The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip: Raising the bar for Golf in Vietnam
When the owners of the Ho Tram Strip decided to build a golf course on the dunes adjacent to the resort complex, they spared no expense, brought in Greg Norman and his team, and the result is The Bluffs, a 7,000 yard par 71, world-class championship links golf course. It is quite simply outstanding. Every aspect of the golfing experience here will impress everyone with an interest in the sport. The location, the quality of the holes, the clubhouse, the staff and even the weather makes for testing golf in glorious conditions. Golf in Vietnam has just taken a huge step forward.
At the World Golf Awards in Portugal this year The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip stole the show. It walked away with three superb awards: The World’s Best New Golf Course, Vietnam’s Best Golf Course and Vietnam’s Best Golf Hotel. This incredible golf resort has put the Ho Tram Strip well on the map. The boost to golfing holidays in Vietnam will be huge.
As you arrive, your first experience will be the clubhouse. The building is designed as a split level, three storey affair, with vehicular access on the second level. Downstairs is the golf shop and bag storage area. The ground floor is a well designed restaurant Area with huge windows offering panoramic views of the 18th hole, the Ho Tram Strip resort and the ocean. Anyone searching for a destination to play golf in Vietnam, simply cannot find better facilities. The upstairs is designed with The Ho Tram Open in mind. This is a specialist locker room area that incorporates a private relaxation area for the top players. They access it by means of a private lift.
So to the golf; the course measures 7,000 yards off the Championship tees, 6,400 from the members’ tees and offers five par threes, four par fives and nine par fours. Greg Norman was very hands-on during the design and build, and visited three times during the process as well as being in constant contact over the internet. His design team have worked wonders creating this beautiful, testing golf course in Vietnam’s splendid coastal scenery.
The fourth hole is challenging, it’s a 147 yard par three, with no room for error off the tee. When Norman planned this hole, he looked at the lay of the natural land here and said, just grass it. Mother Nature had done as good a job as any golf designer could do. Other holes have been sculptured magnificently using good judgment and getting the best golfing experience without in any way compromising the scenic beauty of the dunes. Holes four and five are both big par fives. The 5th at 635 yards, is a masterpiece; wide sweeping fairways, with a tee placing high up, presenting awesome views of the resort and the ocean.
The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip is already attracting professional golfers; Robert Rock played it and loved it. Tang Thi Nhung, Vietnam’s first female professional golfer, and Nga Bao Nghi a college golfer who attended Lamar University in Texas were also gushing in their praise. These players played in the opening exhibition game, attended by Norman who sadly could not play due to an arm injury suffered shortly before the event. Robert Rock described the course as “just spectacular”, adding, “I could play here every day. That’s not something you can say about most courses.”
At the start of December 2015 The Bluffs, Ho Tram Strip hosted The Ho Tram Open. Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia, Geoff Ogilvy and Thomas Bjorn head the list of big names who played for the $1.5 million prize money. This was a tremendous coup for The Bluffs and extremely good news for golf in Vietnam. Worldwide TV coverage hugely increased the golf that Vietnam is now able to offer. The event is secured for the next three years minimum. It is starting to look as though all 541 rooms at the Ho Tram Strip Resort Casino Vietnam will be booked for the event. With many more people taking rooms in Vung Tau, an hour away, free buses will bring them in to witness what promises to be a wonderful event.
The resident professionals at The Bluffs are Ben Styles and Patrick Kelly. Patrick showed me round the course; he’s an extremely affable and knowledgeable young man from Australia. In addition he is a very talented golfer, having two team South Western Athletic Conference Championships, the individual crown of Northeast Athletic Conference and the Lonnie Barton invitational under his belt. He also won three Most Valuable player awards and athlete of the year in his senior year at Long Island University. Patrick describes the course quite simply as “The Best Course in Vietnam” and as being “maintained to the highest degree imaginable.” It is this attention to detail on the course that impresses the most. With a total staff of 252 including 58 golf maintenance crew, it is always impeccably turned out. The course is closed on Tuesdays in order that it will be kept in absolute tip top condition.
The Bluffs also boasts excellent practice facilities including a 400 yard driving range which they describe as a “game improvement paradise”; it is hard to argue. Great use of natural grass and landscape again marks this out. There is also a practice bunker and many chipping areas. Food and drinks are delivered upon request.
Back in the Clubhouse the lunch that we had was superb. Just what golfers playing in these exceptional conditions would expect. They serve a delightful combination of Western classics like Caesar Salad and steaks with Vietnamese dishes like Pho and Stir Fried Beef. Homemade ice cream and great coffee round off the experience.
If you only ever play one more golf course in your life, it has to be The Bluffs at Ho Tram Strip.