Teed Off (27-05-2012)
with Robert Bicknell
Well, I finally got my fat butt down the mountain to go and visit Joe Millar at his new course, VinPearl, in Nha Trang and it was well worth the effort.
First of all, I was greeted at reception by some of my old Diamond Bay staff who have obviously gone on to bigger and better things, which is nice to see. From there, it was a high speed boat ride to the VinPearl island and I was definitely having a "Miami Vice" moment. Ice blue water, wind in the hair, sun on the face and jumping a few waves. Normally, it doesn't get much better than this, but in this case, it did.
The clubhouse itself was a little small compared to today's standards, but very functional and comfortable. In fairness, you have to remember that the VinPearl golf course is just one part of a massive project and most players stay at the hotel, so a huge clubhouse really isn't necessary.
Joe Millar, whom you might remember from Kings' Island / Do Son, is the GM and he brought a few key staffs from other course to ensure the operation is smooth and seamless.
All in all, he did a damn good job there.
The course itself is Par 71 with a lot of elevation changes and the wind plays a major role in club selection and ball flight. On some holes, where I would normally hit a 7-iron, I found myself hitting 5-iron stingers to stay under the wind.
Of course, this works both ways as there was a downhill Par 5 that I played with a driver and a pitching wedge. Yes, it feels really cool to be "Happy Gilmore" for a brief moment in time. If I could do that on ever Par 5, golf would be a very easy game.
But not half as much fun, nor nearly as satisfying.
As most of the long time readers of this column know by now, I'm not really happy unless I have something to bitch, whine and complain about. So you can imagine my frustration when I couldn't find one bad hole out there. Each one was designed, shaped and maintained exquisitely.
OK, the greens weren't as fast as I am used to, but then again, I've been living in Da Lat for the last six months and, no matter how you try, warm season turf simply cannot produce faster green speeds than bent grass.
Yet, the greens putted very true. Figure out the break and speed then pull the trigger.
Joe Millar is also a lot of fun to play with, especially when there aren't a lot of bets riding on the outcome and while I thought I have heard everything during my 20 years in Viet Nam, his description of monkeys getting into his kitchen had us laughing for a few holes.
I couldn't help imagining him getting a phone call in the middle of the afternoon from one of the monkeys complaining he was out of beer and peanuts. Coming home and finding them drinking his beer, smoking cigars and watching Animal Planet.
C'mon…the visuals are hilarious.
After the game, I had an opportunity to get together with some old friends from my time at Diamond Bay. I love being with these guys. They're very natural and down to earth.
But then again, after too many shots of Chivas 18, even Idi Amin would seem down to earth. But I would recommend against drinking and then trying to make it back up the mountain to Da Lat. With all the twist and turns, most of them blind hairpins, trust me when I say it becomes an "E-ticket" style ride in the best Disney World fashion.
In some ways, I really miss working in Nha Trang. There's just something about blue ocean and warm breezes which make my knees and back feel better.
However, Da Lat is also pretty good and with two more courses under construction, this town could become a golf tourist destination.
Bottom line, if you want a holiday for the entire family, visit VinPearl in Nha Trang. My wife, daughter and I had a great time there before at the aquarium. Now that there is a great course, there is something for everyone in the family.
Oh, yeah…I forgot. They also have monkeys riding bicycles… — VNS