Golf legend’s new course ‘as good as it gets,’ says former U.S. Open champ Michael Campbell
HO TRAM, Vietnam (Oct. 20, 2014) — The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip, the most ambitious golf course ever built in Vietnam, officially opened for play Saturday with its designer and former world No. 1 golfer, Greg Norman, presiding over a match featuring 2005 U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell and two-time European Tour winner Robert Rock.
On a picturesque day along Vietnam’s south-central coast, less than two hours outside the country’s commercial capital of Ho Chi Minh City, Norman, who injured his left hand in a chainsaw accident last month and has not played since, watched as his good friend Campbell engaged in a battle of links golf prowess with the sweet-swinging Rock and two of Vietnam’s finest female golfers — LPGA Tour pro Tang Thi Nhung and US college star Ngo Bao Nghi.
All participants impressed the throng of spectators, some of whom traveled from destinations as far away as Spain and South Florida. But the day’s biggest star was the venue itself, which has come a long way since the principals of Canada-based Asian Coast Development Ltd. asked Norman to build a ‘Top 100’-caliber course for them back in 2006.
“I’ve played a lot of courses around the world,” said New Zealand native Campbell, whose U.S. Open victory came at storied Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, “and this (one) is as good as it gets.”
Routed over and around towering seaside sand dunes — geographical traits that course architects dream of — The Bluffs Grand Ho Tram Strip (www.thebluffshotram.com) offers a golf experience that’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is a challenge to tame.
Put the course is the diversity of hole-by-hole experiences,” said Norman, whose design firm is responsible for more than 100 championship quality layouts worldwide. “As designers, we’ve worked a theme onto the landscape here, but the twists and turns of Mother Nature provide one great surprise after another.”
While Saturday marked the official opening of a course former PGA of America president Pat Rielly recently called Norman’s best work and “an experience that will soon be the envy of all Asia,” it also signified the debut of another major component of The Bluffs: the clubhouse.
Imagined by Graham Taylor Designs, the elegant, 2,300-square-meter structure houses an array of sleek dining outlets including Infinity, which features a sprawling balcony overlooking the back 9 and ocean.
The clubhouse is also less than a minute from the PGA-staffed driving range, a secluded practice area with more than 3,000 square meters worth of tour-standard long- and short-game training facilities.
Prior to his departure yesterday, Norman held a putting clinic at the range, where the two-time British Open champion demonstrated how he reads greens and answered questions about how to play shots crucial to success on links-style courses.
“This is a very fair and playable golf course, but to shoot a good score, you’re going to need a well-rounded game,” said Norman, who also designed the acclaimed Dunes Course at Danang Golf Club, also on Vietnam’s coastline. “The average golfer is going to encounter a number of things they probably don’t on a regular basis, such as strong winds, tight lies and variable waste areas. But you couldn’t ask for a better place to prepare for it all than this practice facility. It’s just phenomenal.”
“To be recognized in such fashion without truly being open until now speaks volumes to this course and the job everyone here has done,” said Ben Styles, general manager of The Bluffs Grand Ho Tram Strip. “We can’t wait for the rest of the world to come tee it up.”
The Bluffs Grand Ho Tram Strip is among several facets of The Grand Ho Tram Strip’s first stage of development. The ambitious project already features a 541-room upscale hotel, 10 restaurants and bars, a spa, nightclub, convention center and casino with 90 gaming tables and more than 600 slot machines.