By ausgolf Editor Selwyn Berg Aug 2013
Already recognised as a thriving Asian economy with luxury resort hotels, fine dining, shopping and a culture renowned for friendly hospitality, Vietnam is rapidly gaining momentum as the latest Golf destination in Asia. The best and most accessible courses are located amongst natural coastal dunes on the Central Coast – “Golf Coast Vietnam”.
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This region is accessed via the modern International Airport at Da Nang, and served by numerous five and six-star resorts located along one of the world’s 10 most luxurious beaches according to Forbes Magazine.
The Greg Norman designed Danang Golf Club was awarded Best New Course at the 2010 Asia Pacific Golf Summit. In 2010 Golf Magazine cited DGC one of the top 15 golf courses to open worldwide, and in 2012 Danang was named Vietnam’s Best Course by Golf Digest.
By contrast with the majority of Asia’s golf courses, Danang boasts magnificent fast-running couch grass fairways and huge undulating Tiff Dwarf greens that claim to be ‘the fastest in Asia’. Whilst there’s plenty of sand with several huge ‘waste’ bunkers, this is not a penal nor unduly difficult Greg Norman course, and again, unlike other Asian courses, the fairways are not bounded by impenetrable jungle, but rather by rough that offers recovery options from a bare sandy lie. The firm, wide fairways and bunkers cut right into the greens amongst natural sand dunes create the kind of sporty golf much loved by links enthusiasts or those familiar with Melbourne’s famed Sand Belt.
Norman’s designer Harley Kruse has extracted much from this excellent site, a highlight for me was the greenside bunkering that often calls for a risky shot that then utilises the slope of the green to trickle down to the pin.
The course’s signature par-3 16th hole backs onto a pristine white beach with views of the Cham Islands in the distance. A visit to these islands affords a cultural journey and the opportunity to snorkel amongst coral and feast on land-dwelling crabs.
Almost next door to the Norman course is Montgomerie Links – a highly manicured championship resort layout with massive greens and broad undulating fairways. Voted Best Golf Course in Vietnam in 2010 & 2011.
Its facilities include a well-equipped semi-circular 30-bay undercover driving range and a stunning contemporary clubhouse that provides the perfect setting with views over the 18th hole, the Marble Mountains and distant highlands.
These courses and all resort hotels are within easy reach of the ancient trading port of Hoi An, which for centuries possessed the largest harbour in Southeast Asia. Hoi An is famous for inexpensive bespoke clothing and footwear and world class cuisine at iconic restaurants such as Morning Glory and Good Morning Vietnam. At night the town is alight with lanterns – purchase one from a local child and float it down the river.
An hour’s drive north of Da Nang, via the new tunnel or across the stunningly beautiful Hai Van Pass that literally divides North from South (scene of bloody battles during the Vietnam War and where remnants of American pill box bunkers may be seen beside the road) lies Laguna Lang Co Golf Club officially opened by its designer, Sir Nick Faldo, in March 2013. The course is located on a tranquil bay facing the East and is already being widely acclaimed as the best of the 26 courses worldwide by the six-time Major winner.
This is a thinking golfer’s course, and one where there really are strategic options on many of the holes. Driver and long hitting need to be considered carefully and employed more sparingly especially for higher handicappers. The tenth hole, with a huge wasteland bunker splitting the fairway and a water crossing before the green is a case in point and a highlight of the round. There’s water on several other holes. The ball sits up beautifully on firm couch fairways, greens are generally large and manicured in Tiff Eagle.
The golf course meanders through diverse environments – rice paddy, woodlands, beach, ‘blowout’ areas, rivers, creeks and rock outcrops on adjacent hillsides.
Laguna Lang Co Golf Club is the centrepiece of the Laguna Lang Co resort complex that currently comprises Banyan Tree Lang Co and Angsana Lang Co Resorts, spa and water facilities as well as upmarket dining experiences. Accommodation is typically individual villas with private swimming pools. Ultimately 2000 rooms managed by seven international operators are planned.
Another hour north (by road) lies the ancient capital of Hue – well worth a visit to explore Vietnam’s Chinese and French Colonial heritage. The former imperial seat of government, the Citadel is a great sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, walls, gates, shops, museums and galleries, featuring art and costumes from various periods of Vietnamese history.
So Asia’s latest Golf Destination really does have it all – great courses, unsurpassed hospitality, luxury resorts, fine dining, great shopping and cultural experiences – first world amenities at third world prices. And if that’s not enough, the major cities of Hanoi in the North and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in the South offer more gracious French architecture, shopping malls crammed with design chic, gastronomic restaurants and a multitude of day and night tours. Perhaps the Mekong Delta or a motorcycle tour?
Most of all, we’re sure you’ll come away in love with the people, and keen to return.
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