Snakes On Vietnam Golf Courses

Recently I heard from an Australian on one of our Vietnam golf tours about the large cobra he saw when golfing at Vietnam Country Club. Previously, I knew that many soldiers had suffered from snake bites while in Vietnam. However in the 50 years since, I had thought that snakes were all but eradicated. In fact, I have had only two snake encounters while golfing in Vietnam.

A few years ago golfing at Long Thanh my slice on the short par-4 17th of the landed near edge of the lake. When I went to check my lie, I saw a large snake basking in the sun next to my ball. Nevertheless, my Vietnamese caddie wooed the snake away and I was able to hit normally. Another time there a small garter snake off the fairway at Van Tri Golf Club in Hanoi. This time it was the snake who was more scared than I and he slithered away after hearing me approach.

Anyway, I thought I would do some research and, to my surprise, I discovered that over 3,000 people are bitten by snakes in Vietnam each year, though there are not many deaths. Venomous snakes in Vietnam include pit vipers, cobras and kraits.

Although all snakes seem terrifying, the reality of the situation is that the rare snake on a Vietnam golf course would only attack if provoked. Of course, if you accidentally stepped on one this might be taken as an act of aggression. Therefore, watch where you step and you will be fine. Also, did you know that many bites are what are known as dry bites, which means that the snake does not inject any venom? Most snake bite victims suffer more from shock than poison.

Therefore, there is no real need to be worried about snakes when you are golfing in Vietnam, just show respect and use caution.

What To Bring When Golfing In Vietnam

Golfing in Vietnam is different from golf in Europe and the USA and what to bring with you to the Vietnam golf courses is more than the obvious. Other than your clubs I suggest every Vietnam golfer be sure of the five following points before heading to the golf course.

1. Proper lightweight golf attire and socks. Everyone golfing in Vietnam should be aware of the warm tropical conditions. Therefore, to stay cool I wear a modern quick-dry collared golf shirt, knee length short pants, and no-show socks. Vietnam golf courses are more relaxed than those in other parts of the world, but the usual standards of dress still apply. Jeans and tee shirts are not allowed. Everything else is OK.

2. Shoes should be comfortable with soft spikes. Don’t buy and bring new golf shoes as the worst thing that can happen is for you to develop blisters while on the golf courses of Vietnam.

3. The sun can be deceptively strong. Bring and apply liberally a good sunscreen, wear a hat to limit the sun’s exposure on your head, carry a golf umbrella to ward off both sun, and bring a dry towel to wipe away any perspiration from your hands and face.

4. It is a good idea to bring and spray around your ankles and wrists with a mosquito repellent. Malaria poses no threat on Vietnam golf courses, but if you intend traveling outside the main centers or in the jungle make sure you are adequately protected. My favorite repellant is a natural liquid made from lemon grass oil. It smells good and works well too.

5. A good attitude, although strictly speaking not a material possession, it might just be the most important thing to bring along with you to golf in Vietnam golf. Remembering that you are on vacation to have fun will ensure that your Vietnam golf holiday will be one of, if not the most, memorable golf trip of your lifetime!

If you have any additional suggestions on essentials to bring with you while golfing in Vietnam, please do post a comment here or drop me an email at my Vietnam golf holiday company.

Vietnam Golf Resorts

There is a wide range of golf resorts available if you are considering a Vietnam golf tour and selecting the right one for you can make the difference between a merely good trip and one of the best golf trips of your life. From international 5-star hotels in downtown Saigon and Hanoi, to all-inclusive golf resorts with private beaches and spa facilities in Nha Trang and Danang, to basic guest houses and local hotels in every destination you will have every choice imaginable for your accommodations when golfing in Vietnam.

Selecting a suitable resort for you vacation is extremely important as it will form the base for your golf vacation as well as for the most part determine your overall trip cost. A very important factor to consider is that prices and standards of Vietnam resorts in general are more than likely to be superior and less expensive to similar resorts in your own country. This is due to a number of factors including fierce competition and significantly more service staff employed by each resort.

For example, I have found that many golfers look at a certain budget for accommodation then select a golf resort based on this amount. Many fine 4-star resorts are available for around US$100 per night, 5-star properties near to the golf courses going for US$200 per night, and private golf villas available for US$300 and up per night.

Another factor in resort selection is location. In Saigon you definitely should get something in District 1 so you can be close to shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. On the coast, this all inclusive Vinpearl Resort has its own golf course on a private island and both courses in Phan Thiet (Sea Links Golf & Country Club and Ocean Dunes Golf Club) have on-site accommodations that are attractive to many Vietnam golfers.

Further north in the Hue-Danang-Hoi An area, the accommodation choices are even wider. Many Asian’s like to stay in Danang where there are many inexpensive business hotels with attached spas and karaoke lounges. European and Australian golfers usually stay in Hoi An where there are good colonial hotels like Victoria and Hoi An Boutique resorts. My personal favorite however, is one of the upscale properties located on the beach between Danang and hoi An. The Fusion Maia with all inclusive spas and massages is great for golfers as are the private villas at The Ocean Villas and The Nam Hai.  If you want an all-inclusive golf resort away from the main tourist areas, then the Banyan Tree in Lang Co is a great choice as well.

Nowadays, the internet is a good place to research Vietnam golf resorts. Once you decide, check with a local Vietnam golf tour operator to provide you with specific golf and up-to-date information as well as favorable package pricing. A local tour operator will handle your golf needs and when something arises unexpectedly (as it always seems to when in Vietnam), then your tour operator will be there to help and assure the success of your Vietnam golf holiday.

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!

How to Select a Vietnam Golf Package?

The Vietnam golf season has begun and many are interested in golfing in the 2012 best golf destination in Asia-pacific this winter.

When arranging a Vietnam golf holiday, it is always wise to compare offerings from more than one tour operator. Unless getting quoted for exactly the same package, where upon the choice would purely be down to price, then care must be taken when evaluating the details of the trips being offered.

Tour operators offer packages consisting of golf, accommodation, and transportation. It is important to be clear what exactly is included.

For example, various category hotels may be mentioned to make one quote look like a particularly good deal, whereas the actual accommodation offered may be of a low standard. An example of this may the age of the hotel. With many new hotels in Vietnam catering for golfers, some longstanding favorite hotels now seem a bit tired and there is nothing worse than taking a Vietnam golf holiday and being disappointed with the resort.

Room styles can also have a big effect on price. In Vietnam, a superior room often is the lowest category, which can be misleading. Deluxe rooms are better, larger, and often have a balcony and sea view. Upgraded rooms can make a difference between an average Vietnam golf vacation and a great golf holiday.

Golf would seemingly be the most important point in any Vietnam golf trip. However, there are only a few golf courses in each Vietnam golf destination so usually this aspect of a golf tour is very similar from one package to the next. The only real factor is how far you are willing to drive between your hotel and each golf course. Normal commutes in Saigon are around one hour and Hanoi golf courses can be located up to two hours or longer from your hotel, depending on the traffic. The golf in Danang, Nha Trang, and Phan Thiet however is much different. Commutes in these seaside resorts are normally 30 minutes or less.

With regards to transportation, most companies provide private transfers using vehicles that accommodate 3-4 people. Try to clarify the exact type, age, and safety record of transport and driver that will be used. Vietnam golf tour operators will often use new mini-vans while generalist leisure companies may use sedans that have no space for golf clubs. Insist on getting the drivers telephone number ahead of time. This is important in the event of any transfer delays or when needing to return ahead of schedule.

Finally, make sure to inquire about the level of support available during the actual Vietnam golf holiday. When questions arise, it is always good to know who the contact person – morning, noon or night.

All of these points are relevant whilst evaluating a Vietnam golf tour offer. Cheaper is not always better. A golf package that provides the level of service to match preferences would be the best choice for most Vietnam golfers. A Vietnam golf holiday can be one of the best ever. Sticking to first principles, staying in top hotels, not traveling too far, using comfortable vehicles with easy to communicate with drivers is all that is needed to ensure a memorable golf vacation!

Vietnam Golf Etiquette

Vietnam is fast becoming one of the leading Asian golf destinations. There are now over 25 courses with new one’s opening on a regular basis. However, golf in Vietnam can be different to how golf is played elsewhere. Certain aspects of golf etiquette are unique and characteristic of a country that has special culture and customs.

Vietnam style is more relaxed when organizing things, and although this brings great joy to Vietnamese golfers it can also lead to great frustration for Vietnam golf holidaymakers. When in doubt, a simple smile and show of courtesy goes a long way to resolving any issues.

When playing golf in Vietnam remember you are a visitor and should give way to the local golfers. Golf is still a new sport here and Vietnam golfers are not so familiar with the etiquette that we have been taught. For example, I had never come across playing in a 5 ball before golfing in Asia. Vietnamese locals sometimes take 2 caddies each (one for the umbrella and one for the clubs) meaning there can as many as 15 people walking up every hole. This is quite a sight in fact.

Oftentimes, Vietnam golfers will not let other golfers play through as they are not so familiar with this golf concept. However, if they are playing slow a polite request may solve the problem. Getting frustrated and hitting balls into the group in front is certainly not the thing to do.

Caddies are a unique feature of Vietnam golf. They are predominantly female and perform many tasks in very tiring conditions. To get a great service always be courteous to a Vietnam caddy. Tips are greatly appreciated by the caddies with $15 US or more recommend for good service.

Call holes at par 3’s are also interesting. After all balls are on the green, caddies will mark each ball, then golfers stand aside and let the group behind play their tee shots. Afterwards the group on the green will putt-out. This is meant to speed up play, but it does not always work. Nevertheless, it is a local rule on many Vietnam golf courses and should be followed.

Refreshment kiosks that are located every 3 or 4 holes are a great Vietnam golf concept. However, do not fall behind the group in front when stopping for a drink or the groups behind may complain.
Being familiar with these quarks of golf in Vietnam and showing on course courtesy and politeness will go a long way to ensure success of all Vietnam golf holidays.

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 Tee Time Bookings

Many who golf in Vietnam like to book their own golf tee times. Here are a few tips to insure your golf in Vietnam proceeds well.

1. There are some excellent Vietnam golf courses and some that are more suitable for locals. The 3 best Vietnam golf courses for visitors are Danang Golf Club, Laguna Lang Co Golf Club, and Montgomerie Links Vietnam. All of the courses north of Hanoi and south of Saigon are probably better left to local golfers. The Saigon and Hanoi golf courses are good, but crowded.

2. When booking a Vietnam tee time, it is unlikely you will be able to make reservation on the Internet as none of the Vietnam golf courses are set-up for online bookings. Furthermore, all Vietnam golf courses require a written voucher to play. You should receive these in advance from the course itself. If not, your tee times may be given away to other players.

3. Phone the course the day before you are scheduled to play to be sure your tee times are confirmed and to avoid any double or missing bookings mistakes.

4. How do you plan to get to the golf course? Local taxis are cheap, but often the drivers do not know the location of the Vietnam golf courses and may not speak English. If the course is busy and you are late for your tee off time, chances are you will not be allowed to play. Hotel transportation is a good option, albeit expensive. Some golf courses have their own shuttle service, check when making your tee time booking.
5. Make sure there is no ongoing maintenance when you plan to golf at the course. Most Vietnam golf courses do not give any details or warnings regarding their greens coring. Phone the golf course ahead of time to check playing conditions. Better yet, get a Vietnamese speaking person to do this for you. He or she can speak directly with the superintendent as sometimes even the reception staff does not know.
These are some of my tips that you must be aware of whilst making your own Vietnam golf tee time bookings.

Of course you could avoid all of this completely and book your golf through a Vietnam golf tour agent that is set-up to handle everything in advance and ensure your golf in Vietnam goes smooth. Whichever path you choose, have fun and enjoy your golfing in Vietnam!

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!

Vietnam Golf Caddies

Playing golf with a Vietnamese caddie adds a whole new dimension to the game of golf and is an experience to remember for all Vietnam golf holidaymakers.

For anyone who has golfed in Thailand, then the famous Thai caddies would have been without doubt one of the best parts of your Thailand golf holiday. Golf in Vietnam is not much different. Caddies are compulsory on all Vietnam golf courses and are normally included in the cost of your green fee. At a price of around 15 US dollars a round, the caddie fee is higher than Thailand, but still a bargain.

In the main Vietnam golf locations the caddies will all be female and 20 to 30 years of age. Extremely helpful and with a great sense of pride, they generally come from poorer rural backgrounds and really appreciate the opportunity to be of service to you. At some remote courses you might find a male caddie mixed in and some of the females might be slightly older, but nevertheless, they still will provide excellent service.

If you did not book a specific caddie in advance, then your caddie will be assigned as you arrive at the course based on a number rotation system. She will attend to and look after your clubs until you are ready to play. At most courses, you have the option to use an electric golf cart or walk. If you choose to ride, then your caddie will drive your cart for you. If you choose to walk, then your caddie will use a pull trolley to walk the course with you.

You can even request two caddies if you want extra service. If so, let the starter know of your preference.  One caddie will be assigned to take care of your clubs, whilst the other caddie will keep an umbrella over you to provide shade, and a cool towel to wipe away any sweat from your brow. I see many wealthier Vietnamese local golfers going the two caddie route and the service is there for you too should you want to try it.

Enjoy your round and I am sure you will remember the unique and wonderful experience of Vietnam golf with a caddie.

Golf In Vietnam During Peak Season

Peak Vietnam golf season runs from January to March as the weather is cool and dry. Here are 2 tips to get the most enjoyment out of golfing in Vietnam.

1.    During peak season avoid playing on the weekends as the Vietnam golf courses can become very busy. This is when not only the tourists, but also the locals and expatriates like to get out on the course. This is particularly true in Saigon and Hanoi, and to a lesser degree in Danang, Nha Trang, and Dalat.

2.    Also, golf courses charge a weekend surcharge that is easily avoided if you schedule your Vietnam holiday golf on weekdays and use the weekends for sightseeing and relaxing.

The Best Time Of Year To Golf In Vietnam

Don’t be misled that the best time golf in Vietnam is during the peak season from January to April. While the weather is the best during these months, the courses are also the busiest and the prices are highest. Although May and June is hot, especially in Saigon, the weather is excellent in Danang and Hanoi. The courses are also quieter during this period as most of the Vietnam golf holidaymakers from Europe and the USA have long gone home.

July to September is summer and there are often daily late afternoon rain showers. The courses are also quiet during this period and the daily showers do not overly affect your game. Simply take a bit of shelter and relax, then within 30 minutes the rain will stop and you will be able to resume play.

October to December is very iffy. Several times a season strong typhoons slam into the central coast and golf can be washed out for as long as 3-4 days. Make sure you check the weather radar if you are planning a Vietnam golf trip during this period.

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.

Danang: How to Get There?

With three of the best Vietnam golf courses in operation by years end, how do you actually get to Danang? Most Vietnam golfers will arrive in Danang via connecting flights from either Saigon or Hanoi. This is convenient, but sometimes involves a long layover and or unnecessary baggage handling as you cannot through check bags to domestic flights in Vietnam. There are numerous daily non-stop flights to choose from.

However, there are some better options for travelling to Danang. My favorite is to fly from Siem Reap after combining a few days golfing in Cambodia. This option makes for a great multi-destination golf holiday and combines 2 wonderful golf destinations. The Silk Air flight operates non-stop 3 days a week. Be sure to schedule your trip on the day of the week to match!

Air Asia fly’s direct to Danang from Kuala Lumpur and while not the best airline for golfers (bags can cost more than people), it is a good route to avoid the domestic connection in Vietnam. Also, Kuala Lumpur has some good golf courses, but make sure you are there weekdays as the Malaysia golf courses are mainly for members, expensive, and busy on weekends.

In the near future there will be non-stop service to Danang from Bangkok. This will open up even more golf holiday possibilities as there is also great golf in Bangkok and the city is served by most major carriers. For those of you travelling direct to Danang, bags can be checked straight through and transiting in Bangkok is simple.

So now that the secret is out, why wait any longer. Hop on one of the flights mentioned above and play the best golf courses in Vietnam.