with Robert Bicknell
They weren't bluffing…
I had the opportunity last week of playing the full 18 holes of the new "Bluffs" golf course in Ho Tram, which is around two hours from HCM City if you take the new highway and I gotta tell you, it was worth waiting for.
This course should automatically become number one in Viet Nam and Top 10 in Asia. I would even go so far as to predict it could land in the Top 100 of the world.
Yes, it IS that damn good.
If forced to pick only one golf course to play for the rest of my life, this would be the one and I'd never get bored because, while the layout is spectacular - as is the scenery - the wind is what makes this course different from hole to hole, day to day, minute to minute. It keeps you on your toes and focused. Start daydreaming and this course will rise up to take a chunk out of your ego.
At 7007 yards from the tips, you wouldn't think it long, but it is because it's a Par 71 and features three par 5's over 600 yards each (the longest being 651 yards) and includes a par 3 measuring 257 yards with a gaping bunker / waste area guarding the left front of the green.
Playing into the wind, if you don't hit the correct shot, you're in trouble. One long-hitting pro who played that weekend actually couldn't reach the fairway on one hole! You have to know how to play wind-cheaters and also how to use the wind to your advantage when the situation arises.
If you try to play from the tips (pro tees), you better be either a professional or certifiably nuts because this course is a monster from back there and will quickly separate the wanna-be's from the real players.
However, if you play from the correct tee box for your handicap / skill level, you will find The Bluffs to be a challenging, yet fair and enjoyable test of your skill. Hit a good shot and you'll be rewarded, but hit a poor one and you will pay the price for your transgressions.
Playing the course is sort of like playing blackjack in the casino... Hit on 15 or 16 at your own peril. I would make a poker comparison but you cannot bluff this course. It will call you on it every time and have no mercy.
Personally, I can easily see this course hosting major tournaments and not being worried of the big bag guys going super low because it won't happen. The winning score would probably be maybe six-under par, but not too much lower than that - especially when the greens are running at 12 or so.
Imagine the British Open ("The Open" for you purists) with the same windy conditions, but without the rain and freezing temps.
Before The Bluffs opened, Da Nang GC was the one to beat. An earlier Greg Norman design, it remains one of my favorite courses in not only Viet Nam, but anywhere. A superb design and definitely a championship tournament course. However, The Shark really outdid himself on the Bluffs and might be his best design to date.
The Grand hotel, has 550 rooms, seven restaurants, a lounge with live entertainment, a fully equipped gym, top of the line spa and, of course, a world class casino. This hotel and resort has everything to keep even the most jaded traveler happy.
Unfortunately, time didn't permit for me to take a dip in the pool, although I really would have liked to. Instead, I headed for the ocean where the water was surprisingly warm, even for this time of year.
The Bluffs is allowing limited play on the full 18 as part of its "preview" period. Sort of like a soft-soft opening, with the grand opening scheduled for August (if I remember correctly).
I have heard they are offering "Stay&Play" packages which includes golf, hotel room and breakfast. So please call the hotel or check out their Facebook page for more information.
Since I rarely get to crow about it, I might as well do it now…
I shot 74 that day while missing six birdie putts inside six-feet and still couldn't get angry. The course is too much fun and the setting too enjoyable.
That says a lot… — VNS