On April 19, 2010, when Colin Montgomerie played an exhibition round at the course bearing his name near Danang, golf was unknown on the Central Coast of Vietnam.
While his score of 68 remains the course record at Montgomerie Links Vietnam, designed by the eight-time European Order of Merit winner, everything else about golf in the region, and even Danang itself, has changed in the ensuing five years.
Vietnam’s fourth largest city has gone from being a large regional centre – like many in Asia – to a thriving resort metropolis with a new international airport, a plethora of upmarket beachfront hotels, buzzy downtown bars and restaurants and an unmistakable vibe that comes with broad tourism appeal.
More than a million foreign visitors now visit Danang each year, many attracted by the UNESCO World Heritage listed ancient trading port of Hoi An, 25km south of the city, the former imperial city of Hue, two hours’ drive to the north, and an ever-expanding selection of spas, the city’s famous My Khe beach, great scenery, a wonderful semi-tropical climate – and golf.
Led by the opening of Montgomerie Links, Danang now has three world-class golf courses – the Greg Norman-designed Danang Golf Club, almost next door to the Monty course and opened in 2011, and Laguna Lang Co, an hour north of the city, designed by Sir Nick Faldo, opened in 2012. A fourth course, Ba Na Hills in the hinterland less than an hour from the city, is scheduled to open late this year or early in 2016.
Together, the three existing courses, all members of the destination marketing co-operative Golf Coast Vietnam, hosted more than 100,000 rounds in 2014, and with record rounds in the first three months of 2015, will easily exceed this number in 2015.
Yes, Danang has well and truly arrived as one of Asia’s best and most exciting golf destinations. So much so that acclaimed US golf writer, Bob Fagan, named Danang “the world’s best undiscovered golf destination” after visiting the region last year.
Montgomerie Links is a beautifully manicured and presented layout with native casuarina trees and ponds in a parkland environment and a delightful modern clubhouse and on-course villas.
The club’s Director of Golf, Taylor Murphy, says player numbers have increased from a modest 7000 rounds in the first year of operation to 42,000 rounds in 2014.
“It certainly fills us with pride that we have been able to build a very good reputation is such a short period of time in a destination that was without a single golf course before Montgomerie Links opened,” he says.
“In its short history, Montgomerie Links has won several major awards in its own right and has been recognised internationally for professional standards and year-round great golfing conditions.
“Montgomerie Links has become a true a international golf facility, with golfers from all parts of the world playing every week. Locals account for 25 percent of rounds played, with the rest from all parts of the globe. We have a very strong clientele from the Asian region, but on any given day we may have 15 or more different nationalities playing the course.
“We attribute a lot of our success to our partnership in Golf Coast Vietnam. We have a great working relationship with the other golf courses and also some of the best accommodation properties in the area and we are constantly looking to improve the experience for every golfer who plays on the Central Coast.”
The chairman of Golf Coast Vietnam, Joe Millar, who is general manager of Danang Golf Club, says Montgomerie Links laid the foundation for Danang’s elevation to elite golf tourism status.
“Montgomerie Links paved the way and now the two other courses, as well as hotels and resorts in the area, are capitalising on the great launching pad that was provided,” he says. “Danang’s success as a golf tourism destination is due to the quality of the golfing experience and the fact we co-operate to achieve the best possible outcome for the region as a whole.”
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