Even a non-golfer like Brett Davis can appreciate a weekend golfing escape if the location is this spectacular.
My tee shot came to rest near the edge of the manicured fairway. Less than a hundred metres away was the 10th green at Ocean Dunes Golf Club in Phan Thiet, the flag on the pin flapping lazily in the breeze. Unfortunately, I was playing the 18th hole.
Such is my golfing ability, this is not an unusual occurrence.
However, despite golf being my greatest handicap, it was still nice to be out of HCM City for a weekend on the Binh Thuan coast to play a couple of the country’s leading courses. Along with Ocean Dunes we were also scheduled to play the nearby Sea Links Golf and Country Club course in Mui Ne.
Now, I have three simple yet strictly adhered to rules when it comes to playing golf: Firstly, no cart, no start. Mark Twain said golf was a good walk ruined, so I always elect to remove the walking from the equation. Next is that nine is fine. When you play as badly as I do there is just no need to subject yourself to the rigors of 18 holes. Finally, golf was invented by the Scots so one should always have whisky on hand. It seems only right and proper.
Despite shanking my next shot I managed to find myself back on the 18th fairway about 150 metres from the green. My next shot was, believe it or not, a majestic five iron that hit the left side of the green and rolled to within a dozen feet of the hole. It was one of those maddeningly rare good shots that stop you from abandoning the game of golf completely.
The ride to the green gave us a chance to take in the Nick Faldo-designed layout. The course makes the most out of its beachfront location. I had elected to play the back nine because many of the holes have wonderful views of the ocean, and I was also advised by the club’s general manager that it was the less challenging half of the course.
Two putts and it was an even par five for the hole and a nice way to finish the day. Even nicer was one of the club’s specialty frozen margaritas on returning to the clubhouse.
The two courses, Ocean Dunes and Sea Links, have joined forces under the banner of ‘Golf the Beach’ to promote golfing getaways to this section of coast, which is only five or six hours drive from Saigon. There are a plethora of accommodation options available in the area and we get put up for the night at Blue Ocean, the Life Resorts property on the beach strip in Mui Ne.
The resort is relaxed and comfortable, and we have dinner in the main dining area by the beach to the sound of waves crashing a few yards away.
Early the next morning our group boards the bus for the short ride to Sea Links Golf and Country Club. Built on sand dunes rising 80 metres above sea level, the course is an impressive sight. It is very much a links-style course in that the natural terrain has been largely retained in favour of a more sculptured design.
The undulating fairways and long distances from the back markers make me particularly thankful for the ‘no cart, no start’ rule. The temperature was already soaring as we loaded up the buggies and headed to the first tee. The previous night had been a little more raucous than intended and it had the effect of making my suspect technique even worse. Normally I have a natural left to right slice, but somehow on this occasion I developed a hook to the left.
It wasn’t until the spectacular par three 8th hole that things seemed to right themselves. The hole slopes downhill with the blue of the East Sea behind and to the right of the green. A birdie on that hole and a solid drive from the 9th tee had me once again pondering the vagaries of this game as we rolled up the cart path towards the clubhouse. I would not, by any measure, describe myself as a golfer, but those little moments where it all comes together stick in the mind.
It is probably enough to get me coming back again. That, and there are few lovelier spots to escape the city for the weekend than this stretch of coastline.