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Introducing Golf to Vietnam

King's Island

If Patience Is A Virtue, Kings' Island is its shrine. Shortly after the front nine opened in 1993, the course flooded, leaving the back nine on the back burner until early 1997. And it won't be until later this year that a cars-only highway will transform the ride from Hanoi from a two-hour slog to a thirty-minute shot. No matter. The first and only course in the former North Vietnam has been worth the wait. Designed by Bob McFarland, Kings' Island spans two tree-covered islands and a major peninsula projecting into the center of Dong Mo Reservoir. A three-minute speedboat ride past the stunning Ba Vi mountain range puts you at the clubhouse--and in full view of the lush Red River Valley. The course has a number of hidden greens and at least twelve forced carries over water and swampy gorges. The front nine features a 572-yard double-dogleg par five, the seventh, which runs from an elevated tee to a sculpted fairway lined with sand and grass bunkers. The only OB on the course looms to the left, with water bordering the right. The back nine consists of three par threes, three par fours and three par fives. Most striking is the par-five thirteenth, where the tee shot must carry a gorge. The fourteenth tee is the highest spot on the course, with a view of the Ba Vi range and its apron of terraced tea plantations and rice paddies. Long hitters may want to try to reach the 502-yard seventeenth in two, but from the tee, a carry of 250 yards over water is needed. Those less daring can play to the right, requiring a far less ambitious carry. The entire left side of the fairway is bordered by water, and the small, contoured and well-bunkered green is cut into a rocky ridge--a tough par, not to mention birdie.

Par & Yardage: 72, 6,344
Phone: 84-4-826-0342
Fax: 84-4-826-0330
Contact: Edward Grant, manager, corporate affairs
Rentals: Clubs and shoes
Location: Twenty-eight miles west of Hanoi, thirty miles southwest of Noi Bai International Airport. Transportation can be arranged through Hanoi hotels or Kings' Island.

Dalat Palace Golf Club

Visitors Marvel At The Stunning French Colonial architecture and the stately Hotel Sofitel Dalat Palace in this small, central-highlands city. But for golfers, this says it all: the only bent-grass greens in Indochina. Located about five thousand feet above sea level, Dalat enjoys a cool climate that doesn't burn the sensitive bent--or wear out golfers. Opened in 1994, the Brett Stensen redesign plays hard and fast as it winds downhill to Xuan Huong Lake. You'll get major rolls on the tightly cut fairways, so on downhill tee shots, such as the four-hundred-yard-plus thirteenth and seventeenth holes, longer hitters should use irons or fairway woods to stay back from the water. The par-three fifth requires a carry of nearly 230 yards over water to reach the green. But the 547-yard par-five sixth is even more deadly: Water lines the entire left side, and OB menaces from the right, turning the hole into a battle of nerves. The beautiful 387-yard seventh calls for a tee shot to carry two lakes, though shorter hitters may play to the left of the water for a 180- yard uphill approach to the green. The deep pot-style bunkers along the right side of the 374-yard fifteenth fairway make accuracy a must.

Par & Yardage: 72, 7,009
Phone: 84-63-821-201
Fax: 84-63-824-325
Contact: Jeff Puchalski, general manager and director of golf, Dalat Palace and Ocean Dunes
Rentals: Clubs and shoes available
Location: In Dalat, 180 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City--a five-hour car ride, but just a fifty-minute flight from Tan San Nhut Airport, followed by a twenty-five-minute taxi to Dalat

Dongnai

Along The Wooded And Serene inlets of Cloudy River Lake, thirty-five miles north of Ho Chi Minh City, architect Ward Northrup laid out an attractive, playable course that opened in June 1997. The course's location at thebottom of a valley eliminates tricky winds off the water. Trouble is, the lack of a breeze also makes it feel hotter than normal. On Dong Nai's first five holes--including the 165-yard par-three third, its signature hole--the lake is in play, as it is on seven holes of the back nine. Among Dong Nai's best holes are the 395-yard tenth and the 535-yard eleventh (both of which call for approach shots to carry water), as well as the fifteenth, a 405-yard dogleg left with a green fronted by the lake.

Par & Yardage: 72, 6,830
Phone: 84-61-866-140
Fax: 84-61-866-128
Contact: Michael Wang, vice manager, marketing
Rentals: Clubs and shoes available
Location: Trang Bom Town, thirty-five miles north and at least an hour by car from central Ho Chi Minh City

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