Saturday, February 29 2020


Not ready for Country Clubs

Update: December, 02/2018 - 09:00

by Robert Bicknell

Last week, I spoke about the need for renovations at some of the older courses and a loyal reader commented about clubhouse improvements. 

He said: “As Vietnamese become more affluent, their WIVES will want, and even demand a fancy clubhouse, swimming pool, card room to hang out in, and even tennis pros to play with. Catering to the wives and even kids will attract wealthy families and make the club richer. Women are much more important than the men.”

OK, here we go…

First of all, while I agree that women are an important segment of the golf market, this has been tried at other courses in the past. Song Be, VGCC and a few others have had tennis courts. Yes they have been used somewhat, but as I mentioned before, people go to a “golf club” to play “golf”. There is a difference between a “Golf Club” and a “Country Club”.

To date, there is no real “country clubs” here in Viet Nam. Yes, eventually this will happen, but because land is so expensive, club owners need to maximize their return on investment and that means using as little land as possible.

The reader mentions a “card room” which is a big thing in the US, but he seems to forget that playing cards in Viet Nam is technically illegal (except at approved casinos) and while this rule is often flouted by the citizens, the fact remains that “gambling is illegal at Bushwood sir, and I never slice…”, er I mean, illegal in Viet Nam.

I understand the reason for the law – keeping people from losing their homes, grocery money or getting in debt to local loansharks – but I also think that it will eventually change.

When I was growing up, my family was Founding Members at two private country clubs which had world class golf courses, tennis courts, card rooms, men’s and ladies grill rooms and a great restaurant. One even had a shooting range to practice marksmanship… mostly .22 pistols and horseback riding.

Yes, it was a place for the whole family and, thus, a “country club”.

I’ve wanted to create a real “Country Club” in Viet Nam for 25 years, but the investors feel it is unnecessary and a waste of money. Honestly, it seems that many of the men go to the golf club to get away from their wives and kids for a while and this too is understandable.

The problem is that they can go to a “Country Club” and achieve the same result.

When my family would go, we would all split up and do our own thing. The mothers would go to the pool, play golf or tennis, then hit the card room. The kids would go to the pool, horseback riding or play either tennis or golf. Those too young for golf would hit the pool or kids area.

As almost every member had children, there was always someone to play with and since it was a “cashless” club (members got billed once per month) everyone could eat / drink all they wanted and not have to ask their parents to sign. Kids could sign too.

Then, we would all meet at the restaurant for dinner… and yes, men and boys were required to wear jackets and dress appropriately. The bottom line is that nobody had to interact with anyone else unless they wanted to as there was something for everyone.

That’s a real “Country Club”.

The reader’s comment keyed on not taking female members (wives) for granted and that there was a lot of money available there, and this I agree with 100 per cent.

At all my courses, if there isn’t a “Ladies League” or specials directed at them, I always started one. At VGCC, the Ladies League was a huge success. At Kings Island, the owner loved the idea so much she bought a bus to pick up the ladies in Ha Noi in the morning and drop them off in the afternoon in time to pick up their kids at school.

Women still get the short end of the stick at clubs in Viet Nam simply because they are far outnumbered by the men, but slowly more and more women are taking up golf and clubs will be forced to take them seriously.

At which time I will smile at being proved correct… even if it took 20 years. — VNS

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