Dalat Palace Golf Club in Vietnam has adopted a range of measures to improve the course’s environmental performance.
The course in the country’s Central Highlands was originally laid out in the 1930s, at the behest of Bao Dai, the country's last emperor, and is believed to have been designed by legendary British architect Hugh Alison.
A key plank of the club’s approach to over the past year has been the reintroduction of wildlife. The Dalat area was once a favourite hunting ground for both the Vietnamese aristocracy and French colonials, due to the plethora of big game prowling its mile-high forests. The tigers are long gone, but the layout's many water hazards have been stocked with fish such as carp and tilapia. Birdhouses have been erected around the course to attract doves, pigeons and other avian species endemic to Vietnam such as the yellow-billed nuthatch and the Indochinese green magpie. Other animals golfers are liable to encounter are families of ducks, squirrels and even the occasional deer – all of which are allowed to roam freely within the course boundaries.
“We want to encourage the presence of wildlife as much as possible,” said Nong Ngoc Anh, the club’s head greenkeeper. “Golf courses have received some bad press in recent years because they are perceived to upset the natural balance of the land where they are located. That's simply not the case here. In fact, if the golf course wasn't here, many of these animals would be killed for food.
“The understanding works both ways. We nurture and protect the animals, and the animals enhance the course, creating a peaceful natural atmosphere that golfers really appreciate.”
Other efforts to improve the course's visual aesthetic have followed in a similarly considered vein. As part of a designated 'Green Month' at the club – timed to coincide with World Environment Day on 5 June – staff seeded a previously untended 500 sq m area on the driving range with an array of rose, hydrangea, geraniaceae and lavender.
Meanwhile, starting in 2010, environmentally friendly fertilisers and pesticides are now used during the upkeep of the course's fairways and putting surfaces. “We started using bio-fertilisers at the end of last year,” said Nong Ngoc Anh. “These eco-friendly products nurture the soil rather than harming it and are a much more viable long-term option.”
“We are well aware of our responsibilities as a pillar of the Dalat community,” said golf operations manager Kim Thu Doan. “Vietnam is a developing country and many people just aren't aware of how to act in an environmentally friendly manner. We do, so it is incumbent upon us to set a good example.”