with Robert Bicknell
And another (Western) year bites the dust… I'll have to say it again in Tet.
Sometimes this gets really confusing. I still don't really know how old I am. In Viet Nam I am 58, but in the US I'm 57. I wish there was a place they deducted years after you reach 50, so I'd be 42 now and a lot happier.
I'm also sure that I will do as I usually do and continue to type 2015 instead of 2016 for at least a month. I'm not very bright sometimes and when it comes to dates, I am helpless. If my birthday wasn't July 4th, I wouldn't remember that either.
Hey Greg, I am still not "Teed Off" at anything, just so you know. I'm sure this situation will change eventually because tigers don't change their stripes and rabid Tasmanian devil / porcupine hybrids don't become warm and fuzzy either without strong medication.
People asked me what I got for Christmas and I simply smile and say "Ho Tram." If you don't know about that special week at The Bluffs in early December, you must have been living in a cave. Suffice it to say I am still smiling about it. Let me drop a few hints: Asian Tour, Sergio Garcia, 35-foot bomb putt on the 18th, 4-man play-off, Brian McFadden. Sergio diving in for a pic with the trophy and the local caddies.
Does that ring a bell?
So, with a year that ended on an amazing high, what do we look forward to in the coming year?
Well, first of all, the long awaited 36-hole Trang An Golf&Country Club, in Ninh Binh, will have a soft opening of the 1st 18-hole course and clubhouse for visitors from 02 January until March. After that, it becomes a private members club (like Van Tri only better because they have tennis courts and swimming pool. That's the "country club" part). There are plans for high quality villas, children's play and education areas, horseback riding and even a summer camp for kids. Yes, that is separate from the golf area so no worries about noise or safety. The 2nd 18 hole course is currently under construction and is expected to open by the end of 2016.
Yes, memberships are available, but the club is being a bit selective due to the VIP nature of the club, and there is a lot of perks associated with the membership, so the best thing to do is come out and see for yourself.
The difference between membership at this club and others is that Trang An will not allow visitors and tourists later down the road. It will be members and their guests only. They prefer to remain strictly private and membership is limited to 350 to ensure the course never gets overcrowded.
IF you're looking for "cheap golf" then this course is not for you. But if you want to be able to play 18 or 36 holes on a weekend and not have to wait behind a tour bus load of players, and you want to be treated like a VIP, then this course might be worth considering.
Disclaimer…I'm the GM:
2016 will also see a lot of local tournaments, both junior and amateur which is great for golf in Vietnam. The biggest of all with undoubtedly be the Vietnam Junior Championship at The Bluffs in Ho Tram in August which is open to all qualified juniors in the Asia-Pacific region. If you have a kid with game, better get him practicing hard now. My advice would be to check the VGA (Vietnam Golf Association) website periodically for updated information as it becomes available.
Local Club Championships, Swing For Life, Swing For Kids and other charity events will also take centre-stage, again this is all good.
Junior golf programmes will continue to improve and we will keep moving forward. The end of the year will see the 2016 Asian Tour event at The Bluffs again, and they promise it will be even bigger and better than the first one.
So, in a nutshell, Viet Nam has some great courses and some great things happening in the coming year. It's an exciting time to be here and, for that I am grateful.
To all the readers of this column, both lovers and haters, I wish you the most prosperous of New Years and continued health and happiness. — VNS