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Introducing Golf to Vietnam

Ocean Dunes

Before Larry Hillblom Came Along, westernization had scarcely touched the fishing village of Phan Thiet, on the South China Sea. It was Hillblom, one of the founders of DHL Air Express, who envisioned building a golf course among the area's sand dunes. Hillblom died in 1995, a year before the course finally opened and his vision was vindicated. A Nick Faldo design, Ocean Dunes has a distinct links look: fairway mounding that occasionally obstructs views to the green, raised putting surfaces that fall sharply into chipping areas. The course plays much longer than it is because the Bermuda fairways eliminate much of the bounce-and-roll so common to U.K. courses. The best hole is the 148-yard ninth, a par three with an elevated green guarded by dunes and trees to the right and a grassy mound to the left. The tee shot has to thread through a slot to reach the target, much of which is hidden from view. Between the palms behind the twelfth green, you can see the South China Sea, a site that often includes Vietnamese fishing boats bobbing in the surf. Though the course is open and flat, its routing has a natural flow, and each hole opens up unique challenges. A Buddhist temple lies to the right of the third green, and a Vietnamese tomb sits behind the eighteenth tee. The large clubhouse, complete with a sauna, a large spa and steam rooms, opened last March. The four-star hotel, with tennis courts and two swimming pools, is scheduled to open in April.

Par & Yardage: 72, 6,723
Phone: 84-62-823-366
Fax: 84-62-821-511
Contact: Jeff Puchalski, general manager and director of golf, Ocean Dunes and Dalat Palace
Rentals: Clubs and shoes available
Location: One Ton Duc Thang in Phan Thiet. By car, about three hours east of Ho Chi Minh City on Highway 1

Song Be

Opened In 1994, Song Be (pronounced "song bay") may not be the most beautiful course in Vietnam, but it certainly is one of the toughest. Designed by Peter Dalkeith Scott, Song Be measures about 7,000 mostly flat yards. Balls tend to die on the common Bermuda fairways, so all your distance is in the air. And the lack of contouring makes distances to targets difficult to ascertain. Although many of the par fours and fives have a monotonous feel, the 455-yard tenth is a gem: a hard dogleg left requiring a tee shot between two lakes and an approach to a moderate-size green. A two-tiered driving range is open, butthe clubhouse is unfinished.

Par & Yardage: 72, 7,002
Phone: 84-65-855-802
Fax: 84-65-855-804
Contact: Jay Fuss, head professional
Rentals: Clubs and shoes available
Location: Along Highway 13 opposite the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park, thirty-five minutes north of downtown Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam Golf & Country Club

A Thirty-Minute Drive From Downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Golf & Country Club offers two courses: the East course, designed by Lee Trevino, which opened in September 1997; and the West, a Cheng King Shih design, which opened two years earlier. The two couldn't differ more. Unlike the narrow, densely wooded West course, the East course's site had most of its cashew trees scraped off, leaving an expansive but challenging layout. The greens on the East course feature humps, slopes and lots of sweeping breaks; the flat greens on the West course challenge you to distinguish where the fairway ends and the putting surface begins. Water comes into play on eleven holes on the West course, eight on the East. Oddly, on many of the West's par fours and fives, a lone tree stands at the desired landing spot, making you wonder why the Taiwanese paper company that constructed the course didn't just add to its harvest. Plans call for another clubhouse, a water park and at least two hundred villas by late 2002.

Par & Yardage: 72, 6,946 (East course); 72, 7,107 (West course)
Phone: 84-8-825-2951
Fax: 84-8-733-0102
Contact: Ted Johns, general manager
Rentals: Clubs and shoes available
Location: Northeast of central Ho Chi Minh City, in the Thu Duc district, a thirty-minute drive along Highway 1

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