Today, Cambodia and Vietnam are peaceful and hospitable countries that still possess much of the elan of their French colonial past. They are also developing into wonderful golfing destinations. Both countries already have excellent courses, but there are dozens more in development or under construction. We take a look at one of the fastest developing regions in Asia to discover the best courses.
Conveniently located close to the capital of Phnom Penh, this 7,075-yard course is laid out over 200 hectares and is cleverly threaded between rice paddies and coconut palms. Since opening in 1999, Royal Cambodia has matured into a tough test of golf. Environmental awareness is evident as the course plays through some carefully retained natural wetlands which many migratory birds use as their nesting habitat. Water comes into play on 12 of the 18 holes, so accuracy off the tee is essential, and the greens have a lot of movement.
This Jack Nicklaus designed course measures 7,194 yards and is located 20 minutes northwest of Phnom Penh. It’s relatively flat but with signature Nicklaus mounding and waste bunkers and some funky green-side bunkering. To score well, a 3-wood off many of the tees is a clever game plan as many of the landing areas are small and strategic. Wind can pick up in the afternoon and holes like the par-3 16th can be testing, requiring a controlled fade from 231 yards generally into the prevailing wind.
Opened in December 2007, Angkor Golf Resort is the best golf course in Cambodia by far. Paspalum grass has been wisely used in the hot and humid climate which gives a great year-round playing surface. Thinking and strategy are required on this risk and reward layout. The final three holes make up some of the most stimulating holes you can play. The par-5 16th is a 588-yard monster and is a definite, good old fashioned three shot par-5. The angled green combined with water on the left creates a real challenge for those wishing to get their third shot close. The 440-yard par-4 finishing hole is as good as they get and has created some exciting tournament finishes
Ba Na Hills Golf Club is cleverly laid out over several valleys close to the surrounding mountains. The holes at the highest elevations have some remarkable views. The front 9 forms a traditional parkland course bounded by pine forests, while the back 9 is definitely the more challenging test with severe doglegs and some interesting blind shots. The exceptional bunkering, cunningly, is only partly visible from the tees. The greens are angled from the approach shots and have little borrow, but there is a decent variety of pin positions to make them challenging.
Situated just off the famous Danang Beach, The Montgomerie Links Vietnam is a 7,090-yard long enjoyable test. The Colin Montgomerie design boasts massive greens, treeless fairways and thick rough which gives it a links feel. With the sandy soil and wind-blown dunes, you might feel like you’re playing in Scotland or Ireland – but with warmer weather. Holes 7 and 13 are the standouts. Both are tough to hit par 4’s with deep bunkering and great views of the Marble Mountains.
Located only 30km from Dalat, this is a very thoughtful, well designed golf course by architect Peter Rousseau. It winds its way through hilly pine tree forest, and with the fresh alpine air and hilly surrounds you might think you were in Switzerland rather than Vietnam. The 7,573-yard Dalat 1200 is an invigorating test of golf played out against a scenic landscape. Positioning off the tee is imperative with only a couple of holes favouring power over strategy. At 1,500 metres above sea level, the climate is ideal for Bentgrass greens and Bermuda fairways. Daytime highs reach only 25 degrees centigrade, a perfect temperature for a round of golf on this pristine course. The par 3’s are especially challenging.
This Nick Faldo design reflects the Englishman’s scientific, strategic approach to golf. It’s a beautiful traditional links-style course with wonderful sea views and a guaranteed gentle ocean breeze. The layout is set in an amphitheatre with a backdrop of mountains and plays through streams, trees and rice paddies. The length is just over 7,000 yards, but decreases down to a beginner friendly 5,263. Sandy based fairways guarantee excellent drainage and the course is playable straight after any rains.