with Robert Bicknell
Ah… back in the saddle again after a well-deserved holiday. A two-day jaunt to Vung Tau followed by a two-day golf tournament was a bit much for this old man… and it showed in my putting. Next time I'll let Stevie Wonder putt for me, he couldn't possibly do any worse than I did. Lesson one: if you don't practise, don't complain afterwards.
As mentioned, I had the opportunity to visit the newest Greg Norman-designed golf course project in Ho Tham, Vung Tau, known as "The Bluffs" before the holiday and it is something that you need to see for yourself to believe.
For a years, we have all heard about this project but, as always in Viet Nam, rumours run rampant. In this case, the hype lives up to beyond expectations.
First of all, these guys are deadly serious when it comes to their vision of a world class resort in Viet Nam. They have the vision, they have the experience, the resolve and, most importantly, the money to see it through to completion. To ensure the best quality golf course, they brought in Greg Norman who designed the number one club in the country – Danang GC.
Norman said that he designs courses for the terrain and doesn't buy into the concept of "cookie cutter" course designs where the GC Architect likes to have holes shaped a certain way at all their courses which gives you the feeling of "played one - played them all".
Well, I gotta tell you, The Bluffs has enough terrain changes to keep anyone awake through all 18 holes and without any water hazards on the course.
Yes, I said there are no water hazards on the course. With the ocean winds, the undulating terrain and heavy local vegetation coming into play on errant shots, it doesn't need water hazards. This course can defend itself.
When you look closely at the development of golf in Viet Nam from the beginning until today, you can easily spot where standards were brought to the next level. Tam Dao brought standards up from where they were for Kings Island, Song Be and VGCC. That was surpassed by Van Tri, which was passed by Montgomerie Links and then Danang GC.
The Greg Norman designed "Bluffs" course is the next step in the evolutionary ladder for golf in Viet Nam and, as to be expected from someone who is the Chairman of the Environmental Institute of Golf, this design will be a safe and friendly to the environment, not a hazard.
Golf courses, when properly constructed and maintained, are a benefit to the environment. Unfortunately, the operating word in that sentence is "properly" and not always applied, but Greg Norman demands that anything bearing his name is done "properly".
To ensure that it is done "properly", the owners have brought in GM -Ben Styles and GC Superintendent Ali Macfadden, the odd couple team which pushed Danang GC into the top golf course in the country – according to international golf magazines.
Besides being large enough to have his own personal gravitational field, Ben has a pretty good head on his shoulders. He knows what it takes to make a number one club and isn't afraid to tell the owners the truth.
I also had the opportunity to discuss the project with the chairman of the Board, Robert Wolfe, who sees the entire project as a marriage of a world class golf course with a world class resort and as a continual work in progress which will keep growing and helping to inspire more development in the area.
In short, this project is fully licensed and going forward at full speed and nothing short of an act of G-d is going to slow them down. They have a vision and the money to back it up.
The hotel itself is also amazing. At 541 rooms of the highest quality I have experienced, there is no hotel in Viet Nam which can compare to it.
Given all that I have seen at the resort, I cannot believe that they would be anything less than number one by the time they soft open in the 3rd quarter of this year or the full opening in early 2014.
And the truth is when they say they will be number one – they're not bluffing. — VNS