Holing out: Where the buffalo roam

  • Water buffalo

    Laguna Golf Lăng Cô in Hue, Vietnam, employs a family of water buffalo to tend to its course

  • Water buffalo

    Sir Nick Faldo says the water buffalo keep the rice paddy fields trimmed and the muddy areas neat

  • Water buffalo

    The golf club has recently become the first to be elevated to the new Sir Nick Faldo Signature category

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

This article is based upon a piece that first appeared in the April 2019 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.

Greenkeeping staff around the world use a variety of resources to keep their courses in good shape. Some are quite unique, like at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô in Hue, Vietnam. The club is employing the talents of a very special group of greenkeepers – a family of water buffalo.

Director of golf Adam Calver said: “We are pretty sure it’s a first in this part of the world to have animals performing such an important role on the golf course.”

“We looked at various methods to increase the aesthetics of the rice paddies between the harvests, as continually mowing the fields to maintain vast rice terraces can consume a large amount of labour,” said Calver. “The water buffalo act as bio-mowers while also protecting the traditional Vietnamese landscape.”

The paddies contour the third and fourth holes and reappear between the thirteenth green, fourteenth tee and alongside the fifteenth fairway.

Father Tu Phat, mother Chi Chi and their calf Bao eat excess weeds and crops that would otherwise require machinery and manpower to maintain.

The paddies are also harvested twice a year, yielding up to 20 tonnes of rice that is used to support the organic farm at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô.

“The beauty of the golf course design at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô is that we have different and unique environments to work with – rice paddies, river, boulders, beach, sand dunes, mountain backdrop – something we are always looking for in Faldo Design projects,” said Sir Nick Faldo. “It helps keep golfers interested and gives the golf course that memorability factor.

“With the water buffalo family that have been introduced to the golf course, they actually help the maintenance team and are ever-present right throughout the season, keeping the rice paddy fields trimmed and the muddy areas neat. It’s a pretty cool feature and one that golfers who come and play here will remember for years to come.”

“We knew that having the holes weave through the rice fields would be a unique and memorable experience for golfers,” said Paul Jansen, who worked with Faldo on the design of the course. “And also, there would be potential to give back to the community in a sustainable and regenerative fashion. All the best golf courses have character and sense of place and we felt if we could adapt our surroundings then we would be close to achieving something really good.”

The golf club has recently become the first to be elevated to the new Sir Nick Faldo Signature category. The category will only be applied to Faldo courses – both existing and forthcoming – that match and maintain the high standards across a range of markers including sustainability, conservation, and quality of design.

“Being elevated in status like this really speaks volumes of our ongoing commitment to realising Sir Nick’s vision,” said Calver.

Improvements have been made in recent times, including the addition of new tees and tree clearing on coastal holes, opening up views of the beach and the East Sea.

“From the first time I came here when it was still jungle almost 10 years ago, I’ve always considered it a unique place,” said Faldo.