What does it take for a region to become a successful, sought-after international golf tourism destination?
Great courses, attractive prices, easy access, an inviting climate, high quality accommodation, beaches, mountains and scenery, a safe environment, interesting local food, culture and history and friendly people are all part of the perfect formula.
But few golf destinations can claim all these ingredients, so when a region has the whole package, success inevitably follows.
Vietnam’s booming Central Coast, which this month celebrates five years of golf, ticks all boxes. The result has been growth from zero to more than 100,000 rounds a year in just half a decade.
This month marks five years since the first rounds were played at Montgomerie Links Vietnam. Now, the Central Coast, promoted internationally as Golf Coast Vietnam, is one of Asia’s top golf destinations.
More than 250,000 rounds have been played there since September 2009, a remarkable achievement for an area with no previous golf history and with the nearest course still more than 500 kilometres away.
The three courses near Danang – Montgomerie Links, Danang Golf Club and Laguna Lang Co – have each added a new dimension to playing golf in Asia. Designed by three modern greats of the game – Colin Montgomerie, Greg Norman and Sir Nick Faldo – a further reason for their success is a joint marketing campaign, Golf Coast Vietnam (www.golfcoastvietnam.com) that promotes the region rather than any one course.
“We co-operate with each other in bringing the region to the attention of golf travellers,” says Golf Coast Vietnam chairman, Joe Millar, the general manager of Danang Golf Club. “We have welcomed golfers from all around the world and the feedback is always extremely positive. Golfers and non-golfers alike just love coming here.”
The influx of golf visitors to Danang since 2009 is part of a tourism boom that will see international visitors pass one million in 2014, 35 percent above 2013 arrivals.
As Vietnam’s fourth largest city, Danang has long been a popular destination for Vietnamese and foreign visitors. Three UNESCO World Heritage attractions – the ancient trading port of Hoi An, the citadel in the former imperial city of Hue, and the My Son (Hindu) Sanctuary – make it a region of immense cultural and historic importance.
The number of direct international flights has grown steadily since a new airport terminal opened two years ago. Today, direct flights from Singapore (Silkair), Hong Kong (Dragonair), Kuala Lumpur (AirAsia), Tokyo (Vietnam Airlines), Seoul (Asiana and Korean Air) complement charter flights from Shanghai and Beijing and numerous daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Dalat, Nha Trang, Pleiku and other local cities.
Executive director of Montgomerie Links Vietnam, Jon Tomlinson, says the region’s major golf tourism markets are South Korea and Japan, following a slight decline in the former primary market of China due to political tensions between the two countries earlier this year. Australia and the United Kingdom are the leading western long-haul markets.
“Indigenous Vietnamese golf rounds are also showing excellent growth, with 30pc of rounds played at Montgomerie Links, despite only a reported 10,000 active golfers nationally,” Jon Tomlinson says.
Mark Siegel, the owner of Golfasian Vietnam (www.golfasian.com) the leading inbound golf tourism company in Vietnam, says he knew the region was destined to become Vietnam’s best golf destination when he first visited five years ago.
“It has everything golfers want and will undoubtedly grow in stature in the future. Without doubt, Danang is already among the top golf destinations in Asia,” he says.
Golf visitors to the Central Coast are invariably especially impressed with the quality and diversity of the golf experience. Each course is different. Montgomerie Links is a beautifully presented resort-style layout, Danang Golf Club has exposed sand dunes and a distinct links feel, while Laguna Lang Co is a multi-environment layout with jungle, creeks, rice paddy, beach and sandy blowouts on the course.
A fourth course, Ba Na Hills in the Danang hinterland, is currently under construction and is expected to open in late 2015 or early 2016.
Plentiful high quality accommodation is available for all budgets. Many excellent resorts are located on famous My Khe beach, including two Golf Coast Vietnam members, Fusion Maia and The Ocean Villas.
General Manager of The Ocean Villas, Erik Billgren, says the resort has experienced a significant year-on-year increase in golf tourists as well as visitors from Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Japan due to new direct international flights.
“The fact that return guest rates are ever increasing is a testament to the wonderful and challenging courses in the region, which makes visiting golfers want to come back for more,” he adds click this site.
(This story originally posted in September 2014)
Photos: Caddies from Golf Coast Vietnam’s three member clubs on My Khe beach; view of Danang looking towards Marble Mountain.