Teed Off (Dec. 15, 2013)
with Robert Bicknell
I kinda dread this time of year.
All the streets are decorated, colored lights strung around buildings and through the trees, holiday music blasting from storefronts…that much I enjoy. It's the inevitable "are you going to be around over the holidays?" question that I can do without.
Of course I'm going to be here. I have nowhere else to go. Come to think of it, I haven't been back home (USA) since 2006 and that was only my fifth time back there in 30 years and it's never around this time of year because I hate snow and ice.
I envy those who return home to Thailand, Cambodia or places within a short four hour flight because, for me, it would be 30-plus hours of agony. I cannot fly coach because of my back (ever meet a golf pro who didn't have a bad back?) and biz-class is too expensive.
So, I am here for the holidays, but "here" isn't really "home" except for the fact that I have lived here for 21 years, own a home, have a wife and daughter, coached two national golf teams and taught literally hundreds of people how to play golf while managing the top golf courses in the country and paying a lot of taxes.
But I am still a foreigner - it says so on my visa and, to be honest, that sucks. There should be some provision for extremely long-term expats to make life a bit easier. Maybe just a small adjustment to the law to give us some recognition and to make us feel less like "foreigners".
As you can see, I'm not thrilled with this time of year. I'm depressed and it shows.
In the old days, I would pick up my clubs and head out to the golf course for a round or two, but I'm not managing golf courses anymore, so it's not so simple. Now I have to organize transportation, find a course who gives professional courtesy and hope some friends are free to play with me.
I miss the old days.
Still, Viet Nam can be a great place to be during the holidays if you have all the above. Golf in the north can make it feel more like Christmas due to the cooler temperatures. I had many rounds at Tam Dao, Kings' Island and Van Tri during the holiday season over the last 21 years and it was always quite nice. If the heat of the south is getting to you, you might want to consider a trip to Ha Noi.
If you're in the south and don't want to travel that far, you can always go to Da Lat which is a bit cold at night and seasonably cool during the day. I recommend you bring a sweater vest for your round of golf because when the sun is out, it gets warm, but the moment the sun goes behind a cloud the temperature drops like a stone. As Da Lat has the annual flower festival coming up, I'd recommend booking early. Dalat Palace GC still has 18 holes, Sacom-Tuyen Lam has a wonderful 9-holes open and, of course, Royal City has an awesome 9-holes.
If you're a northerner wanting to get away from the cold, or a southerner wanting to get away from the city, there is always Da Nang and Nha Trang waiting to greet you.
I cannot say enough about Danang GC and Montgomerie Links. They are the two top courses in Viet Nam and always enjoyable to play. Laguna Lang Co is also open and receiving rave reviews, so Da Nang should be top on your list.
In Nha Trang, you have the newly completed 18 holes at Diamond Bay which is framed by the incredibly blue ocean and, of course, the firmly established VinPearl Golf Course, which is a wonderful getaway for the entire family. My daughter still raves about the aquarium.
So, while I might bitch, moan and complain about things, Viet Nam is still an awesome place to live and visit and we are fortunate to have so many great choices for golf.
Take the family and have a good time.
As for me, with any luck, I'll be able to ride my motorcycle on a nice long trip… — VNS