Heather and I identified Vietnam, and Danang in particular as an emerging golf and sightseeing destination five years or more ago, and headed off to a reconnaissance trip to Danang and surrounds for 5 days.
We found world class golf, accommodation, beaches, plus history, sightseeing and a very welcoming local community.
Since then Vietnam has become an increasingly popular destination for our clients…
In the last year or so the success of the Danang area in terms of golf tourism, and the measured permitting process put in place by the Vietnamese government for golf development has resulted in an explosion of new high end golf products coming on to the market.
So it was time to head back to Vietnam for another reconnaissance trip to work out which of these new places are worth sending our clients to, what other sightseeing is worthwhile, and how we should put it all together.
Follow us on Facebook as we do our homework and see what conclusions we come to!
Our first stop on this trip was The Bluffs GC, located 82kms south east of Ho Chi Minh City. It takes about 2 1/2 hours by road transfer, depending on traffic conditions.
The Bluffs GC was designed by Greg Norman and is routed through massive sand dunes or ‘Bluffs’ with outstanding views of the beach below on the Ho Tram strip. Many regard The Bluffs as the best course in Vietnam.
We stayed in the associated Grand Hotel, a high end hotel with attached casino, and a nice French restaurant…
The course was great fun to play and has a number of exciting holes with skyline greens. One round here is not enough, so we intend to schedule two rounds for all who venture this way.
However whilst many would like to visit The Bluffs, the road transfer and the lack of courses in the area was a factor we needed to work through.
So on our way back to the big smoke in HCMC we dropped in and played the Hill Course at Long Thanh. It proved to be a very nice surprise. The 2 courses here were designed by Ronald Fream from Golfplan, and with the Hill Course he has used the natural features of the site wonderfully well- gorges, tropical vegetation, lakes, elevation change- all add to the drama of the round. We really enjoyed the course, and plan to use it as the golfing link to The Bluffs ex HCMC.
We also checked out the private members course at Twin Doves, just north of HCMC, but came to the conclusion that although it was a significant members facility- that the course really was not somewhere we thought special enough to send international visitors to.
After golf we made the long road journey to The Mekong Delta where we enjoyed a part day tour to Unicorn Island, and experienced the different local offerings including honey tea, coconut candy, local musicians, and a small boat journey in the local streams.
We concluded that a visit to the Mekong was a viable and indeed a worthwhile addition to our southern Vietnam tours!
After leaving Ho Chi Minh City we flew to the former french retreat at Dalat where we spent two nights at the oldest building in the area- the Dalat Place Luxury Hotel ( dating from 1920 ).
Our first stop was the newish ‘The Dalat at 1200’ Golf Course. We had no expectations, but were blown away by what we found. The first 4 holes would have to be amongst the most dramatic starts anywhere in golf with very elevated tees, big elevation changes through the holes, dramatic large white sand splash bunkers, rocky creeks, and impressive green complexes. The last 4 holes were of similar standard, and there were some ripping holes in between. This is a golfing destination we would definitely like to bring our clients to, and something to remember.
After we had finished our round we headed out again with Louie the fly and captured some nice aerial shots of those early holes
That night we checked out the french cuisine just down the road from our hotel. Merci Beacoups!
We got going early on Saturday- a brilliant sunny day in Dalat. We played the famous Dalat Palace GC- until recently regarded as the best course in Vietnam. It was Vietnam meets Japan meets Augusta, with mature pine trees, rolling terrain, many big water carries, and colourful shrubbery.
After lunch we hit the ground running- on a mission to see all the sightseeing highlights of Dalat- but first we checked out another golf course- the brand new Sacom GC. It was OK.
Then we visited the Buddha temple ( Truc Lam ), the famous local railway station, The CRAZY house, and the glass and porcelain temples/pagodas ( Line Phuoc )…
Lots to see and do, and definitely a place to return to!
Next stop on the whirlwind Viet reconnaissance trip was Danang- known as The Golf Coast. We had done our homework here 5 years ago, and it was nice to come back again for the third time. This time we were here specifically to attend a Golf Tour Operator conference. On landing, we took the opportunity to renew our acquaintance with Greg Norman’s Danang GC, the best course in the area. It was in great shape, but Rory playing off the championship tees made light work of it. We had the chance to get ‘louie the fly’ airborn, and got some great footage.
Next was the golf tour operators conference in Danang. Our focus this year was to meet golf clubs, hotels and other suppliers from Vietnam, and network with other tour operators. Other countries we concentrated on included Japan, India, New Zealand, Oregon, Hawaii, England... the list goes on!
Well after a big day at the conference with a very early start, our manager declared our first break for the week and introduced me to a Long Island iced tea. Whoa!
A quick dip and we are off again- no rest for the wicked!
On the final day of the conference we played in a tournament at the classy Montgomerie Links, on the beach at Danang. It has a bit of a sand belt feel, and was in great shape. They even tucked away all the pins to make life interesting for us. Our team came second courtesy of a red hot start from Rory who birdied 5 of the first 6.
After the conference we participated in a 2 day familiarisation trip we where we check out hotels and play a couple of golf courses.
Yes, It is a hard life, sometimes, but hey- someone's gotta do it!
On Thursday we headed up in the hills 30 mins from Danang to the brand new Ba Na Hills GC, the first design by Luke Donald.
It is in the hills, and has a lot of elevation change- there are some very dramatic holes. And it has lights!
I think I will recommend clients play the back nine late afternoon, and the front nine under lights, and largely avoid the heat...
Thursday night we headed into old Hoi An town for a wander around, and then dinner- it's a lovely spot.
On Friday we headed an hour north to Laguna Lang Co, a Nick Faldo course in a luxury resort setting right on the beach. I had played here before so I spent much of my time sending "louie the fly' up to get aerials- hopefully I can really show you guys what it looks like...
Laguna has some magic holes in the middle of the round where the course winds through deep jungle, over creeks, and bridges, and through a minefield of bunkers. It's good stuff!
Friday night we finished up our conference commitments with dinner at Fusion Maia- possibly my favourite hotel in the world. It's right on China Beach, has a number of wonderful dining options, beautiful pool villas, and 2 spa treatments per day included in the package..
At The Travelling Golfer we take our reconnaissance trips seriously, and after finishing up in Danang, I was going in deep....
Flying solo, I was driven 6-7 hrs south of Danang to Quy Nhon, where the two new courses are considered by some to be possibly the best complex in Asia, and the associated town and beach are memorable.
We would soon see!
Well, I never thought it was going to an easy day, and it wasn't. Sometimes this job just isn't as glamorous as it is cracked up to be. Luxury van with internet- what could go wrong?
My first surprise was hopping in the van to find the driver had brought his wife and teenage children!
But 3 hours in to the journey the daughter moved up front and got very very car sick- so we had a few stops along the way, and she spent most of the trip with her head out the window...
Shortly after the car starting beeping- something was amiss. We stopped to check the doors, and everything else he could think of- rang for help, got suggestions, stopped again to check, and off we went again with constant beeping. At this stage my noise reduction ear plugs became a necessity.
Five hours in we started to waver at each intersection as to which way to go. But we had internet and with good 'ol google maps I was able to contribute to the navigation as we crept ever closer to our destination. But we still missed 3 turns and had to retrace.
By mid afternoon I was getting a little peckish, so my back up muesli bar, and water were a godsend. As we worked through the different turns at the end, the driver let me know he had never been more than an hour from his home city, so this was an enormous effort for him.
Then it all turned pear shaped when his wife in the back seat got extremely car sick in the car. He didn't stop- just kept the foot down and got me to FLC Quy Nhon.
It was a momentous journey. They were a lovely family, and mortified at what had transpired. I gave them a big tip- they were going to drive back to Danang straight away!
But, having made it to FLC Quy Nhon, I gotta say it does look good!
FLC Beach & Golf Resort at Quy Nhon is sited on an extensive sandy beachside site, where they have built a luxury hotel, resort, convention centre, 2 golf courses, 400 villas etc...
The beach was gorgeous, the facilities were shiny new, and my job was to assess the golf courses and everything else to work out whether people should go there. With temperatures in the high 30's and high humidity it was cart golf for me!
The first course I played was The Mountain Course designed by Schmidt Curley of Mission Hills fame. It was a good course with great views, interesting green complexes and lots of elevation change.
So far so good.
The hotel was very nice, and every room has views down the extensive beach
For dinner I went to the European restaurant in the resort- I had been eating a lot of Vietnamese food- so I thought to change it up. It was gourmet! A brilliant meal- and I had it all to myself- no one else in the restaurant but me...
On day 2 at Quy Nhon ( pronounced Hwee Non ) I played the Ocean Course by Nicklaus Design. OMG!
Magnificent rolling dunes land in mature pine trees with Ocean views..
It almost has that pine valley look in places, without as many forced carries. The bunkering throughout looks like it was always there, and is bold and beautiful. The carpets of fairways rock' n' roll, and are reasonably tight. There is no rough as such- the fairways give way to pine straw near the tree line. The course looks a million dollars, plays harder than most resort courses I have seen, but I was very very impressed.
The Ocean Course at Quy Nhon is possibly the best course in Vietnam, maybe even SE Asia!
I sent 'Louie the fly' up after golf and got some nice footage, then headed to the alluring Nhon Ly Beach.
With a new international airport in the works, I will be coming back to Quy Nhon!
For information on golf tours in Vietnam see Destinations: Vietnam. Please note that we are more than happy to tailor a tour to suit your group