With the IAGTO Asian Golf Tourism Convention being hosted in the central Vietnam golf destination city of Da Nang (May 2017). It was too good an opportunity not to visit the country for the first time, and also to extend the trip with a holiday to see what Vietnam has to offer both on and off the golf course.
Montgomerie Links Golf Club – Da Nang
Da Nang is Vietnam’s 3rd largest city with a population of just over 1 million, it’s a mostly low rise city with the exception of a small strip along the river in the city centre and a few hotels on the beach.
Most peoples first thoughts of Vietnam are the conflict that encompassed the country for almost twenty years. Finally ending in 1975 there are still occasional remnants you will come across, but the country is certainly only looking forward these days.
Now the country has without doubt embraced its history and heritage with some amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites in central Vietnam. They certainly are a great draw for visitors, but you don’t need to go far out of town to see that rural life is very much as it’s been for hundreds of years. The locals genuinely do wear the famous conical hats out working in the fields, its not just for the tourist photos.
Walk (or bicycle as we did one day) through the rice paddy fields and you will be greeted by many a wave and smile from the local population, just because that’s what they do.
Although this is still a communist country there has been no shortage of investment in the area. A number of extremely high end hotel brands such as Banyan Tree and Four-seasons are now firmly established here, but also some good quality local run properties to suit every budget.
The costs for most things outside the international 5 star hotels is very low, even by Asian standards. A glass of local beer in a restaurant for 20p, the local Banh Mi (french bread) sandwich for £1 ( the perfect lunch and recommended) and dinner for two in a local restaurant for less than £10.
The region has a spanking brand new Airport at Da Nang, and in true Asian spirit it was opened slightly before it was finished. It is still pretty impressive and once its fully completed will allow a greater number of international connections.
The beaches along the coast line are as good as you will find anywhere in the world. To the north of Da Nang you find small secluded bays as the hills run straight to the coast line. To the south of Da Nang there is a coastal plain and 30 miles of unbroken beach with beautiful fine coral white sands.
Most are largely deserted apart from holiday makers, the locals come to the beach for the last hour or two of daylight when the suns strength is at its lowest. Unlike many places around the world you will not be harassed by beach sellers. Street sellers licences are strictly controlled in Vietnam and woe betide anyone without the correct permits.
All the beach front hotels have private sections of beach together with an array of infinity pools if sand is not your thing.
Away from the beach there is some amazing sightseeing to be done. My Son is an ancient ruined temple complex over 1400 years old in part and rediscovered by French explorers in the early 1900’s, now a UNESCO world heritage site and well worth a visit. Hue is the old capital and is home to a number of well preserved royal palaces and temples.
Hoi An (Another UNESCO World Heritage site) is 30 mins south of Da Nang, the old town has no motorised transport allowed during the majority of the day and night but really comes to life in the evenings when the towns traditional colourful lanterns are lit at sunset.
If you enjoy water sports (when you’re not golfing) then all the normal beach activities can be found at the hotels beach clubs, for snorkelling and scuba diving the nearby Cham Islands are certainly worth a visit. Approximately 1 hour from the coast finds a group of 7 islands which offer some very good diving and snorkelling between March and October. The best time for snorkelling is between June and August when the water is warm and crystal clear.
There are also a good selection of interesting days out, cycling tours can definitely be recommended and local cookery classes are a popular option where you buy all the ingredients at a local market then are taught to cook some of the delicious local foods by your chef.
Nearly all the hotels have excellent Spa facilities to pamper you after a hard day on the beach.
There are only currently four courses in the area, but you will be hard pressed to find four better Vietnam golf courses in the country. All have some spectacular holes and great designs, are in superb condition and have impressive clubhouses and facilities. Caddies are compulsory at all the courses as they are in many other Asian countries and generally were excellent but buggies are optional and worth having in the summer months
Newly opened in 2016, 25 km from Da Nang this great new course has a spectacular back drop of the local mountains. Water comes into play on a number of holes without dominating the course, look out for some excellent par 3’s from raised tee’s. This is one of Luke Donald’s first ventures into golf course design, measuring a massive 7,800 yards from the black tee’s its every bit a tour course, however with 5 different tee boxes the length can come down to a little over 5,100 yards so its playable and enjoyable for all levels of golfer.
Designed by Nick Faldo ( I am a big fan of his course design’s) this is a great technical course set in a beautiful beachfront location. The course has a very traditional links style layout with the 9th green being the furthest point from the clubhouse .
Many holes feature sandy waste area’s which certainly frame the features extremely well. You have to think off the tee to put your ball on the fairway.
There are some excellent short par 4’s and par 5’s which tempt you to go for the green in two, but they are very much risk and reward. The course runs along the beautiful beach for 5 holes although you can only see the sea for a short spell. Great fun to play even when your game isn’t on top form.
Par 71 and plays just under 7,000 yards of the back tees, however the ball runs extremely well on the sandy turf so plays slightly shorter off the tee.
A great Colin Montgomerie designed course. For anyone who has played his courses in Dubai or Turkey is sure to enjoy this course.
Although it’s classed locally as a links design, the course has tree lined fairways with the local pines, a number of lakes and a lot of very well placed bunkers. Some of the greens are quite tricky to read with subtle breaks so a good caddie here will save you a bag full of shots.
A very fair course, play well here and you will probably score well.
I didn’t have the opportunity to play the fourth Vietnam Golf course at Da Nang Golf Club. Designed by Greg Norman and is similar in looks to the nearby Montgomerie course, it has an excellent reputation and was the first course built in the area. The club also has a second course by Jack Nickalus Design currently under construction.
There is a vast selection of superb resorts along the 30 km beach front which stretches from Da Nang to Hoi An. Many are in the luxury hotel bracket, some of our recommendations include;
Premier Village Da Nang – Luxury beach front villa resort, great for families, good selection of restaurants on site and walking distance to local attractions.
Furama Resort Da Nang– One of the original 5* hotel complex on Da Nang beach, still a stunning location.
Fusion Maia Da Nang – Top quality boutique all pool villa resort, inclusive spa and amazing accommodation.
Naman Retreat – Boutique resort with some unique bamboo architecture, quality spa and beachfront location.
For the more budget traveller
Holiday Beach Da Nang – Traditional beachfront 4* hotel, beach club, Spa and rooftop pool. New wing currently under construction 2017.
Further south in the historic town of Hoi An, the following properties are a short stroll into the UNESCO old town.
Anantara Hoi An Resort – Classy colonial 5* hotel on the river front in historic Hoi An, 10 minute stroll to the UNESCO old town.
Green Heaven Resort Hoi An Budget 3* hotel centrally located on the river front 5 minute walk from the Japanese Bridge, great selection of local bars and restaurants close by. Great value for money.
If you would like a super luxury beachfront hotel, I would recommend the Banyan Resort adjacent to the Laguna Lang co golf club. Amazing spa and a secluded private bay location makes this a popular choice for honeymooners and those special anniversaries.
There are definite regional variations in the climate. The South of Vietnam is a tropical climate the same as Thailand or Malaysia. Hot all year round with a distinct rainy season mainly influenced by the South West Monsoon from May to October. Central Vietnam has a good year round climate as its sheltered from the South West Monsoon by mountains but its best to avoid in September and October as these months have the greatest risk of typhoons. Summer temperatures are in the mid to high 30’s C, during our winter months 18-22c is more normal. For the travelling European golfer December to May gives some of the best conditions for Vietnam golf.
The north of Vietnam has a much cooler winter (as low a 5c at night in Hanoi in the winter) and generally has more rainy days than the central and South of the country.
Vietnam is perfect for a 2 or 3 centre holiday, the north of Vietnam capital city is Hanoi, an entry point for most long haul flights and worth the visit in its own right. Like any capital city its traffic is its biggest problem. A couple of hours out of Hanoi is the spectacular Halong Bay, and is a must on your Vietnam trip itinerary. Its best viewed while staying on a boat for one or two nights, it’s a popular trip and well worth it to see one of the worlds most famous bays and its hundreds of limestone islands.
South Vietnam’s main city is Ho Chi Min, although it’s still widely referred to as Saigon by many and is situated on the Mekong river delta. There are plenty of sightseeing opportunities in the city and in the regions local culture. Relaxation on the island beaches of Phu Quoc is also a popular option.
Vietnam’s internal flight network make travelling between the three regions extremely easy and flexible and avoids those long road trips.
If you want to extend your golfing outside of Da Nang the good news is Vietnam golf has currently over 35 international standard courses around the country with close on the same number currently under construction or in the planning stage.
Da Nang Golf Club – designed by Greg Norman
As a golf destination you certainly will not be disappointed, if you have played golf in Thailand then expect a similar experience. As most of the courses have been constructed over the last few years by the worlds top designers the courses are extremely good and currently not overplayed. Caddies are included and buggies are optional on most courses but recommended while playing during the hotter months. It’s a perfect destination to sight see, relax and play some golf, but it’s a wonderful destination for non golfers or as a general holiday. With a great standard of hotel accommodation and fascinating tours to keep you occupied away from the golf course it’s an excellent holiday destination.
Vietnam is also a great destination to combine with a South East Asia city stopover, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong, all have direct flights so it makes a perfect combination
We personally loved Vietnam and it certainly wont be to long before we are returning there to explore more of this fascinating country.
Quality Golf’s Rob Matthews at Ba Na Hills Golf Club, Caddies at Laguna Lang Co Golf club, Local fishermen on the river near Hoi An