Ocean Dunes Golf Club in Phan Thiet is a national tourism treasure that Vietnam should preserve for generations to come.
Unfortunately it is now under threat of demolished if new owners have their way.
And it is not just golfers and tourism officials fighting to save the course. But Ocean Dune Golf Club members and people who invested money in the course are taking up the fight on Facebook to save it as well.
The 62-hectare Nick Faldo-designed links influenced layout opened in 1996 and is unique to Asia in its coastal setting, hence its value to developers. But it seems counter intuitive to pave over an almost 20 year old golf course that attracts thousands of golf tourists, their families and their tourism dollars to the region annually.
Not to mention the hundreds of Vietnamese it employs in Phan Thiet.
Vietnam is not blessed with many courses and golf development is often controversial across Asia in general. Loss of agricultural land, water usage and local benefit are constant subjects in this debate.
That’s why the Vietnamese government deserves credit for supporting and helping get Ocean Dunes Golf Club project off the ground in the early 1990s. It is a direct by-product of its highly successful Doi Moi openness campaign that attracted investment to develop tourism attractions and improve infrastructure.
Neighbouring Thailand figured this out decades ago. Comparing golf in the two countries is like apples and oranges but it does give food for thought. Golf tourism to Thailand attracted over 850,000 visitors to the Kingdom and generated an estimated US$3.68 billion dollars in 2013.
In comparison an estimated 35,000 golf tourists visited Vietnam in 2013, so future growth potential for the sector is massive.
Vietnam should develop golf tourism at its own pace (the country’s 30th course recently opened near Hanoi) but to lose a mature international quality course designed by a living golf legend is a big step backwards.
Ocean Dunes Golf Course has won multiple awards over the years, especially for its wicked (and almost impossible to par) 148-yard par 3 ninth hole. When an onshore wind picks up off the South China Sea it can be a very challenging place to play.
This fork has had the pleasure to play there several times and found it is both stunning and unique.
While many Vietnamese and foreigners based in Vietnam are working hard to save Ocean Dunes Golf Club, local interest in golf is growing fast just like around the rest of Asia.
Ok we understand this is not like saving an endangered species, world peace or global warming.
But it is a very important cause for the future growth of Vietnam’s golf tourism industry based on logic and common sense.