Developed by VinaCapital and designed by Greg Norman, the Dunes course debuted in 2010, the first of two 18-hole championship layouts planned for Danang Golf Club, which is now part of the BRG Group.
The sandy soiled fairways on the Dunes course measure a total of 7,160 yards from the Shark tees and they lie on Vietnam’s central coast, next to My Khe Beach.
Highlight holes here include strong back-to-back par fives at the 4th and 5th and another long par five at the 10th that winds through dunes in the direction of the Marble Mountains. The 148-yard 16th is recognised as the signature hole, playing to a slightly raised green that’s framed by the East Sea and Cham Islands.
The Montgomerie Links course is located on an adjacent site to the Dunes fairways and both facilities are now being marketed, along with the new Nick Faldo design at Laguna Lang Co to the north of Danang, as must-play venues on the new Golf Coast Vietnam.
The tournament playing days of Norman, Montgomerie and Faldo are virtually over but all three golfing greats are still big draws when it comes to attracting golfing visitors to Vietnam.
We almost forgot to mention the greatest golfer of them all, Jack Nicklaus. In 2018, the first nine holes of a new NIcklaus Design debuted at the BRG Da Nang Resort. The second nine is due to open in October 2020.
The following edited extract by Harley Kruse is from Volume Six of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected].
“This fantastic site is just down the beach, the famous China Beach, from where the US Marine landed and set up what was to be the main air-force base for the battle with the north. What I came to see was a gently rolling sand-dune site that stretches from the beach inland, with the classic situation of an inland estuary running parallel to the coast. The dry sand dunes, sparse with grasses, exposed sand and lightly wooded with casuarina pines, stretch inland for about a kilometre before abruptly dropping down into the seasonal flood plain.
Routing the golf courses had its challenges, underpinned by one major consideration: to balance combining two golf courses with the residential, commercial and hotel/resort needs sought by the development company. In laying out the thirty-six holes, we were aided by the available golfing land conveniently dividing itself into two distinct landforms: between the dunes, and the non-dunal parts. This would lead to the building of two singular courses: a highly natural course on the dunes land, and a manufactured course on the flood plain.
Vigorously, we pursued three elements for the Dunes course: broad scale; openness; wind flow. By and large, the construction process was straightforward. Labour, one excavator, a couple of dozers and a tractor-mounted smudge-frame accomplished the work.
One of the highlights of the course proved to be the turf selection: This course is very much ribbons of manufactured turf through a wild and sandy natural landscape. An Indonesian Bermuda grass called Evergreen was selected for the tees and fairways. The tightness and firmness of this grass does much to promote a firm and fast-rolling surface; just what we were looking for.
The contrast between fairway and rough is striking. Fairways are generous in width, to accommodate the windy conditions, and to promote strategic angles without the constant risk of losing a lost ball. In fact, the open sandy rough (as it is to be maintained) makes it relatively easy to find a stray ball. The incidence of lost balls around this course is minimal. That is, unless a golfer tops a shot into one of the two small bodies of water that have to be played across.”
Danang Golf Course was designed by Greg Norman and opened for play in 2010. Norman's main lieutenant on the job in this case was Aussie Harley Kruse - and you can see the sandbelt influence in the bunkering and green complexes.
Internationally it is regarded as one of the very best courses in the Greg Norman portfolio. Located right next door to Montgomerie Links, Danang GC shares the same sandy terrain, and holes are similarly framed with graceful Casuarina trees. However Danang appears to have more elevation change and less water in play than it's neighbour.
We loved the bunkering, greens and surrounds at Danang - they do have that real sandbelt flavour to them... Crisp lines on the sand faced bunkers defined the course and the greens had enough movement to grab your attention without being silly.
The surrounding aprons gave a multitude of options for rolling or throwing the ball up- much as the classic courses in Melbourne do. And the greens rolled exceptionally well.
The routing is clever, and provides for quite a number of memorable holes. The par 3 16th hole is the picture postcard hole with ocean background - a stunning hole!
However I was equally impressed with a number of other holes including the par 5 10th hole which weaves it's way between a number of large dunes. This hole has a unique feel to it - Tobacco Road near Pinehurst in the USA is the closest I can compare it to.
I liked the way that many of the holes were framed by the Casuarina trees, and the way the the course incorporated both strategic and waste bunkering. The way the waste bunkering merged into the rough was reminiscent of the Pinehurst area, or even at times - the Pine Valley look... And the island tee boxes also contributed to that look.
Now I love a course design to ask me questions as to the lines and how much I want to take on- and Danang GC did just that through the strategic placement of their trademark bunkering. It is is a good test of golf!
Overall we very much enjoyed our day at Danang GC and recommend the course to all.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Da Nang Dunes was a very cool experience but I wouldn't say it was a phenomenal golf course. I played it the week after Christmas and it was very crowded, particularly with Korean golfers and also local members. The golf course is very well situated between Da Nang and Hoi An and gets a lot of tourist traffic. As prices go, I didn't think it was a horrible deal as it cost me like $225 but I also had a caddie and cart as well as rental sticks, a glove, and a shirt. I don't like to ride and while I love a caddie at a top course, these caddies were extremely nice but couldn't really give me any information as to my reads or my club selection.
In terms of the golf course, they have 3 9s, the A and B being the original 18 hole Greg Norman design, while the C course is a Jack Nicklaus bulkhead 9. I played the B and C, and really enjoyed it, but the B was definitely superior. I strongly recommend that if you play Da Nang you ask for the A and B as I heard the A course has some really nice dunes and back to back par 5s, which I always appreciate. The C course is fun, but felt very targety and gimmicky and was a lot easier than the front if you keep the ball away from the water. Now, when I was there, there were tons of people playing, so much so that I believe they're going to expand Nicklaus's 9 into an 18 and have 36 holes, to me far preferable to 27 as the 18s each feel coherent.
In terms of golf holes, the 10th or 1st on B course was a really nice par 5 through the dunes that ate me up for my first hole. This 9 was really exciting with two par 5s in the first 3 holes, and then the 13th (hardest hole on the course) this uphill par 4 to a well-protected green. Then there are two drivable par 4s, followed by the signature 16, the hole that goes out to the ocean. 16 is a short par 3, probably a wedge or 9 iron for most golfers, and can be a birdie hole. It isn't a great golf hole, but its ocean views and its bunker from the Vietnam War are spectacular. I found the 18th to be a really cool par 4 with a dogleg left at the end. The C course was fun but all the holes blended together, and while all the par 4s are short, and there are 3 par 5s and par 3s so chances to stroke.
Overall, it was my first time golfing in Asia so maybe the whole experience inflates my score, but if you're in the area it's worth a look. Just remember that it's not the best value, and that you must ask to play the A and B courses.
This is my favorite course in Vietnam although I do concede that Ho Tram deserves to be ranked number 1 if that makes sense. This course differs from many throughout Asia as it blends in perfectly with its surroundings and is actually walk able not that many choose to walk due to the heat.
The course runs over mildly undulating land with a great mix of holes I found the par 5’s to be the class of the course all head in different directions and have different characteristics the 10th that zig zags through large dunes is probably the best of them.
The par 4’s have great variety all different lengths and challenges the short 14th is a cracker drive able from the elevate tee however you need to clear the central bunker which is exactly where you wish it wasn’t there is plenty of room either side of the bunker to hit which side is best depends on the days pin position.
The 16th is the signature hole and the pick of the par 3’s a short hole with the beach and ocean behind with islands in the distance this hole has a wildly undulating green that provides the challenge this is the only time this course touches the shorefront.
During a recent visit I played the new Nicklaus 9 that bills itself as Asia’s first bulkhead course having imported the bulkheads from Florida I found this 9 very odd it works its way around a lake and seems to have water and bulkheads left on almost every hole except the par 3’s which are water carry the whole way everyone I spoke to at the club hated the new 9 and while the Dunes course was packed I was literally the only golfer on the Nicklaus 9.
Having played extensively in Vietnam my top 5 would be
Bluffs Ho Tram
BRG Danang Dunes
Cam Ranh (Great new course near Nha Trang it may be the best)
Ba Na Hills
Quy Nhon (Mountain)
And in the Da Nang area
BRG Danang Dunes
Ba Na Hills
Laguna Lang Co
Nam Hoi An (New course worth a round outstanding facilities)
Montgomerie Links (This is still a good course just not as good)
I have played many Greg Norman courses, and look this isn't Greg`s best but its far from his worst. the layout was enjoyable without being spectacular i felt it got monotonous in stages. There are some great holes but too many boring ones. the course is in excellent condition the staff are fabulous great bar restaurant and pro shop there is deals available, i got a great deal for my game. Yes would play again definitely but Ba Na Hills better experience and course