Situated in the elevated hill station of Dalat, the Dalat Palace Golf Club was first established in 1922, the year in which the elegant Langbian Palace Hotel (now the Dalat Palace) was completed by the French administration. At 1,500 metres above sea level the average annual temperature here is a pleasant 18 degree Celsius. A sanatorium, hotel and golf course were built. Indeed the reasons for visiting Dalat have persisted longer than the original French enthusiasts who built it up. It is an attractive small town with a cool climate and a relaxed demeanor. People fly here to escape the heat, pollution and road borne mania of Saigon.
The climate is a boon to golfing visitors for other reasons too. Temperate conditions such as these are ideal for cultivating bent grass, although there are courses laid with bent-grass in China and Korea, Dalat Palace is the only bent grass course in Southeast Asia. What is more, golfers will also enjoy the effects of altitude which adds as much as 10 percent extra at this level.
The course is laid out on undulating land right in the middle of town so could not be more convenient – especially since most golfers will he staying at either of the two Accor run hotels: the Novotel or the Sofitel (otherwise known as Dalat Palace). The 1994 reconditioning carried out by IMG has nurtured a pleasant, parkland course suited to holiday golf. The fairways arc generously wide and most of the holes are fairly straightforward. There are a variety of tees and the course at its most extended measures 7,009 yards, which is about the equivalent of 6,400 to 6,600 yards at sea level.
The small clubhouse is a charming 1950s structure that resembles a traditional teahouse. The first seven holes set the tone for the course. Just in front of the clubhouse lies the first tee and one of the best holes on the course. Unusually the course begins with a par three which is played parallel to Phu Dong Thien Vuong Street which lies just over the fence. The 2nd is a par four of medium length where the challenge is to avoid the fairway hunkers on both sides. A draw shot played from the edge of the right hand bunkers works best. The 3rd is a similarly-lengthed par four but laid out as a sharp dog-leg to the right. Fairway bunkers straight ahead provide the ideal target point for the drive and the second will be sharply downhill. A properly struck approach shot will bite the green and spin back, as will most iron shots hit into these soft and smooth surfaces.
The 4th is a longer hole and a stiffer test as it works it way back up the hill parallel to the 3rd. The 5th is a good par three played to a variety of lengths and as much as 234 yards from the back tees. The par five 6th is reminiscent of some of the par fives at the sister course some 250 kilometers to the South at Ocean Dunes. It works its way to the right side of a long and narrow lake that continues on through the property, effectively dividing it into two. The 7th is a longer dog-leg with a pleasing shape to it. The golfer must first decide whether to cross the water which bisects the fairway from the tee on the second shot. You then play uphill to a hidden green.
Golf remains somewhat of a novelty in Vietnam. There is no doubt that both Ocean Dunes and Dalat Palace benefit from being in association with each other and from the stewardship of registered PGA professional Jeff Pulchalsky, who acts as Director of Golf and General Manager for both properties. The staff are very competent and friendly, and the caddies would stand up against caddies anywhere else in Asia for their expertise. Dalat Palace has a properly laid out and impressive practice facility. The putting surfaces at both courses, despite being different grasses facing different climactic conditions, are amongst the best in Asia. Dalat Palace and Ocean Dunes are both good enough and enjoyable enough experiences to make it worthwhile for the traveller to bring their clubs.
The above passage is an extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
The Dalat Palace Golf Club lists the
architectural firm of Colt & Alison as the original course designers. In
1930 the renowned firm did indeed list “Ville de Dalat” in “Indo China” within
their global catalogue, but recent research has not evidenced that either
architect actually travelled to Vietnam. Golf Historian Paul Turner commented in HK Golfer in 2008 as follows: “C.H. Alison did work in Japan in 1930.
Occasionally Colt would design a course from maps or aerial photography. He was
reported to have done so for a course in Singapore.” It’s therefore possible that
Dalat was routed in a similar fashion.
The course at Dalat Palace GC is sited virtually in the centre of the town on undulating terrain which features mature pine trees and a number of water hazards.
The fairways are wide, and the greens are large, so the course is seen to be suitable for the resort golfer as well as the private members.. But the many water carries and elevated greens will test even the more skilled golfers..
The course is not so well suited to walkers as some of the distances between green and tee are lengthy.. This may be a reflection of the chequered design history of the course and how it evolved over the years. The site is a little hilly, but is still a pleasant walk, albeit a long one! (carts are available)
Golfers will remember the many water carry holes at Dalat Palace as the main ‘feature’ of the course. There are quite a number of par 4 holes with tee shots to fairways framed by pine trees, followed by an approach shot over water to an elevated green. There is no doubt this adds some challenge to the round, and looks wonderful, but it does become a little repetitious..
However of the 4 par three holes at Dalat (1, 5, 9 & 12), only the fifth features water. None of them are memorable, but all are solid golf holes.
With the constant use of water in front of greens, the mature pines framing the holes, colour of the various flowering shrubs, and rolling terrain the course at times had a Vietnam meets Japan meets Augusta National feel. That’s not a bad thing!
Notable holes include:
- the short dogleg par 4 third hole, with the green set well below the main fairway
- the very tight par 5 sixth hole with OOB right and water on the left. The landing area for the drive is tight and it is even tighter for the second shot!
- the uphill par 4 seventh hole with diagonal water carry for the brave, and alternate fairways either side of the water
- the picture perfect par 4 sixteenth hole with water carry to the elevated green, and perfect ‘Augusta like’ setting
When we visited Dalat Palace GC in May there had been no rain for several days, but the bent grass greens were just a little heavy, and the fairways would have to have been the longest I have ever played on- for a world class course. Visitors would do well to plan to avoid the wet season here!
Dalat is an interesting place to visit for a few days, and now boasts 3 pretty decent courses with The Dalat at 1200, and Sacom GC now also boasting 18 holes. Dalat Palace is a world class course and Dalat is a unique destination. That's a pretty good combination!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
The Dalat Palace Golf Club is Vietnam’s oldest golf course. This resort course is located in the highland where there is an altitude of over 1500 meters. The course is spread out over a hill that overlooks Dalat city and the Xuan Huong Lake. Every hole is arranged exquisitely and the course has made good use of the natural terrain. The buildings that surround the golf courses are so unique and different that it makes it seem as if players are playing in the French region of Provence. About ten to twenty years ago, the American Golf Digest rated the Dalat Palace Golf Club as having one of the most beautiful courses in all of Asia. With low humidity and an average temperature of about 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, players will find it difficult to believe that they are in Vietnam as they are surrounded, not by the typical hot and tropical Vietnamese weather, but instead, a cool and comfortable atmosphere. This old and charming course features small and well-guarded greens and fairways flanked by pine trees.
The par 5 519-yard 6th has a gentle downhill and a dogleg that bends toward the left. Players should be careful on the tee shot as there is a body of water that runs all along the left side and a series of pine trees and OB lines that scatter the right side. The landing area of both the tee and second shots are quite narrow, making accuracy an important factor. Approaching the green will be quite a challenge since players must look out for the lake on the left and a bunker on the right side of the green.
With an uphill tee shot and a sharp dogleg bend to the right, the demanding par 4 399-yard 7th has two playing routes off the tee: driving aggressively over the pond and playing safely to hit onto the left fairway bordering the pond. The route over the pond requires an accurate carry of 185-230 yards. When successful, players can shorten the overall distance quite a lot. Another route to hit onto the left of the pond is not difficult but the second shot will become extremely long. A bunker is placed on the front right side of the green sloping sharply from back to front. To read more about Dalat Palace, click here to visit my website.