting Vietnam keep on coming. Whatever you do, though, remember to take your golf clubs with you.