Hanoi Golf – Golfing in the capital of Vietnam
After our last golf trip to Jakarta, Cambodia Golf Today along with PSD Travel received an invitation from our friendly neighbors of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) to participate in the Hanoi Golf FAM Trip. This trip is our first time to experience golf in Vietnam.
Vietnam has 36 golf courses momentarily and it is still growing. This trip lead us to 4 golf courses around Hanoi to get a taste of what Vietnam has to offer for golf fanatics. In our previous trip to Hanoi a few years ago, we were unable to visit any of the golf courses; thus, this was a very excited trip to look forward to. (For more information about golf in Vietnam, kindly visit the website of our Vietnamese partner magazine, Golf Plus Vietnam Magazine)
Hanoi can to be reached by plane and direct flights to the capital are available from Siem Reap while from Phnom Penh a quick 30 minutes stop over is necessary at Vientiane (Laos). As Hanoi is in the north of Vietnam, it can get a bit chilly during winter. While we were there in late December, the temperature was around 15 degrees Celsius at night and 20 during day-time, so you might want to bring a sweater or jacket to keep warm.
After the three hours trip from Phnom Penh to Hanoi, we checked in our hotel near the center of town and a short walking distance from Hoan Kiem Lake, a tourist area with a night market and numerous bars.
On the first day of our Hanoi golf experience, we visited BRG Legend Hill Golf Resort, a brand new course that opened in mid 2015 and is the first Nicklaus course in Vietnam. It is also the first course in Asia to adopt a unique “twin green” design. This means that every hole has two greens but only one with the flag (hole). This gives the course the opportunity to provide regular visiting golfers an almost endless variety of hole combinations and thus, a completely different experience every time they visit.
The Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf is also going to open its first school in Vietnam at Legend Hill. The Nicklaus Academy is said to be one of the most complete golf instruction and training facility in the world, combining the latest technology with the playing philosophy of Jack Nicklaus. This is definitely something to look forward to in the future.
The current club house at Legend Hill is temporary as the new building is still under construction. Nonetheless, the pro shop is well stocked and the restaurant upstairs with a balcony overlooking the course is just magnificent. Also the driving range right next to the club house is great to warm up before your round.
It was also at this course that one of our members had his first experience with a male caddie. The caddies here are a mix between male and females. When we asked the head pro why they chose for a mix of caddies, he told us that local golfers would prefer a male caddy while betting to be less distracted. Fortunately, if you are not a fan of male caddies, you can request a female caddy or vice-versa.
The course itself is in a great location with beautiful surroundings. It is a very challenging course with the twin green concept and the craftiness of the fairway and green traps makes this course feel ruthlessly intelligent, especially for the less experienced golfer. We look forward to coming back here in the future when construction is completed and to have another “new” experience at this “double greened” course.
Here some images from the Legend Hill Golf Resort in Hanoi
After our return to the hotel, it was time to get a taste of the traditional Vietnamese kitchen. The north Vietnamese dishes have a different taste to it from the products of the south Vietnamese kitchen in and around Ho Chi Minh. The north prefer their food to be less “spicy” which for some us in the group, being western expats in Cambodia, was more appealing. It was simply delightful and is a must try when in Hanoi.
After our dinner we took a rickshaw back to the hotel which was about 20 min away and a great way to see the beautiful city lights in the evening. The ride itself cost only about a few dollars and gave us the opportunity to digest our food while being passed by the many motorbikes in Hanoi.
On the second day of our Hanoi golf trip, there were 27 holes on our schedule. To start with, 18 holes at the BRG King`s Island Golf Resort from the same owner of Legend Hill, Madame Nguyen Thi Nga, who won last year’s “Asia Pacific Vision Award” at the Asian Golf Awards. (where also PSD and Angkor Golf Resort were awarded). King`s Island won the award for best course in Vietnam.
Upon arrival, you know immediately what makes this place different. To reach the course, you will need to step onboard a boat for a three minutes ride that takes you to the island where the golf courses are located. King`s Island has two courses, the Mountain View Course and the Lakeside Course. The lakeside course is the first golf course to be built in north Vietnam and has opened its first 9 holes since 1993.
We played the lakeside course and as the name suspects, water comes into play on 13 out of the 18 holes. We all agreed that this was the best course we have visited during the trip and we can understand why it was chosen as the best course in Vietnam. It was spectacular and it was a real treat to be able to play on this course.
The course is undulating with stunning views and is a great fun for golfers of all levels. The caddies are very experienced and know the course by heart. One of our caddies of the day has been a caddy there for 9 years! There wasn`t a question she couldn’t answer or a green she couldn`t read perfectly. This course will definitely be a place to revisit on our next Hanoi golf trip.
After our round, we jumped back on the boat and onto the bus to visit our final 9 holes of the day. Unfortunately, we were a bit behind on schedule and upon arrival at our last course; the Skylake Resort & Golf Club, there was only one hour of sunlight left to finish our round.
The course was named the best course in Vietnam by Vietnam Golf Magazine in 2015 and consist of 2 courses, the Sky Course and the Lake Course. We played the back 9 on the Sky course and even though we had to run through our 9 holes, it left us with a deep impression. Stunning views, wide undulating fairways and very difficult / quick greens left us with the feeling that we have something to finish here. Located between several mountains that provide for a breathtaking sight, especially during sun set, is a must for any golfer visiting Hanoi to experience.
In the evening when we arrived back in town, we visited the most famous tourist attraction of Hanoi, the water puppet show. A traditional Vietnamese entertainment show that dates back to the 11th century when it originated in small towns around the rivers in Northern Vietnam. It is basically wooden puppets supported by bamboo sticks in a pool that makes it look like the puppets are dancing on water. When in Hanoi, this is something you simply can`t skip, tickets are only a few bucks and is right at the Hoan Kiem Lake where you can find numerous bars and restaurants to enjoy for the rest of the evening.
Hanoi as a capital is under strict regulations from the government and all bars and restaurants have to be closed at 1am; however, some might stay open till later. In the weekend, there is a night market nearby many bars to enjoy for all the late night owls.
On the last day of our trip, we played the Dai Lai Star Golf & Country Club. The club is situated around the Dai Lai Lake with a driving range that is on water but was not active while we were there. When we arrived, it wasn`t particularly warm with 18 degrees Celsius weather and wind blowing in the open areas of the course with some drizzle. It really didn`t change the experience we had at this course, every hole is so different that you just cannot get tired of this place.
On the first hole, you would need to carry about 160 yards over the lake. Another hole will burn into our memories, the sixth hole where you tee off from a hill into an opening between the top of the trees, while you have no idea where the fairway below is. When we got down from the hill and we found our balls, we were lucky enough not to be hit by the flying golfballs from the group behind us (though, it was very close).
We would recommend this course if you have time left over in your schedule to try out, it may not be as luxurious as some of the other courses around Hanoi; however, it gives you a real “golf in Vietnam” feeling.
One thing for sure is that Hanoi has some outstanding courses that every golfer should try when around or in Hanoi. We had a great time at all the golf courses over there as they are very different from the experiences we can get here in Cambodia.