Viet Nam News
By Robert Bicknell
With the 19th Annual Norfolk Invitational Tournament coming up next week, I went down to the host venue, The Bluffs at the Hồ Tràm Strip Golf Club with an old friend, to see the new design changes, which is returning this award winning course to a true links design as intended.
Before I go any further, let me remind everyone that The Norfolk event is an “Invitational” not an “Open” (Same as The Masters – which is an invitational as well) and it’s the longest running event in Vietnam. Every year they have to remind everyone that “If you’re not invited, you’re not getting in. Don’t even ask.” End of story.
The Bluffs plays much differently now.
Following the instructions from the Greg Norman design team, they have been removing a lot of the vegetation on the dunes surrounding the holes, which visually opens it up more and allows the wind to play a bigger role in your shot selection. The views now are even more stunning than before.
You cannot overpower this course. You need to think your way around it and you can still get in trouble if your ball goes into the sandy dunes, but it’s often playable. Albeit, not an easy shot because the dunes are not raked like a bunker, so you can have a horrible lie in there.
Before, if your ball went into the heavy vegetarian it was most often lost, or in a position where you had to take an unplayable. On some holes before, the wind was moderate, but now it can rip through and force you to reconsider how to play the hole.
Example, the short Par 3, 11th hole, which plays 135 yards from the blues, used to be a knock down wedge for me. But without the vegetation the wind was howling, so I took a 7-iron and hit a bump and run in front of the green and let it roll up, which gave me a birdie.
Greg Norman designed the course to be played partially on the ground, not completely in the air and, with the changes, it’s even more important to follow his advice.
I did the same thing on the 470 yard, Par 5, 8th hole. The green is treacherous and going long will earn you the 100 yard comeback shot up the hill. So, from 90 yards out, I punched an 8-iron under the wind and short of the green and let it roll in for a blind eagle.
From a maintenance point of view, removal of the vegetation increases the air flow over the greens, which helps to keep them healthier – especially come rainy season as it will help evaporation. They are also removing 419 Bermuda grass from some areas around the tee boxes, which, combined with the removal of vegetation, will save a lot of water during irrigation.
Now, a few players quacked loudly about the removal of vegetation, claiming they were ruining the course. Sorry, but it’s obvious that those people never played a true links course before and are talking out of their divots.
They are probably upset because they bet a lot and are upset their friends will not lose balls (and bets) so easily.
I’ve played golf for 55 years at some of the best courses in the world, Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St Andrews, Pinehurst and the like. So I think I know a great course when I see it.
A links course should not be tricked up with lots of vegetation and other ridiculousness, instead, the wind and weather provide the drama, not only the course design itself.
There is a reason why The Bluffs was rated 34th in the world (international courses) and I think these changes will probably allow the club to climb to an even better rating in the future.
Sonia, Ali and Patrick have been doing a great job managing the club and the service remains 5-star all the way around. If you’re looking for the best club in Việt Nam, head down for a visit.
You will not be disappointed.
Ah yes, just don’t come during the Norfolk Invitational without an invitation because you won’t get into the event...lol. -- VNS