With stunning beaches, vibrant cities, an affordable cost of living and an excellent climate, Vietnam is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular tourists destinations, while the construction of dozens of golf club and luxury resorts is spearheading a growing demand for qualified PGA Professionals
The Vietnam Golf Association (vga.com.vn), which was set up in 2006, operates under the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism and is essentially the governing body, overseeing all golf-related activities in Vietnam, with members being local golf clubs and courses all over the country. The VGA currently boasts over 10,000 registered Vietnamese golfers, while a further 7,000 ex-pats workers play on a regular basis.
More than 250,000 rounds of golf were played on Vietnam’s 55 courses in 2018, with most overseas visitors coming from Japan and South Korea. Vietnamese golfers are largely drawn from the country’s wealthy – male – business elite. Very few women play golf, although almost all the club’s caddies – which are a requirement for every player – are women. Over 15 million tourists visited Vietnam in 2018, of which around 0.5% played golf.
COURSES & RESORTS
Although the first golf course in Vietnam was built in the 1930s, golf was banned by the socialist government in the 1980s due to its Western influences, and it is only in the last five years that the golf boom has taken hold. There are now around 55 courses open for play, and a further five either under construction or in the planning phase. Licenses have been granted to build a total of 100 courses.
There of course numerous developers involved, but the largest two are the Vin Group and the BRG Group, with the latters portfolio of resorts including Legend Hill, Kings Island and Ruby Tree.
The main concentration of resorts is located on a 35-mile central coastal area which encompasses the cities of Danang, Hoi An, Hue and Lang Co, where golf resorts operated by the likes of Intercontinental, Hyatt and Accor are interspersed at regular intervals along the shore.
Dubbed ‘Golf Coast Vietnam’, the region includes Nick Faldo’s course at Laguna Lang Co; the Montgomerie Links at Danang, the Dunes Course at Danang Beach Resort, Luke Donald’s Ba Na Hills Golf Club near Danang, and the Bluffs Course at Grand Ho Tram Strip, both of which were designed by Greg Norman, who has recently been appointed as a tourism ambassador for Vietnam.
Norman’s newest design, KN Cam Ranh Golf Links, is a 27-hole layout located in the south of the country, which voted best new resort in Asia last year, while Hoiana Shores is expected to be the most significant opening in 2019.
Elsewhere, an Ernie Els Performance Academy opened in Hanoi last year, which offers state-of-the-art coaching facilities and serves as a training base for Vietnam’s national teams, while The David Leadbetter Academy, also based in Hanoi, has been approached to help train Level 1 and 2 golf professionals with the aim to recruit local talent and eventually join as a certified Leadbetter instructors and interpreters.
PGA MEMBERS VIEW:
Simon Mees, General Manager, KN Golf Links Cam Ranh
“Vietnam is certainly a beautiful country, but having only been here for a little over a year, and with much work to do in the pre-opening of KN Golf Links, I have sadly not had too much time to see the sights or visit many of the other golf courses. The people are generally very open and welcoming, but the language barrier provides a daily challenge, and you have to be very careful that things don’t get lost in translation. I have to rely a lot on my PA, who is like my right arm at times. Most expat coaches working here often have a translator when teaching.
CLIMATE: Vietnam has a largely tropical climate in the south and monsoonal in north. The summer months (May-Sept) are hot (35c+) and humid, although the coastal courses often enjoy cooling breezes. The late winter/early spring months (Jan-April) are warm and less humid, and make for ideal golfing conditions. October to December is storm season, with unpredictable weather, especially on the coast.
LANGUAGES: Vietnamese is the official language, although English is spoken in the major cities and tourist destinations. Most ex-pat pros employ a translator to give lessons to local golfers.
CURRENCY: Vietnamese Dong is used for day-to-day items, while US Dollars are used for luxury items. The current exchange rate is £1 = 30,0000 Vietnamese Dong.
FOOD & DRINK: Eating out and drinking in local bars and restaurants is very cheap, while shopping for food in markets is even cheaper. Hotels and Western-style venues are more expensive. Wine is pricey wherever you buy it, beer and spirits less so.
VISAS: Visitors need a visa for stays of less than three months, while overseas employees require a work permit and a work visa, which can be obtained through submitting a written contract of employment with their application.
DRIVING: Foreign visitors and workers require a Vietnamese driving license to rent or buy a car, which can be obtained through government transport offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
WHAT TO PACK: Sunscreen, pollution masks (for use in cities), and plenty of mosquito repellent.