Golf Course Architecture - Issue 76, April 2024

38 FEATURE Asia’s new golfing tiger VIETNAM GOLF Written by Adam Lawrence Golf is booming in Vietnam. Adam Lawrence finds out why. Golf first came to Vietnam a surprisingly long time ago. The French colonial authorities planned the hill station of Dalat, in the country’s Central Highlands, in the aftermath of the First World War, and when the architect and urban planner Ernest Hébrard laid out the first masterplan of the new resort in 1922, a golf course was included. The course was not built at that time, but it was certainly in operation by 1932, when Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, returned to his homeland from France, where he seems to have discovered the game. In 1930, the British design firm of Colt, Alison and Morrison published a four-page marketing flyer, listing all the courses on which they had worked. At the very bottom of the fourth page, the words ‘Indo China: Ville de Dalat’ were to be found. Harry Colt, who was 60 in 1929, certainly never travelled to Dalat to design the course. Nor, almost certainly, did his younger and seemingly more nomadic colleague Hugh Alison. Alison was in Asia, in Japan, between October 1930 and April 1931, and it is just about conceivable that he could have taken a ship from Tokyo to Saigon at the back end of his trip, but it is very, very hard to believe, as the timings really do not add up, and there is no mention of Alison’s Japanese work in the marketing flyer. Much more likely is that Colt or Alison laid out the course from topographical maps, as they did for a number of other far-flung projects, at some point in the late 1920s. The course has long been rumoured to have been constructed for Bao Dai, which seems impossible given the timing of his return from France, though according to Vietnam resident Adam Calver, now chief operating officer of Faldo Design, the emperor did apparently build a small course near the coastal city of Hue, the country’s capital between 1802 and 1945; but it has long been out of use. Dalat was abandoned for the first time in 1945. Around the same time as it was constructed, another course came into being, the Saigon, or Go Vap Golf Club, and that continued in use, even after Dalat was abandoned. In the late 1950s, a doctor named Dao Huy Hach led the restoration of the Dalat