A Golf Trip to Vietnam
Hoiana Shores

A Golf Trip to Vietnam

LINKS Magazine

Over the past 20 years, Vietnam has become one of the world’s fastest-growing golf destinations. About twice the size of Florida, with landscapes ranging from mountains to jungle to beaches, Vietnam offers a variety of golf experiences that are unique to its Indochina locale. And after your rounds, you’ve got one of the world’s most exotic lands as your 19th hole, brimming with historic temples, UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the ones at Ha Long Bay and Hoi An Ancient Town, and bustling provincial cities with more restaurants and nightspots than you can shake a chopstick at.

From Hanoi in the more temperate north to Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. Saigon) in the tropical south, and all along Vietnam’s South China Sea shoreline, modern resorts lure visitors with rousing courses from some of golf’s top architects. Expect five-star service, excellent course conditions, cheerful female caddies wearing conical sun hats, and palatial clubhouses with extensive dining options (and equally impressive wine lists). You’ll want to avoid the rainy season (generally between May and October); visit in the spring or fall when you’re less likely to have to play in an actual monsoon.

Sitting at one of the sidewalk cafés that crowd the alleyways of Hanoi’s teeming Old Quarter, it’s hard to imagine that just 45 miles away is a golf course that’s as bucolic as they come. While the urban masses are hurrying off in the city’s ubiquitous xích lô pedicabs to get an egg coffee and bowl of pho for breakfast, visitors to Kim Ba’ng Stone Valley are hopping in golf carts and teeing off in a tropical jungle setting that’s right out of a King Kong movie—literally. It’s the kind of sharp contrast you’ll experience throughout Vietnam.

Much of Vietnam’s golf course development has happened along its central coast near Da Nang, beginning in 2009 with Montgomerie Links—a heavily bunkered inland course in Qua’ng Nam with deftly contoured fairways bordered by casuarina pines. Nearby, the Greg Norman-designed Dunes Course at the BRG Da Nang Resort has the feel of the Australian Sandbelt, while the resort’s Nicklaus Course is routed through lake and paddy fields and, like many Vietnamese courses, has lights for playing at night when temperatures run cooler.

At Laguna Golf Lang Co, the rumpled fairways of the links-style Nick Faldo course are sandwiched between mountains and shore. Nearby, Ba Na Hills is a Luke Donald design whose primordial back nine occupies some of Vietnam’s most dramatic mountain terrain. The must-play track in the area is Robert Trent Jones II’s Hoiana Shores, a dunesland winner with imaginative bunkering and sweeping views of the sea.

Farther south in Quy Nhon, the massive FLC Beach & Golf Resort’s Mountain and Ocean Courses both inspire a visit. Brian Curley’s Mountain Course features creative centerline hazards and panoramic views of the beach from 16 of its 18 holes. Don’t miss the chance to take in the fishing village at Nhon Ly and the famous Eo Gio beach, where rock-faced mountains tumble straight into an electric blue sea.

Finally, there’s Bluffs Ho Tram Strip, three hours southeast of booming Saigon on the windy southern coast. Norman was at it again here, and this links-style track may be Vietnam golf’s brightest star. It zigzags through towering dunes reminiscent of the giants in northwest Ireland, and there’s a surprising amount of elevation change for a seaside course, along with do-or-die green sites.