with Robert Bicknell
Well, it seems that Viet Nam will have to wait a while longer to return to international-level professional golf. It might seem to a few that it's just another case of "SNAFU" or "Situation Normal" for short, but that's not the case this time.
In a nutshell, Asian professional golf, in general, has been suffering from a lack of quality sponsors with sufficiently deep pockets, so it's not just the proposed US$500,000 Volvik-Sky Lake Vietnam Masters which is delayed.
This is happening all over the region.
The Asian Tour website didn't list a reason, but it would be safe to assume the delay is a financial problem. Even the rival OneAsia Tour has cancelled a tournament, as well as the Singapore Open, which is a bigger surprise as that is a flagship event.
Another big name event, The Hong Kong Open, will be forced to go ahead without a title sponsor but, fortunately, the very deep-pocketed Hong Kong Golf Club will supposedly cover part of the prize money.
Despite golf's continued boom in Asia, the economic crisis continues to plague the region, so sponsors are not always easy to find, especially if there are no "big name" stars participating. To be honest, regional players simply do not generate much interest, except for the player's family and friends. Watching on TV is like watching paint dry.
However, there are a few bright spots, such as the Asian Tour adding a new event in the Philippines, the Resorts World Manila Masters in November, to the schedule.
In addition, The Asian Tour has been branching out into golf course and residential development and just recently unveiled its latest addition of "The Dalat at 1200, Country Club and Private Estate" by Centurion Group Development as their first Asian Tour Destination.
The Dalat at 1200 is the first property to become part of the newly established Asian Tour Destinations network which promises to offer a comprehensive range of facilities and services to their members and guests as well as Asian Tour players and officials.
Those of you familiar with golf in Viet Nam will recognize this project as the stalled "Royale City" club in Dalat, which was originally designed by Peter Rousseau (Van Tri, Twin Doves) until it ran into a cash shortage due to the global economic crisis.
The course will be redesigned by Asian golfing legend Kyi Hla Han, a former Asian Tour Order of Merit winner. This will be his first course design and will be combined with a 5,000sq.m clubhouse and 250 villas, styled with an architecture that is reminiscent of French country living.
The press release states that "In addition to bringing the Asian Tour into this market, both the Tour and The Dalat at 1200 are committed to the development of golf in Viet Nam and in particular to encourage more player development and foster junior player development.
"The Dalat at 1200 will also be home to the first Asian Tour Performance Golf Institute.
"The Asian Tour Performance Golf Institute will be focused primarily on being the Asian Tour players' home away from home, enabling them to practice and hone their game during and after the season. Its aim is also to provide the highest level of instruction to Club Members and developing professionals from Vietnam and overseas."
In many ways, this development makes sense as Da Lat provides the only climate in SE Asia which can handle Bent Grass greens, something that is vital to Asian players looking to compete someday on the US and European tours. The cool temps also make practicing a pleasure instead of a nightmare.
I, for one, am glad to see the Asian Tour taking an interest in spearheading efforts into junior golf in Viet Nam, something that has been sorely lacking for far too long. We hear a lot of talk in this area by many, but so far the actions don't match the hype.
Unfortunately, the economy remains at the mercy of global trends and the real estate market in Viet Nam is still hurting. Until these areas start to improve, we will continue to see slow growth in golf and trouble in finding corporate sponsors for local and regional tournaments.
The Dalat at 1200 project is expected to open in 2015. — VNS