Saigon firm Vina Properties has acquired Dalat Palace Golf Club, regarded as Vietnam’s top course.
Dalat Palace’s history, though confused and uncertain, goes back to the 1920s. Founded in the late 19th century, Dalat was the preferred cool-weather retreat of French colonials and Vietnamese royals; the last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, built his summer retreat here. The golf club’s exact provenance remains uncertain, but design and construction began in the 1920s – at the behest of Bao Dai, an avid golfer – and the first eight holes were opened for play in the early 1930s.
The routing of the original holes is attributed to Harry Colt and Hugh Alison – presumably Alison, who spent a fair amount of time in Asia in addition to his famous work in Japan – after which the layout endured several cycles of disuse and rejuvenation. It was completely renovated, and expanded to 18 holes, in 1995, thanks to a collaboration between US-based Danao International Holdings, the previous owner, and Lam Dong Province.
“Operating a national treasure like Dalat Palace presents special challenges, as well as special opportunities,” said Lan Duong, the golf club’s new general manager. “Our goal is to bring the proper mix of creativity and sensitivity to the task, to update the golf facilities while never compromising the qualities that make it a classic.
Plans to revitalise the course itself, according to Lan Duong, include bolstering drainage capacity, re-lining bunkers, regrading cart paths and upgrading the cart fleet. The clubhouse – first built as an estate villa during the 1920s, an era that saw construction of the opulent, hillside villas for which Dalat is famous – is now undergoing a renovation aimed at retaining its distinctive design while modernising locker rooms, restaurant and pro shop. Ultimately, a new clubhouse will be built, said Lan Duong, but the existing clubhouse will also remain.
Along with the golf course, Vina – which has a diverse background in tourism-related development – has acquired two hotels, the Dalat Palace and the Dalat du Parc. The firm’s other hospitality holding include the four-star Ramana Saigon Hotel and the Royal Hotel in Vung Tau.