Golf’s phenomenal global reach has seen the game pitch up in some pretty interesting places over the last two centuries. From putting surfaces perched on precipitous Himalayan hillsides to fairways tended by giraffe on South African game reserves, the sport has spread far and wide from its ancestral birthplace on windswept real estate next to choppy Scottish seas.
Such is the scope of the boom that you half suspect that the next man that walks on the moon will be there to conduct a feasibility study for a new championship course. Despite this hegemony, however, there are still destinations that don’t feel like an immediate fit on first glance. Vietnam is one of them. Like many people, my formative knowledge of the south-east Asian country was based upon Hollywood war movies and tragic history lessons. Of course, the country has long since moved on from the horrors it was subjected to in the 1960s and ’70s and these days its thirst for tourists is as virulent as any in the region. Extensive construction of golf courses is a major part of that drive.
Even so, as I step from the plane at Ho Chi Minh City, the cinematic images playing out in my mind are more Apocalypse Now than Tin Cup. Over the next 10 days, however, any doubts I have about Vietnam’s suitability as a golf destination will be as effectively dismissed as the succession of foreign foes that have attempted to force their will on this beautiful country. My interest had been piqued by an article I read in the early part of last year hailing the country as one of the world’s top golfing secrets. I wasn’t sure how much of this was PR-driven hyperbole, but the images of holes winding through jungle, between shimmering lagoons and along the shores of the South China Sea certainly looked pretty appealing when studied on a rain- lashed day in Edinburgh. The country’s tragic recent history only added to the intrigue. How would it feel to play a game more closely associated with Uncle Sam than Uncle Ho in a battle-scarred and fiercely proud nation? I was determined to find out.