Greg Norman Designing Masterpiece Outside of Hanoi
Almost everyone who was alive in the 60s and 70s has an image of Vietnam that has remained embedded in the subconscious, and maybe for an American, that image is harder to erase than for most others. It was a terrible time, but the world moves on, with or without us, and we will leave behind, for the moment, all the should haves and shouldn’t haves, the yeas and nays of that tragic era. For now, rather, let us look at one aspect of the nation of Vietnam’s new face, the introduction of golf into the arresting natural scenery to be found throughout the country.
At last count, there are now dozens of golf courses in Vietnam. Those of us who are older must stop thinking in terms of North and South, but it’s perfectly fine to think in terms of northwest, southeast, etc. The Northern Province boasts the King’s Island Golf Resort, a thirty-six hole beauty, one course of which opened in 1993, the other in 2004. If you’re a fan of mountain courses, you might try a challenging but picturesque course barely 65 kilometers from Hanoi. The Song Be Golf Club is said to have been the first truly international course in the country, able to measure up to elite international tournaments. Long Than is said to have been judged the best course in Vietnam for many years, a mere forty minutes from the center of Saigon.
The secret about golf in Vietnam isn’t quite out, but it’s close to popping. People who really pay attention are already planning golf safaris in Southeast Asia, and the accompanying facilities are said to be top drawer for those seeking the ultimate in creature comforts.
The stock of golf in Vietnam, in addition to these fine venues, has just been notched up a peg or two by the entrance of a major player from the last generation of greats. Greg Norman has chosen, for his 87th design, a course on what is called The Bluffs, using the East Sea as an exquisite backdrop to a course that makes maximum use of the natural land, and heavily emphasizes the “least disturbing” approach.
The Bluffs is a beautiful example of links-style play, similar, in Norman’s mind, to his design of Doonbeg in Ireland. The course weaves its way around, over, and through the sand dunes adjacent to the Grand Ho Trom Resort in the Southeast, only two and one half hours from Ho Chi Minh City. The Bluffs opened to the sounds and sights of bagpipers playing on a gorgeous Vietnamese green in July of 2013, and the course has already garnered three nominations for Best Course in Vietnam, Best New Golf Course in Asia Pacific, and for the Best Superintendent.
In a show of internationalism, a group of major winners from the European and American tours joined Norman in an exhibition round. The general response of the players was that they could play the new gem every day without tiring of it.
The beauty of Vietnam’s new courses in the past two decades reflects a great sense of cultural beauty that underpins their inception, and Norman has created a work with elegant sweeping lines, natural properties of the land, and judging by the photos, precious little flat space on which to stand. Well, he promised that it would be beautiful, not easy.
It’s time to take Vietnam out of the freezer that some of our minds put it in years ago. It’s going to be one of the new meccas for those who love golf and travel mixed together. We’re going to see high-level tournaments there, and before long, a crop of professionals will be sent into the world of competition.