Vietnam’s visions of glory

The late Bob Hope was known for carrying a golf club when entertaining troops during the Vietnam War. He was one of the few who did so.

Today’s a different story. Vietnam is a hot spot for golf development. In 1975, when the Vietnam War ended, the socialist republic had just two golf properties. By the mid 2000s, it had a dozen or so. Now it has 40, along with government approval to increase the number to 96 by 2020 – more than enough to bolster the Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail.

“They’re determined to get on the world stage,” said Brit Stenson, director of design at IMG Golf. “The developers there are being very aggressive.”

What’s more, Vietnam’s developers are building high-profile complexes and awarding design commissions to brand-name architects. Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Gary Player, Ernie Els and Nicklaus Design are working in the nation, and many other designers are knocking on the door.

Vietnam’s emergence on the international golf scene has also captured the attention of travel groups. One of them recently named Norman’s course at The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip the world’s best new course, and the International Association of Golf Tour Operators named Vietnam its 2016 Golf Destination of the Year for Asia & Australasia.

Such notices haven’t yet made Vietnam a thriving golf destination — the nation reportedly attracted just 7,000 golf travelers last year — but observers believe its day will come.

“Most of Vietnam’s golf tourists are currently coming only from neighboring Asian countries — South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia,” said Mark Siegel, managing director of Golfasian, the leading tour operator in Asia. “But interest is definitely increasing from golfers in Australia, Europe and the United States.”

In fact, when it comes to golf tourism, Siegel believes Vietnam is “the next Thailand,” a nation that welcomes 750,000 golf vacationers annually.

“Vietnam’s golf tourism still has a long way to grow,” he said. “I think it can max out at around 300,000 annually. It’s truly one of the up-and-coming golf destinations in the world.”

Read the rest of the story in the free Jan/Feb digital issue of Golf Inc. Magazine here. 

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