with Robert Bicknell
A few months ago, I mentioned that the clubs in Da Lat will have to either work together to develop the mountain top as a golf tourist destination, or die individually.
Well, it seems that the courses in Da Nang had the exact same thought and have actually created the new "Golf Coast Viet Nam" destination-marketing group, which will seek to attract golf tourists from regional Asian markets and further afield, especially Australia, New Zealand and western Europe.
Da Nang has a huge advantage over other locations in Viet Nam due to the wonderful beaches and climate. Having courses designed by Greg Norman, Colin Montgomerie and Sir Nick Faldo certainly doesn't hurt either. With names like that, you are almost guaranteed a quality course.
Montgomerie Links, a course which has the ability to drive me nuts at times, was named last year for the second year in succession as Viet Nam's best golf course. In the past three years its immaculate grooming, playability and presentation have won widespread acclaim, including from me.
Right next door is Da Nang Golf Club's Dunes course, designed by Greg Norman, which opened in 2010. As one of 73 Norman-designed courses in play around the world, the links layout built between sand dunes ranks among his best, and was named last year as Viet Nam's best new course and it's well deserved in my view.
Something I cannot wait for is that within the next six months, a third course – Laguna Lang Co, designed by Sir Nick Faldo – will open north of Da Nang . This course will wind through woodlands, wetlands and rice paddy to the beach mid-way between Da Nang and Hue.
The golf pedigrees of the three designers could not be better. Montgomerie, with 41 professional wins, has been a world Top 10 player, a successful Ryder Cup captain and unparalleled ambassador for golf around the world. Norman, with 88 pro victories and two British Opens, was world number one for 331 weeks – second only to Tiger Woods. Faldo, with three Masters and three British Opens, is easily England's finest player of the modern era, with 40 pro wins and 97 weeks as world number one – third behind The Shark.
Also coming on board for the launch of Golf Coast Viet Nam is the Hyatt Regency Da Nang Resort and Spa, an exquisite five-star beach front property, which is close to both courses. It is Hyatt's first resort in Viet Nam and only the second Hyatt property in the country.
And Southeast Asia's leading dedicated inbound golf tourism operator Golfasian – through its Viet Nam subsidiary company Golfasian Viet Nam – has been appointed the exclusive tour operator for the new group.
Adding to the attraction of Da Nang is the imminent opening of a new international airport that is already attracting more direct flights into the city. Last December, Air Asia began flying direct to Da Nang from Kuala Lumpur, joining Silk Air services from Singapore, and Asiana and Korean Air from Seoul. Air Asia is also expected to start flying direct from Bangkok in the near future, while there are numerous daily connections from Ho Chi Minh and Ha Noi.
The general manager of Da Nang Golf Club, Ben Styles, says the Golf Coast Viet Nam marketing group brings something new to the golf tourism industry.
"At Da Nang Golf Club, golfers are tested with a true links layout, rolling through sand dunes and ultimately within yards of the shoreline on our signature 16th hole that is backdropped by the lapping ocean and Cham Islands. It offers a stark contrast to the resort style of Montgomerie Links, leaving golfers well satisfied that they have experienced two championship courses.
"Combine these two courses with the soon-to-be-opened Faldo-designed Laguna Lang Co and Ba Na Hills by Luke Donald, Da Nang will surely be the finest golfing destination in the region, if not globally."
Tim Haddon, director of golf at Laguna Phuket, who is overseeing the Lang Co development, says the new course will offer a links-style feel among an interesting mix of landscapes. "It's a reflection of Nick Faldo's experiences around the world and combined with the other two courses in Golf Coast Viet Nam will be an added bonus to golf in the region as well as the whole country."
It looks like things are about to get very interesting in Da Nang!
Many thanks to Golf Coast Viet Nam and Golf Asian for assistance with this column! — VNS