I’m in love again. Don’t panic Mrs Carr. With Vietnam.
There is something extremely satisfying about leaving behind a miserable, wet winter and experiencing a culture and climate that literally envelops you with warmth. Especially when it is as alluring as Vietnam.
Driving from the airport through the burgeoning city of Da Nang on the Central Coast to my new beachside hotel was surprising. Organised chaos ruled, just as in other Asian cities. But here it was less frenetic. Everyone was polite and relaxed despite it swarming with scooters. If there is ever such a thing as a friendly rush hour, here it was in action.
That same happy and generous demeanour pervaded through everyone and it was hugely evident at the excellent golf clubs on ‘Vietnam’s Golf Coast’. While it felt balmy on my pasty Northern skin, the weather didn’t quite play ball. Frustratingly the early morning and late evening sun was elusive and it was impossible to shoot great images. Even more annoying when the courses are so good.
The Greg Norman designed Danang Golf Club, the first to open here, is a terrific and photogenic test, with its ‘infinity’ bunkering (formal edges melting into sandy waste areas) giving it bite and visual impact. Very quick undulating greens and tree-lined fairways put a smile on the face.
The Montgomerie Links next door has a different persona, despite it being built on the same stretch of coastal sands. Much more sharp-edged bunkering toys with your eyes, and there is more variety in the shape of the holes. The back nine is very memorable.
An hour or so North is Nick Faldo’s Laguna Lang Co set against forested hills and close to the beach. I will stick my neck out and say, despite the blanket of mist, that it’s one of the finest courses I have experienced in Asia. Visually stunning and a delight to play, because of its strategic yet playable holes. There is elbow room but danger a plenty. It would have been a photographer’s paradise but, it will have to wait until next time.
Finally, I flew down to Ho Chi Minh City and meandered down to the South China Sea coast to tackle the windswept dunescape beauty of The Bluffs at Ho Tram Strip. Significantly hotter and sunnier, I relished the fantastic condition and the spectacular scenery. Despite my reservations about some of the routeing it was a joy to be there. Because all the holes run on the East to West axis, it was quite demanding to get great pictures at first and last light. But I think i have done it justice.
With only 20 courses, Vietnam is a fledgling golf destination, but it will not stay unheralded for long. I loved everything about the country and the golfing experience. Write it down on your bucket list.