Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries in South-East Asia. Its people are warm and welcoming, its history is fascinating, its food is epic and the landscapes are simply stunning. It is also one of the fastest-growing golf markets in the world.
The seatbelt signs were flashing like strobe lights as air hostesses rushed to secure food and beverage carts while the plane weaved its way through heavy, rain-filled clouds. Some passengers were noticeably nervous … But Beryl from Ballarat appeared to be having the time of her life – and she continued to tell this weary writer all about her first trip to Vietnam.
To be fair to Beryl and her husband Don, who had been asleep against the window of the 787 Dreamliner since we boarded, their week abroad did sound as though it had been rather special – and it had been capped by an interesting visit to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
As it turned out, the man sleeping through the turbulence had been one of the 60,000 Australians to serve in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. His health had been deteriorating since his 80th birthday, so he wanted to show his wife of nearly 50 years where he had spent his early adulthood while he was still able to do so.
Beryl was an excellent storyteller … But I had been listening to her for well over an hour and I could no longer keep myself awake. After all, I had just experienced an exceptional week of my own, playing some of the finest golf courses in central Vietnam; one of the fastest-growing golf regions in South East Asia.
In fact, Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing golf markets in the world ... According to the R&A’s latest Golf Around The World report, Vietnam currently has 78 golf courses with another 43 in various stages of development.
Our journey began 30 minutes south of Hoi An at the newly-opened Vinpearl Golf Nam Hoi An, which was completed in 2018 and is part of the adjoining five-star resort, featuring everything from tropical villas to theme parks and an on-site safari.
Designed by International Management Group (IMG) course architect Steve Shepherdson, Vinpearl is your quintessential resort course and caters for players of all abilities, providing five different teeing options. Its playing surfaces are already in superb condition – given it’s less than 12 months old – and it remains closed every Tuesday to allow grounds staff the freedom to complete any necessary maintenance work.
“According to the R&A’s latest Golf Around The World report, Vietnam currently has 78 golf courses with another 43 in various stages of development.”
The par-72, links-style layout stretches to 6,515 metres from the tips and features wide, strip-cut fairways, gently-rolling greens, white-sand bunkers and numerous water hazards dug into relatively flat terrain.
Put simply, Vinpearl, with its well-appointed clubhouse, friendly caddie service and grass-tee driving range, is doing exactly what it needs to do as one of the new kids on the block: It is providing visitors with terrific on-site facilities and 18 well-presented golf holes, some of which are truly memorable and deserve mentioning here.
The opening hole, which measures 369 metres from the tips, requires precision off the tee and is guarded by an intimidating waste bunker along its entire left flank. Should you manage to find the short grass with your drive, your next test will be to hit the slightly-elevated, kidney-shaped green and avoid the bunker to the right, which is all easier said than done of course – especially if you, like me, struggle to draw the ball.
Anyway. The best stretch of holes, for mine, begins at the par-5 7th.
The small putting surface of the 477-metre challenge is certainly reachable in two for
the longer hitters. But first, you will need to ensure your tee shot stays airborne over the 175-metre-long lake and avoids the two fairway traps and surrounding fir trees. Water, bunkers and shrubbery combine to bracket the lay-up area and tilted green, so the second shot becomes crucial in determining the score you will eventually pencil on your card.
Our group – which included the young, Sydney-based professional Andy Chu – was unanimous in saying this hole was one of the standouts for the entire trip. So, too, was the short one-shotter that followed.
The 144-metre par-3 8th presents an undulated green that is protected by two bunkers on either side. Hitting the large, paspalum putting surface shouldn’t prove too challenging – and you should be able to give yourself a decent look at birdie. But the sloping nature of the green could (and in our case, did) lead to its fair share of three-putts.
The outward nine concludes with an intimidating, 424-metre par-4, which demands a strong tee shot to be struck over water and between four fairway bunkers. One of the more difficult approach shots at Vinpearl then beckons, as the heavily-slanted green is adjacent to yet another lake … Par here would truly be an excellent score.
Before leaving Hoi An, you simply must head into the well-preserved Ancient Town, where you will discover iconic landmarks like the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Precious Heritage Museum, which contains striking portraits of the ethnic tribes of Vietnam, captured by French photographer, Réhahn.