Laguna Lang Co Golf Club To Open With A Bang

I have played many Thailand golf courses before they opened, but last week was the first time I played a Vietnam golf course pre-opening.  Most times, the pre-opening phase is used to work out the operational bugs in any new golf club. Therefore, it was to my great surprise to experience new perfection at the new Laguna Lang Co Golf Club.

Getting to Lang Co took exactly 77 minutes from the center of Hoi An using the new tunnel that connects Danang and Hue. The arrival greetings at Lang Co were as good as I have experienced. The greeters were expecting us and had our names and bag tags all ready. Check-in at the pro-shop was equally smooth as we all received our day passports that allowed us to use all the facilities and make purchases throughout the Laguna Lang Co resort. After changing into our golf gear we were introduced to our caddies and shown cordially to the first tee.

On the course, things started out a little rough as the last holes to be grassed were the few nearest to the clubhouse. Anyway, getting past the first 3-4 holes things came into light. The course layout plays through 3 distinct areas. Several holes wander through former rice paddies. These are fairly wide open and nothing special. However, moving into the jungle section is where the golf got fun. Playing through forested areas on a new course is most welcome as trees are mature and other than the grass, the holes seemed to have been made years ago. Contrast this to many other new Vietnam golf courses where staked small tress are the rule and old hardwoods are only a dream 5 years down the road.

The final section of the course is laid out along the South China Sea. These holes play as most links courses do with pot bunkers, waste areas, and greens with natural dunes protecting them. Our caddies were able to advise us the best routes to the pins as well as provided needed assistance reading the undulated greens.

Back at the clubhouse the excellent on course service continued. We had a great Vietnamese meal at the golfer’s café and the free Wi-Fi came in handy as everyone posted their Laguna Lang Co pictures online for the world to see.

If Laguna Lang Co Golf Club has been opened for 10 years I could understand how they were able to fine tune the facility and service. However, given that the new Hue golf course does not officially open for another 2 moths, it is nothing short of a miracle to see how well-oiled things are. My hats off to Tim Haddon and his staff for a pre-opening job well done!

Get ready for a bang; Laguna Lang Co Golf Club is set to hit the ground running and don’t be surprised to hear about them winning the best new golf course in Asia this year!

Montgomerie Links Vietnam Gets Even Better

Being the first golf course in a new golf destination is not easy. Everything that most courses take for granted such as labor and materials need to be sourced or developed. Even know-how and golfers are in short supply, if available at all.

Well Montgomerie Links Vietnam was the pioneer course in Vietnam’s Hoi An – Da Nang – Hue region and I have been following closely the development of this project for the past 5 years. Having golfed at the Montgomerie Links course this week, I am very glad to report that things could not be better. Playing conditions are superb; especially the fast rolling Paspalum greens which are now some of the best in Asia that I have putted on. The original white powder bunker sand is all replaced by new golf specific type and frequent plugged balls are a thing of the past.

Next up is the clubhouse. While small compared to other Asian palaces the Montgomerie Links facility is highly functional for golfers. The pro shop stocks not only a wide assortment of logoed items, but even sells new model clubs. Locker rooms feature both Asian and Western showers with a full accompaniment of saunas, whirlpools, and baths for golfers to soak away any aches and pains after their round.  Many other clubhouses around the region start good with all the facilities, but end up in disrepair as operating wear and tear give way to poor maintenance habits.  There is none of that at Montgomerie Links as everything is clean, in working order, and as good as new.

More importantly is the staff. Coming from nowhere, all Montgomerie Links teams now speak English, know the game of golf, and have a friendly service mindset. This just compliments the course itself turning a good resort course into a great Vietnam golf experience.

Give the Montgomerie Links a try on your next trip to golf in Vietnam. The total experience is now better than ever!

Danang – Hoa An – Hue Golf Update

Here is the latest from Rick, one of the key guys on the ground involved in Saigon golf development.

I just spent the weekend in Danang. Montgomerie Links Vietnam and Danang Golf Club are both in the best condition I have seen them in. The greens at Danang Golf Club were running at about 10 with not one single deviation or bump off line. I just wish I could read the greens properly.

The new superintendent at Montgomerie Links Vietnam has it striped up and looking really good, greens were very true. I also had a knock round the Faldo track at Laguna Lang Co Golf Club. It still has about 4 holes growing in and some landscape to fill out but it is a really good test for all standards with breath taking views of the hills as a back drop. The clubhouse is well put together and they are getting their act together with service levels. A full day package of golf, food and beverages, spa and beach would be a great day out for anyone visiting Hue for golf. As you know it is realistically an 80 min trip from Danang or Hoi An. A nice tranquil day of beach and pampering with golf would be perfect. The Lang Co beach is really nice and the area is almost silent, no traffic noises etc. I could envisage Laguna Lang Co Golf Club getting 2013 best new course in Asia. The superintendent is intending to keep it with running fairways and has all the necessary equipment to implement what he says.

I just wanted to give some feedback to you. Keep up all the good work and news of golf in Asia.

Why Golf in Vietnam?

Here are 5 reasons why Vietnam is a world-class golf holiday destination.

  1. The courses: With many courses having been developed by leading golf architects of the world such as Greg Norman (Danang Golf Club), Nick Faldo (Ocean Dunes Golf Club & Laguna Lang Co Golf Club), Ron Fream (Long Thanh Golf Club & Sea Links Golf Club), and Peter Rousseau (Van Tri Golf Club & Twin Doves Golf Club) quality golfing is never far away.
  2. The locations: Vietnam is a beautiful and fascinating country that offers a variety of different golf destinations. The cities of Hanoi and Saigon are bustling centers of commerce, industry, and colonial history. The costal resorts of Danang, Hoi An, and Nha Trang have some of the best beaches in the world. The fresh mountains of Dalat have excellent year-round golf on offer at a perfect 20 degrees centigrade temperature.
  3. The history and culture: Only the past 50 years or so of Vietnamese history is familiar to most travelers. Moreover, Vietnamese culture is for the most part still mysterious and unknown. However, today more and more people are traveling to golf in Vietnam. Getting to know Vietnam’s history and Vietnamese culture is interesting and fascinating. Historically, fist recorded evidence dates back to 200 B.C. and is rich and varied ever since. Vietnamese culture is one of the most exotic and complex in the world. It is hard to find such an authentic and interesting place for golf travel anywhere!
  4. The caddies: A unique and truly memorable part of golf in Vietnam. All females, they provide excellent day service at $15 US Dollars a round. Greeting you upon arrival at the clubhouse, Vietnam caddies take care of everything before teeing off, during the round, and after finishing 18 holes. With a constant smiling face, they give yardages to the green, mark and clean golf balls, advise of the breaks on the green, keep their golfers cool during the round, and always provide great enjoyment.
  5. The food: Like with any other cuisine, Vietnamese food is influenced by its geography and history. Vietnamese food has retained its distinct identity, despite influences from Chinese and other Asian cuisine. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables. As such, Vietnamese food is often ranked as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Where else can a golfer travel to and eat as much as he/she wants without worries of putting on extra pounds/kilos? That is except for the beer!

There are endless other reasons to golf in Vietnam and I could go on, but that will spoil all the additional surprises in store when you golf this fascinating country.

Vietnam Golf Caddies Continued

I introduced the Vietnam golf caddie system in a previous post. Here is some more useful information and frequently asked questions regarding golfing in Vietnam with a caddie.
Treat your caddie with respect and she will appreciate your politeness. For example it is common to offer your caddie a beverage when you stop at a drink kiosk.

Find out the going rate for tipping from a local Vietnam golf travel agent. I recommend $15 USD as a minimum tip and $20 USD if your caddie has performed well. Just remember, her tip is the majority of what she earns for spending 4-5 hours with you.

Vietnam people are gentle and prefer bigheartedness over seriousness. You and your caddie will enjoy your round more if you are smiling and joking. On the other hand she will be scared of you if you use foul language when you hit a poor shot.

Now I know that most Vietnam golf holidaymakers would never use bad language on the golf course, but please do consider the sensitivities of the caddies and the other golfers too when you feel like venting your frustration. Apart from anything else, it is probably not going to improve your golf in Vietnam, but rather it may turn a few enjoyable hours into a miserable time for all.

Many local Vietnam golfers hire two caddies. The first one for the normal caddie duties and the second one carries an umbrella for shade, a seat to relax on between shots, and cold towels to wipe away any sweat. A good friend of mine living in Saigon always takes the same two Vietnam caddies at Vietnam Golf & Country Club. As he is getting up there in age he finds himself not so supple. Nowadays he also hires the young daughter of his regular caddie, to put the tee peg in the ground for him and get his ball out of the hole after he putts out! With three caddies in their colorful uniforms and Vietnamese farmer hats, his foursome turns into a parade of 20 plying the fairways and greens. Enjoy your golfing in Vietnam!

Saigon Golf Holiday Tips

As a frequent Vietnam golfer and Vietnam golf specialist, I have learnt some things about better golf in Saigon. These include which Saigon golf courses offer the best value for money and which courses are most convenient and enjoyable to play.

For the best value-for-money I suggest first of all to play on weekdays. Green fees at all Saigon golf courses are 25-50% lower on weekdays as compared to weekends due to the relatively low demand from locals for weekday golf. Furthermore, many Ho Chi Minh golf courses have a further special promotion day once a week where green fees are the lowest. For example, playing on Monday at Vietnam Golf & Country Club costs only $55 US (including green fee and caddie fee) while costs during the other days can be as high as $120 US. Similarly, Twin Doves Golf Club has even a lower green fee of $65 US on Mondays and Tuesdays which makes this premium Saigon golf course one of the best values-for-money in all Vietnam.

Of course those on a Vietnam golf holiday will not want to spend hours on a bus or in a car travelling to and from the golf course just to save a few dollars. Therefore, the easier it is to get to the golf course the more it would be suited to be included in a Vietnam golf vacation.

The easiest international standard golf course to reach from the center of Saigon is Vietnam Golf & Country Club. It takes 30-45 minutes depending on the traffic conditions. I prefer the Lee Trevino West Course although most people ask to play the championship East Course. Next closest is Song Be Golf Resort and Long Thanh Golf Club, both around 15 minutes past Vietnam Golf & Country Club on Highway 1A East from Saigon. The Desert Course as Song Be is very unique, albeit it does not match the other 18 parkland holes. The Hill Course at Long Thanh is a cut above the Lake Course, although many people also enjoy combining 9 holes from each layout.

Other courses like Bo Chan Dong Nai Golf Resort and Vung Tau Paradise are probably best avoided for those golfing in Saigon on vacation as the travel times can be upwards of 2 hours and the playing conditions are not all that spectacular.

Share your experiences and tips for getting the most enjoyment golfing in Saigon.

Is Van Tri Hanoi’s Best Golf Course?

The jury is still out regarding whether or not Van Tri Golf Club is really Hanoi’s best golf course.

Here are a few reasons why Van Tri is the best course in Hanoi.

  1. Van Tri Golf Club is conveniently located 30 minutes from Hanoi city center and Hanoi airport making the commute time the shortest of any Hanoi golf course.
  2. Van Tri Golf Club is fully private ensuring few players and speedy round of golf. The course can still be booked on weekdays through agents like Golfasian Vietnam.
  3. Van Tri Golf Club golf presents a good layout with a variety of challenges. Peter Rousseau was the architect and many of the holes feature sculpted bunker complexes, streams crossing the fairways, and undulated greens.
  4. Van Tri Golf Club is very well-maintained. Paspalum grassed fairways are beautiful to hit off of and the Bermuda putting surfaces are as fast as any in Vietnam.

Here area few reasons why Van Tri is NOT the best course in Hanoi.

  1. Van Tri Golf Club is built on featureless rice-paddy land and everything about the course is artificial. At the other end of the spectrum would be courses like Chi Linh Star and Phoenix, both of which are built on rolling terrain.
  2. Van Tri Golf Club is expensive with green fees around $160 USD. Most other Hanoi Golf Courses run around $100 with Kings Island being the best value-for-money.
  3. Van Tri Golf Club is Korean owned and favors Asian golfers. This is not necessarily a negative, just something to be aware of for westerners visiting Vietnam for golf.
  4. Singles and groups of 2 golfers are not welcome, so make sure you play with some friends.

Overall, I do indeed prefer Van Tri Golf Club over all other Hanoi golf courses as it is well-maintained, well-run, well-located, and good scores are in reach for all players. Why not get a 4-ball together and play all of the Hanoi golf courses? Then you can decide for yourself!

Danang: Vietnam’s Best Golf Destination

Currently there are but 2 golf courses in Danang. Both are equally excellent. Some may also argue that they are the best 2 Vietnam golf courses.

Danang Golf Club is a Greg Norman design that plays in links style among the dunes of China Beach. In fact one hole, the par-3 signature 16th plays right over the South China Sea. The unique point of the Danang golf course is how the sand dunes were left as natural waste areas. They also combine seamlessly where needed into fairway and green side bunkers. Play is challenging and rugged.

Montgomerie Links Vietnam is a full branded Colin Montgomerie design which was built by IMG. The Danang golf course is actually located in Hoi An and is currently the only Colin Montgomerie golf course in Asia. Contrasting with the Danang Golf Club, Montgomerie Vietnam is a contemporary links courses located 200 meters inland and has a resort feel.  While not directly on the sea, several of the holes and the clubhouse do provide ocean views. The layout is excellent, fairways well groomed, and the play relaxed, albeit by no means easy.

Most golf destinations need at least 3 courses to make them worthwhile for a golf holiday and fortunately a third course is set to open by the years’ end. The Laguna Lang Co Golf Club is a Nick Faldo designed course located about 1 hour north of Danang and 2 hours south of Hue. The Hue golf course will feature 3 distinct zones. Six holes play along the sea, 6 are in the woods, and 6 play in the foothills. Fairways are all narrow and undulated to the point of every drive needing to be accurate to have any chance to score well.

Which Danang golf course will be best? I suggest playing all three Danang golf courses and deciding for yourself. Each course has its own unique style and will appeal in different ways to different Vietnam golfers. Just be sure to post your comment or feedback here after playing golf in Danang.

Vietnam Golf Tours & The Cities

The main cities of Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) both boast no less than 4 golf courses each. However, land prices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City make it impractical to build golf resort style hotels. Therefore, a modern business hotel or renovated colonial style accommodation is the best choice for those traveling to Hanoi or Saigon for golf.

Golfers in Hanoi generally stay in either the Old City area or near Westlake, with multiple international standard hotels in both locations. The Vietnam capital has a unique culture of its own. There are 5 courses open to visitors and driving time ranges from around 45 minutes to Van Tri Golf Club to around 2 hours to Chi Linh Star Golf & Country Club. Scenery ranges from an island setting at Kings Island Golf Club to spectacular limestone cliffs that surround the Phoenix Golf & Country Club.

Most foreigners who book Saigon golf packages stay in District One which is the physical and cultural center of Ho Chi Minh City. Here the visiting golfer will find parks, restaurants, pubs, department stores, the Saigon riverfront and much more.  While Vietnam is not really a nightlife destination, the entertainment scene is more vibrant in Saigon than anywhere else in the country and thirsty visitors will have no difficulty finding a place to imbibe.  Saigon has 5 golf courses open to visitors of which the best is Long Thanh Golf & Residential Estate.

In between the North and the South, mountaintop Dalat makes for very nice stopover thanks to its near perfect year round temperatures, its scenic beauty and the Dalat Palace Golf Club. The all bent grass golf course located at 1500 meters above sea level is the oldest Vietnam golf course and one of my favorites. Dating back to the 1920s the Dalat golf course has hosted numerous celebrities and dignitaries including Billy Casper and Bo Dai, Vietnam’s last emperor.

Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Dalat are all interconnected via multiple daily flights on the national carrier, Vietnam Airlines.

Vietnam Golf Tours & The Resorts

Vietnam golf tourism has grown rapidly over the last three years. The country cut off western golf travelers as recently as 15 years ago has now boasts 20 international standard golf courses from North to South. Though in many ways Vietnam is still learning the golf travel business and its golf infrastructure is not nearly as developed as places such as Thailand. Nevertheless, Vietnam is fascinating for adventurous golf travelers with an open mind, cultural curiosity, and lots of patience.

Many golf holidaymakers like to situate themselves at a golf resort in one location, play lots of golf on three or more nearby courses and spend their evenings at nearby nightlife venues within walking distance of the hotel where they can wine, dine and/or party the night away. There is nothing wrong with this, though you won’t find it in Vietnam.

In Vietnam the golf courses are still rather few and far between.  In fact there is not a single golf resort in the country that has more than 2 courses within a one hour drive.  So to play a variety of quality courses you need to do some travel.  However that is not all bad. Vietnam offers a wide variety of natural beauty and cultural diversity that you miss if only staying in one location.

Golf resorts and hotels can be found at the beach destinations Danang, Phan Thiet, and Nha Trang, all three of which offer 2 international standard courses along with unspoiled beaches and a thriving town nearby. Of the three Danang is the best offering the closest thing to links golf to be found not only in Vietnam, but anywhere in SE Asia. Both Montgomerie Links Vietnam and Danang Golf Club courses are built on seaside sand based soil with turf that allows for a wide variety of shots like chip-and-runs and Texas wedges. The sometimes strong winds coming off the South China Sea further contribute to the links atmosphere. Danang is also blessed with the nearby UNESCO heritage town of Hoi An, which affords many Vietnam golfers the opportunity to unwind after their rounds at any number of reasonably priced pubs and restaurants. Phan Thiet and Nha Trang also boast 2 golf courses and are even more off the beaten track for those golfing in Vietnam.

Vietnam Golf & Country Club

I visited Vietnam Golf & Country Club last week after a long 3 year absence. We played the Lee Trevino West Course, which was in very good condition. Greens rolled about 9 or 10 and I forgot how undulated many of the putting surfaces were. In fact, the day we played I am sure the greens keeper had come to work with a hangover and wanted to get back at all of the golfers. Pin positions were more challenging than Sunday tournament ones with many of the pins on the crest of a hill or where the green transitioned from one tier to another. Needless to say, the sores in our group were well over each person’s handicap, which was mostly due to the frequent 3 and even some 4 putts.

After our round I checked out the championship East Course. Curse conditions were as good as or even slightly better than the West Course. The West Course has more of a park land feel to it with most holes framed by large trees. Greens are less challenging as they have only minor up and down variations.

Other than the golf course, we had the opportunity to use the clubhouse and have a meal after our round. Locker rooms were tidy and functional and my Vietnamese Pho was a delicious way to end my day. Overall we had a nice time and the visiting Vietnam golfers all had an enjoyable experience golfing in Saigon.

One thing to note was the weather. In spite of this being the rainy season and seeing many black clouds surrounding the golf course, we did not see a drop of rain during our 4 hour weekend round. Thanks to the golf club for accommodating our group.

What Makes Danang Golf Club So Special?

The Greg Norman designed Danang Golf Club is one of the most unique golf courses in Vietnam, if not all Asia. It is a fun and exciting golf challenge that every Vietnam golfer will appreciate.
The entire “rough” was intentionally left out and in its place are large sandy waste areas that were the original sand dunes before the golf course was built. Fairways are wide and there is hardly any water and no out of bounds. However, tee shots need to be well-struck to have par chances on the well-bunkered and undulated greens.  The Danang golf course is surrounded by Casuarina Pines, so miss left or right and you will be playing off pine needles over sand. In the latter case, forget about scoring well and be glad to get back to the fairway.

The other unique aspect of the Danang Golf Club is the wind. Most golf courses in tropical Asia and practically all other Vietnam golf courses play in relatively calm conditions. In fact, rarely does the wind affect the ball flight more than around 10 yards. However, playing right on the South China Sea (actually hole #16 is over the sea), the wind is often a major factor that comes into play with club and shot selection.  Many times late in the day winds can whip up to 30-40 miles per hour. This is welcome as far as the heat index goes, but the wind causes havoc even with well-struck golf shots. When combined with the firm and sloped greens, the wind makes play even more difficult.

Those accustomed to links style golf have an advantage. Low trajectory chip shots and Texas wedge style putting from the fringes and out into the fairways are good options in many circumstances at Danang Golf Club.  More like an Australia sand-belt links golf course, the Danang Golf club is something really special in Vietnam, if not all Asia.

Vietnam Golf Tour From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City

Golf in Vietnam is changing rapidly, growing and flourishing. After being virtually non existent for nearly 20 years (from 1975 to 1994) the country now boasts twenty top-quality courses with facilities to match. Today’s Vietnam golf scene is where Thailand’s golf scene was about 25 years ago: ready to take-off when it comes to unique golf holidays where you experience a vastly different culture.

Golfers can also choose tour packages from golf tour operators like Golfasian, Golforient, or Vietnam Golf Vacations. Recently Golfasian announced its new package: The Vietnam Golf Trail is a golf adventure across Vietnam, covering the top Vietnam golf destinations, as well as main cultural and historical sights and attractions.

Golfers on the Vietnam Golf Trail will start in the northern Vietnam capital of Hanoi and make their way south, stopping for golf and exploration in Halong Bay, Danang, Hoi An, Dalat, and Phan Thiet, before finishing in Ho Chi Minh City, the economic capital of the country and home to the widest selection of golf courses in Vietnam.

All of Vietnam’s top golf courses from north to south are included on the golf trail package. Those golf travelers who want to re-trace the steps of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, made famous during the American-Vietnam War, will take great pleasure during the stops at the famous battlefields and war sights at “China Beach,” Danang, Dalat, and Chu Chi. Others who want to learn first hand about Vietnamese civilization will be fascinated by village life that will be seen during stops in and around Hanoi, Hoi An, and Saigon.

There are so many good reasons to sample the wonders that Vietnam has to offer: from the breathtaking scenery to the excellent value of golf on non-crowded golf courses, Vietnam really is one of the undiscovered jewels of world golf.

Will Nha Trang Become Vietnam’s Best Golf Destination?

Long known as the best beach spot in Vietnam, Nha Trang now boasts 2 golf courses. Nha Trang is a clean and beautiful coastal city with local population of about 650,000. Scenic views of nearby islands are afforded form the entire city.  At this time, golf in Nha Trang not very developed, though that is fast changing with 2 golf courses in operation and many new hotels being built.

Vinpearl Golf Club is an 18-hole layout of 6.787 yards and part of the Vinpearl Resort on a small island in Nha Trang Bay. The course is spectacular and in itself worthy of a Nha Trang golf trip. In fact, I would bet Vinpearl wins the best golf course in Vietnam award this year, it is that good! Experienced club manager Joe Millar is at the helm, which assures that Vinpearl will get even better as time goes on. It takes one hour by car and speed boat from the Nha Trang airport to reach Vinpearl Golf Club.

Diamond Bay Resort & Golf is an Andy Dye designed championship layout. Diamond Bay plays along the South China Sea on one of Vietnam’s best beaches. Incredible views of Nha Trang Bay and early morning beauty of the fog-clad mountain in the distance make for great picture taking moment. Diamond Bay is easily reached from both Nha Trang City and airport in less than 30 minutes. Fourteen holes are playable now, and the others should be done by years end, or sooner.

Many new resorts are under construction in Nha Trang. The nest of the new bunch is the 4-star Novotel. The hotel is a hi-rise that tries to be resort style, and does reasonably well at it.  The property is directly across from the beach and within easy walking distance of many restaurants and clubs. The outstanding service makes this hotel shine above mist all of its neighbors.  For the more traditional and upmarket crowd the Ana Mandara (formerly Evanson) can’t be beat. The low rise beach resort that is directly the beach makes you feel like you are on a quiet and private tropical island.

Nha Trang can easily be reached from Saigon, Hanoi, and Danang. This makes it by far the most accessible Vietnam beach resort. Now it is only a matter of time until golfers also discover this relatively unheard of and definitely up-and-coming Vietnam golf destination.