Last October, an hour before Tim Haddon began interviewing prospective caddies for the new Laguna Lang Co Golf Club on Vietnam’s Central Coast, he knew his hiring strategy had paid off.
The hall he rented, in the fishing village of Lang Co, about 20 kilometres from the golf club and 80 kilometres south of Hue, was surrounded by young women, all seeking a chance to become an integral part of the five-star resort course in Thua Thien-Hue province.
“I thought we might expect 30 to 50 candidates, but more than 250 arrived within the first hour. By the end of the recruitment day we had interviewed 437,” recalls Haddon, the golf club’s inaugural general manager who has recently been promoted to this new position, having transferred from Laguna Phuket Golf Club in Thailand where he was the director of golf.
The high level of interest in employment opportunities at Laguna Lang Co – for caddies as well as other staff – reflects the socio-economic nature of the region where low incomes, high unemployment and limited opportunity are common.
The 60 caddies who were hired, most aged between 19 and 23, are now wearing a smart green and white Laguna Lang Co Golf Club uniform and traditional Vietnamese straw hat as they go about their task of showing golfers the nuances of Asia’s newest golf course.
“The recruitment attracted a large number of local job seekers, but our main challenge was to provide them with proper training and show what being a golf caddie is all about,” Tim Haddon explains. “We filmed a video at Danang Golf Club and arranged for our caddie master, Mien [who has several years’ experience as a caddie], and the assistant caddie master to give presentations.
“We offered jobs to 60 – based on where they lived, their English ability, personality and skill set. Another 80 are being hired as part-time caddies.”
As the number of players at the new course builds, each caddie should get a round at least every second day. On top of their pay they receive a tip from the golfer who they accompany and assist – usually 200,000 Vietnamese Dong or about $US10.
It has been a rapid learning experience for the new recruits, none of whom had previous caddie experience. They had to be taught what the game is about from the ground up – its history, all about clubs and balls, etiquette, interaction with players, holding the flag, ‘reading’ a green and, for some, the most challenging task of all, driving a golf cart.
“We have had to start from ground zero in developing a training manual and then implementing all aspects of it to ensure our caddies are as proficient as anywhere else. This provides gainful employment to these young women who otherwise would have limited job opportunities,” Tim Haddon explains.
Daily English classes are part of the training, which takes three months before caddies are fully conversant and comfortable with their role.
Lang Co locals, Thao Nguyen, 21, and Quyen Dang, 20, jumped at the chance to become a caddie when the opportunity arose.
“I want to learn new things, like golf knowledge and English skills,” says Thao who graduated from a tourism college in Hue before joining Laguna Lang Co, and previously knew nothing about golf. If she hadn’t become a caddie, she says she would have been a receptionist or tour guide. After two rounds of caddying, she found the job not as daunting as she had expected.
Quyen was studying at a tourism school in Danang when she heard about the job opportunity at Laguna Lang Co. Professing to be nervous about the prospect of accompanying golfers around the course, Quyen had yet to put her training into action when interviewed during Laguna Lang Co’s pre-opening period.
She rated her priorities as securing on-the-job knowledge and experience and developing a strong work ethic.
For Tim Haddon and golf club manager, Darren Robson, opening of the course with a full complement of caddies is the culmination of a two-year process that included the purchase of more than 1000 line items including maintenance equipment to turn the golf course into a playable reality.
“This has been a huge task, but a very fulfilling one,” Tim says. “We feel a sense of accomplishment to see the community in their caddie uniforms with confidence to get out on the course. This is the end of one part of the process, but the start of another as we begin welcoming players to the course.”
Laguna Lang Co Golf Club www.lagunalangco.com/golf/