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.

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: 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.

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.

Hanoi or Saigon; Which Is Better For A Vietnam Golf Holiday?

Actually both Hanoi and Saigon are similar as far as golf destinations go, albeit some people prefer one Vietnam golf city better than the other. Here are a few of the reasons why.

 

Hanoi
Hanoi has 4 golf courses worth playing for the visiting Vietnam golfer.  Van Tri Golf Club is the best maintained and closest to the town. Chi Linh Star is an excellent layout, but it takes 2 or more hours to reach. This course can however be played on the way to or from Halong Bay, which is a must visit and one of the nicest natural wonders of the world.  Tam Dao is close to the Hanoi airport and good to play on the day of arrival or departure. Kings Island is probably the nicest all-round Hanoi golf course, especially the Mountain Course. Hanoi has several nice tours and I like the rickshaw ride around the Old Quarter the best. There is little though in the way of nightlife or entertainment.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Being the economic capital and well-known Vietnamese city, Saigon is the most frequent point of entry for Vietnam golf holidaymakers. There are 5 courses that Vietnam golfer visitors can play. All are around 75 minutes from town. My favorite is Long Thanh which has spectacular views of the Saigon skyline from the Hill Course.  Twin Doves is a sister course of Van Tri and always in good condition. There are many sightseeing options in and around Saigon. First time Vietnam visitors always enjoy an excursion to the Mekong Delta to see the traditional way of life of the people in this area. Vietnam golfers looking for some evening fun can usually find what they are looking for in the District 1 area, albeit Saigon has nothing like what is available in other cities such as Bangkok or even Phnom Penh.

In summary, Saigon is probably better for first time Vietnam golf visitors, while Hanoi is a good choice for those looking to combine golf and culture in one destination. If this is not enough to make up your mind, why not try a few days golfing in each city and decide for yourself?

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.

Vietnam Golf Travel Update May 2012

Customer service in Vietnam’s hospitality industry is fast improving.  You now see more smiles, better English speaking and understanding capabilities, and better understanding of how to serve Vietnam golf holidaymakers than even just 3-4 years ago.

There is a new government policy that all prices should be stated in Vietnamese Dong only, and other currencies should generally not be accepted.  Hotels and golf courses though still accept US dollars; however prices are often posted in Dong.

In the Saigon international airport terminal building, stores and restaurants quote prices in US Dollars (USD), and accept payment in both USD and Vietnamese Dong (VND).  But in the Domestic terminal building 200 meters away, prices are only quoted in VND, and vendors ONLY accept payment in VND.  Making it worse, there are NO money exchangers in the Domestic terminal and the ONLY ATM machine in the entire building is often out of service.  If you want something to eat or drink but do not have VND, you need to go back outside of the secure area, walk back to the International terminal, and either exchange money or use an ATM there.

Domestic travel between Vietnam golf destinations is all on Vietnam Airlines and golfers have to be concerned about golf bag costs. Checked luggage allowance is 20 kg.  Though the airline website does not state it and it may not be an ‘official policy’, the person at Saigon airport in charge of check-in said golf clubs are ignored for calculating luggage weight.  Otherwise overweight luggage is charged at $5 US per kg.  On my return trip I was 8 kg over the limit, but the check-in person only charged me for 4 kg.

Tourism and the tourism industry in Vietnam are developing fast. Vietnam golfers are advised to check with a Vietnam golf tour operator on the ground to find out the latest rules, regulations, and golf travel tips.