The Bluffs is Greg Norman's second golf project in Vietnam, following the Dunes Course at the Danang Golf Club which opened for play in 2010. Actually, the Bluffs Ho Tram Strip course took all of ten years to come to fruition after it was first earmarked for investment back in 2004 by Asian Coast Development (Canada) Limited.
The highest point of the windswept property is located fifty metres above sea level on the 15th green but the most spectacular vantage point arrives earlier in the round at the signature par three 4th hole where golfers are treated to full 360 degree views of the course, the coastline and the Grand Ho Tram Strip, Vietnam's first integrated casino and golf resort.Located 80 miles southeast of Ho Chi Minh City in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province on the southern Vietnamese coastline, the course lies on a coastal plateau and holes are routed around towering seaside sand dunes, with fairways constructed on sandy loam soil, affording good drainage and excellent turf conditions.
The Bluffs features sensational rolling dunes and dramatic ocean views which come into play on virtually every golf hole. During multiple visits, Greg Norman and his team explored numerous routings to ensure they utilised the natural rolling topography of the native dune system with minimal disturbance to the environment.
"We actually had a couple of holes designed down on the water," Norman said. "But because of future development we were asked to shift those holes away from there. It would have been great to get a hole down there."
"We spent a lot of time trying to ensure the best routing for this beautiful piece of property. We wanted to use a least disturbance approach. It's an incredible natural golf site and we want to deliver a timeless and memorable golf experience. It's how golf used to be built a hundred years ago.”
Masa Nishijima (our International Consultant) attended the grand opening of The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip and he commented as follows:
“It’s the work of the Greg Norman Team. The Bluffs is 130 km (82miles) distance from Ho Chi Minh City, and is located some 2 hours and 30 minutes from an airport.
The course is routed through huge sand hills of 50 m (165 ft) elevation. You can admire the beautiful coastline from all the 18 holes. The Bluffs is the best work of Greg Norman in Asia – the contours of the greens are way more interesting than Ireland’s Doonbeg. Greens are Tif-Eagle and fairways 419. It is a really wonderful course and the huge sand hills form terrific slope lines. There are a few routing problems though, for example 15th tee ~15th green ~16th tee goes and comes back via the same route. Why? I don't know. I haven’t asked Greg Norman.”
The Bluffs really is an outstanding course, easily one of the best 3-4 I’ve played in 40+ years of golf. Lovely ground, very well-conditioned, and excellent staff. Most of all there’s a great variety of holes: the par 3s all play very differently and the par 5s really change dramatically with the wind direction. Green complexes are beautifully engineered.
Two quick responses to an earlier review. First, I think the dunes need the scrub Bush to stop them eroding too quickly: I agree it’s a little unsightly but it’s the nature of the land.
Second, the routing does seem to have introduced some slight doglegs since 2017. Again, the routing does follow the line of the dunes but the wind and slopes mean that there are plenty of different lines off the tees.
Can’t think of any reason to knock it down from 6 balls: great course & experience.
The Bluffs is one of the world’s best courses. It is routed through the sand dunes and provides an intriguing Asian experience.
Compared to the other eight courses on our golf cruise playing the best of Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand it ranks very favourably.
The coastline of Vietnam is a goldmine for sand dunes, many of which have been untapped for golf. Hundreds of miles of dunes for as far as the eye can see. In its current state, the Bluffs course is routed around wonderful sand dunes with the land for the back nine being much more interesting for golf. Having played the course twice, I had two pointed observations.
Firstly, outside of the four par 3s, there are twelve holes that play dead straight. Greg Norman did not create many angles at all which was a little mundane. There’s just a handful of holes where being on one side of the fairway is an advantage, otherwise there isn’t much strategy at all off the tees. This is a stark contrast with many of the top courses in the world. Many of the holes are commendable, and the elevation changes make it fun, but you’re always moving in a straight line. Normally I like the challenge of having a specific target or line off a tee box, but this requirement wasn’t really there at the Bluffs.
Secondly, the beautiful sand dunes are mostly covered in heavy vegetation that urgently needs to be removed. The visuals across the land are mostly unattractive due to dense bushes crawling all over the dunes. The sand dunes are being suffocated and the views could be so much better. The superintendent and I discussed this in depth while we played and he agreed with the need to unmask the beauty that once traversed the property. In places around the course, the occasional sand dune is exposed which looks superb, but there is a lot of work to do here to rid a majority of the property of the thriving vegetation.
The flow of the course is interrupted a number of times with the need for the players to make a big U-turn and proceed on a long drive to the next tee. This is not enjoyable.
Due to the tropical hot climate, the course conditioning is a constant concern with the greens needing to be punched almost every two weeks to get air/water into the turf. Long term, this will become an expensive problem.
As previously mentioned, the undulating land on the back nine provides for superior holes with the tough par 5 10th, exciting downhill 12th (whose green is about to be moved 40 metres back behind a dune), the long uphill par 3 15th (where the club has plans to add a tee box and split fairway to make this an optional short par 4) and a magnificent stretch of 16 to 18 with a downhill par 5 and two very tough par 4s to finish. When the dunes come more directly into play in the last few holes, the quality of the course increases tremendously.
Going forward, I wish for new tees to add some angles to the holes and a comprehensive removal of vegetation across the smothered sand dunes. Thankfully the club is working on these improvements for the long-term success of the course.
A visit to The Bluffs Resort as far as I’m concerned is a must for every single golfer thinking of taking a golf or golf and culture trip to Vietnam. The Bluffs is a new course designed by Greg Norman and team that has already hosted a stop on the European Tour. Yes, it’s that good. The course is set in huge sand dunes and takes the player on a wild ride through, up and over these dunes running along the coast of this resort paradise. The area is poised to become not only a golf paradise but also an exciting stop for casino goers with new casinos planned.
The course enjoys fast and firm conditions and excellent greens. There is plenty of space off the tee and a fantastic set of par 3’s. There is a nice breeze which makes playing even in warm conditions very enjoyable.
What stands out the most however, is the amazing service that they provide. That alone is for me enough to recommend a visit on any trip to Vietnam. Their staff can actually meet you inside of the customs and take you through the entire process of arranging your arrival visa not to mention skipping the potentially couple hours of waiting in lines at the passport control by escorting you through a VIP line and straight into their air-conditioned transfer car/van. Once you arrive they assure you can just sit back, relax and enjoy your time there. Exactly the way it’s supposed to be with service you will only find in Asia.
It’s a complete experience, great golf, beyond wonderful service in an idealistic setting full of the exotic Vietnamese culture.
The par 4 172-yard 4th is a downhill and spectacular par three with superb views. A cliff and several bushes run alongside the green, starting from the green’s front, all the way to the holes back left side. If players do decide to aim towards the right side of the green, they should be aware of the guard bunker that is strategically placed on the green’s right. The par 5 651-yard 16th is a long hole that consists of an S-shaped curve. The view on this hole is superb as towering dunes lines the fairways on the left and Vietnam’s beautiful southern coastline spreads out in front. Both the tee shot and the second shot are downhill and a humongous bunker surrounds the entire left section of the highly undulated green.