Developed by Sun Group, a leading Vietnamese investor, the course at Ba Na Hills Golf Club is Luke Donald’s first foray into golf course design. Working in conjunction with IMG, who constructed and now manage the new facility, the former world number one set out the fairways at elevation, on the side slopes of the mountain range that rises to the west of Danang.
The course lies half an hour’s drive inland from Vietnam’s fourth largest city, which is fast growing into something of a golf destination as three other big name designer courses – Laguna Lang Co, Danang Dunes and Montgomerie Links – have been built along the coastline within the past seven years and they now yield more than 150,000 rounds a year collectively.
Ba Na Hills can be stretched to more than 7,800 yards from the championship tees and it offers an alternative game of golf to the one played nearby on the shores of the South China Sea. With its diverse mix of natural topography and indigenous vegetation, the layout is set up to complement the seaside delights of the other three courses.
Indeed, Ba Na Hills steals a march on its local golfing competitors by giving golfers the chance to play in the cool of the evening, under floodlights. One hundred and eight poles, 15-18 metres in height, are spread around the layout and they carry the six hundred and twenty-three 1,500-watt halogen lamps that illuminate the golfing arena when darkness falls.
The outward half is the longer and flatter of the two nines, featuring back-to-back par fives at the 4th and 5th holes, and water comes into play by way of streams or ponds on holes 4 to 9. There’s more by way of elevation changes to enjoy on the back nine, with the signature par three 16th hole the star of the show, playing sharply downhill to an island green.
All round spectacular scenery is the norm at Bana Hills. I have had the chance to play here a couple of times - on one occasion it was right after a really wet winter, with the greens having suffered unimaginably. I am given to understand thats not a problem anymore. The course is delightful, albeit long. The length is compounded by plenty of elevation changes - here I mean a lot of shots play uphill, although there are quite a few downhill shots as well. The layout and the design is well thought out. Overall it is an experience I would be happy to repeat over and over.
Ba Na Hills Golf Club is located in the foothills just half an hour away from downtown Danang and near the cable car station leading to Ba Na Hills Mountain Resort. The Resort and associated village high in the mountains were originally conceived and built by the french nigh on a century ago as a place to relax and get away from the heat and humidity of the surrounding countryside. The Resort is very popular to this day with visitors flocking to the mountain on a daily basis. The Ba Na Hills GC is former world no 1 Luke Donald’s first design world wide.
The course is routed through different valleys with two distinctly different nines. While the opening nine features rolling fairways, and bold bunkering, it is more parkland in feel. The occasional rocky creek and lake add to the variety and beauty- to lift my evaluation of the nine. The back nine literally heads for the hills and is routed through some significant elevation changes- producing a number of dramatic holes. It is a real roller coaster ride with blind shots, rocky creeks, lakes, bold bunkering- giving a real sense of adventure to the round. Some of the higher holes boast spectacular views of the valleys below.
Holes of note include:
Hole 7- A medium length par 4 over a ridge bunkered either side of the fairway- leaving a downhill approach to a pretty green set against a lake.
Hole 8- a longer par 3 which requires a water carry off the tee to an elevated and well bunkered green set at a right to left angle.
Hole 11- a magnificent par 5 travelling in a long arc around a lake. The journey from tee to green involves swampland, trees, bunkers and the lake itself. It is a beautiful hole in it’s own valley.
Hole 12- a downhill par 3 with a skyline green. Take a picture, and take a moment!
Hole 14- a lovely par 5 with water in play all the way down the right hand side of the hole, and then just when you think you are safe you find the water veers right across in front of the almost peninsula like green. You need to hold your nerve for the approach. Short or left is wet, and anything not on the green could be awkward...
Hole 16- a dramatic downhill par 3 to an island green. You need the right length, line and flight- and your heart will be in your mouth until it lands.
With any signiifcant breeze it will be hard to know if you have the right club in your hand..
Hole 17- just a lovely looking hole with the downhill tee shot making the hole play a little shorter than it’s length and leaving a short iron approach across the water to a green which looks like it was meant to be there. It’s a real birdie chance near the end of the round.
Ba Na Hills is a course that may not suit everyone. Although there are five different tees, the elevation changes and forced carries will test the higher handicappers. It is not a walking course and with the heat and humidity in the area, carts are the only way to travel. And the caddies are lovely!
I am of the opinion that the resort style of Ba Na Hills is a perfect complement to the more classic styles of Danang GC, and Montgomerie Links, and the opportunity to play at night (all 18 holes are floodlit) offers an opportunity to avoid the heat and humidity.
In a perfect world I would play the dramatic back nine mid afternoon, and head out for the more forgiving front nine under lights for a different type of golfing experience…
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
What a pleasure to play. Little bit out of town but well worth the trip. fantastic layout for all levels of golfers. excellent condition. Luke Donald has created a great golf course . the caddies are polite helpful and energetic. The price is solid and didn't find any deals but was worth the price. Great facilities clubhouse bar and pro shop. If in Da Nang choose this course first.
Fantastic experience on a well designed course literally cut into the jungle. Challenging Par 4's and good use of elevation on Par 3's - a very enjoyable round with top class clubhouse and welcoming staff. Hot as Hades so may be worth using the floodlights and playing late. Well worth the trip out of Da Nang and highly recommended.