Hoiana Shores Golf Club in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, has secured a long-term pipeline of trained staff through its investment in the Golf Operations and Maintenance Vocational College (GOMVC), the first golf-specific enterprise of its kind in Asia.
The GOMVC is part of Hoiana Quang Nam Vocational Training Centre, located in the neighbouring Duy Phuoc district.
The first class of 24 course maintenance students arrived in October 2018, followed by 25 caddie and golf operations students in December, who started their curriculum and will be fully trained prior to the soft opening in June.
By January 2019, the first graduating class of maintenance staffers joined the grounds crew at Hoiana Shores, where the grassing of golf holes is already underway.
The course at Hoiana Shores is the first RTJ II design in the country, with a grand opening scheduled for late 2019.
Read more: RTJ II designs first course in Vietnam
“Vietnam today is widely seen as the most active course development market in the world – there are 45 courses now in operation and another 20 plus in some stage of development,” said Ben Styles, vice president of golf and residential development at Hoiana Shores Golf Club. “Nowhere in the country has development been so active than here on the central coast. There has been an explosion of development, golf and otherwise, and Quang Nam Province has wisely supported this activity with a local tourism college that has trained of thousands of resort and hotel workers to date.
“However, a golf course has specific needs when it comes to staff. Even someone with superb hospitality training doesn’t know how to handle a greens mower – or read the undulations of golf greens, or handle point-of-sale software specific to golf shops. This is the first programme with a specialised autonomous ‘bricks and mortar’ home ever created in Asia and judging from the reactions we’ve received from within the golf industry, it’s poised to meet a glaring need.”
Styles has helped to develop and manage a handful of the country’s elite golf properties. He says that labour, staff and training have been persistent issues.
“This problem isn’t particular to Vietnam,” said Styles. “We’ve all seen how golf courses across Southeast Asia open in a certain condition, with certain agronomic and hospitality standards, only to abandon those standards over time. That’s a result of staff not being trained up properly by the time the original superintendent, director of golf or the original general manager moves on. At the same time, here in Danang and Hoi An, demand for skilled staff has clearly outpaced supply.”
According to Styles, Hoiana Shores spent over US$300,000 to renovate the college.
Hoiana Shores course superintendent Rob Weiks supplied a syllabus for the course maintenance curriculum at GOMVC. Director of golf Kelly Nguyen did likewise for caddie and operations. Each graduate will receive the first-ever accredited degrees for Golf Operations and Maintenance in Vietnam.
“Without those degrees accredited by the Vietnamese government, golf course workers in Vietnam are not recognised as professionals with legitimate wage-earning positions,” said Styles. “That may sound like a bureaucratic fine point, but it’s not. Right now, golf course workers are not so recognised, by the government, and so they cannot do things like go and get a bank loan, for example. This accreditation is a huge development for Vietnamese nationals who work in the golf business.”
Hong Kong-based LinksShape – the company building the RTJ II-designed course – has constructed an on-campus fairway, two putting greens and a bunkered short game area, so students can practice agronomic techniques on authentic golf course features.
Sports Turf Solutions has donated maintenance equipment for students to learn and practice on.
“We’ve received so much support – I think because people in the golf industry recognise the need and want to see it succeed, then replicated all across Southeast Asia,” said Styles. “Obviously, Hoiana Shores has self-interest here: we’re creating a direct pipeline of talent for five years.
“After that time, however, we shall hand over the college to the Quang Nam People’s Committee, whereupon we anticipate the programme will continue to provide that talent pipeline for our resort – and golf properties across the country. It’s our desire and commitment to build up a sustainable golf industry where Vietnamese talents are prepared to run it.”