For many Americans, the idea of world-class golf in Vietnam probably seems about as far out there as the country itself. For so long, it was a place synonymous with a different kind of bunker. But all that has changed in recent years, especially over the past decade. Vietnam is morphing into a golf getaway as good as any other on the planet. Because in addition to all the international-standard hotels and resorts that now dot the lush landscape, there is a plethora of golf courses designed by some of the biggest names in the game. In no particular order, here are our top five layouts in what is fast becoming the place to play in Asia.
Former world No. 1 Luke Donald is hardly a household name when it comes to golf course design. But if his first effort is any indication, he could have a bright future in the business. Ba Na Hills won ‘World’s Best New Course’ at the 2016 World Golf Awards and it’s not hard to see why. The course sits in the shadow of a stunning mountain range and, provided you aren’t foolish enough to play from the professional tees (7,595 yards), is likely to stay with you long after the 18th hole.
The only course in Vietnam on Golf Digest’s list of the ‘World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses’ is there for one very good reason: it’s deserving. Set among massive sand dunes on a mostly undeveloped piece of coastline not far from Ho Chi Minh City, The Bluffs wins on location by a landslide. But give Greg Norman credit too; he let the contours of the property dictate much of the links-style design, which Sergio Garcia called “spectacular” after winning an Asian Tour event there in 2015.
Norman’s first creation in Vietnam is still one of the country’s top tracks. Opened in 2010 on a stretch of central-coast beach that was once a popular R&R spot for American GIs, the course would not feel out of place in, say, Scotland. It plays hard-and-fast and wind is always a factor. But make no mistake, between the temperature of that wind (warm) and what still resides between the 16th green and 17th tee (a weathered, war-time pillbox), you will know that you are in ‘Nam.
Part of the first world-class integrated resort in Vietnam, this Nick Faldo design is rivaled only by the amount of quality amenities that surround it. Whether you choose to stay at the 57-villa Banyan Tree resort or the 229-room Angsana resort, you will not be disappointed. Both are walking distance from the course and front the same private swath of sand. Neither infringes upon the golf experience either, making it easy to enjoy the stroll around what can only be described as a ruggedly appealing collection of holes.
In 2015, Vietnam’s top island destination got its first golf course. And the bar was set high. While views here and there of an amusement park make you feel like you are close to Disneyland, the primary feature — dense, old-growth trees that separate most of the 27 IMG-designed holes — make for an experience more reminiscent of something you would encounter in America’s Deep South. Oh, and then there is the humidity. But find a seat post-round in the open-air clubhouse under a ceiling fan and tee up an ice-cold beverage and you’ll swear you’re in heaven.