Montgomerie Links in Vietnam Debuts new Practice Facility

Forty-two years after Billy Casper blasted sand shots into tractor tires on China Beach, golf balls are again being struck along Vietnam's Central Coast.

The practice facility at Montgomerie Links Vietnam opened with 30 covered hitting bays, a 300-meter-long driving range, a 450-square-meter putting and chipping area, a fully stocked pro shop and a café-a far cry from what Casper, the two-time U.S. Open champion, had to work with in 1966, when he and a U.S. combat colonel played to makeshift targets in this region during a morale-building tour of the country.

"Proper golf has been a long time coming here," said Jon Tomlinson, general manager of Montgomerie Links Vietnam, which is scheduled to open nine of the planned 18 holes for public play on Aug. 1. "From bunker-guarded greens on the range to a creatively imagined short-game area, the facility has everything a player could want in order to get ready for the soft opening."

The opening is coming soon. Montgomerie Links Vietnam is scheduled to unveil nine of the planned 18 holes for public play on August 1. Designed by eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie, the course moves over a landscape of wispy casuarina pines and sand dunes. Massive greens and rippled fairways are among the layout's Old World features, while lakes and Paspalum - elements missing from classic links courses - provide a touch of modernity.

To accommodate the equipment needs of golfers, now and into the future, the practice center has been outfitted with a pro shop that rents out or sells all the latest gear from the biggest brands in golf, such as Callaway, Nike, TaylorMade and Titleist.

Next door, a café with floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides offers panoramic views of the range, as well as innovative breakfast and lunch menus. All food items are prepared by Canadian chef Shawn Scott, who honed his skills at Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay (Maryland) and uses only fresh ingredients from the nearby Hoi An waterfront market.

The facility will also include a teaching academy led by certified PGA professionals, capable of training all levels of players through expert one-on-one instruction and video swing analysis techniques. The full program will be implemented by next spring, but components - such as special clinics for groups - are already available.

"Our goal wasn't just to have the first golf club in Central Vietnam, it was to set a new benchmark for world-class golf in Southeast Asia," said Peter Ryder, CEO of Indochina Capital, the project's developer. "With this caliber of practice facility as harbinger, we think it will be that - even before all 18 holes are ready next spring."

Indochina Capital has committed $45 million to the Montgomerie Links Vietnam project, breaking new leisure ground in the most promising resort region yet developed in Vietnam.

A little over a year ago, another Indochina property, a posh super-resort and spa dubbed The Nam Hai, opened to worldwide acclaim on a site just five kilometers south of Montgomerie Links Vietnam. The most prestigious hotel groups in the world, including Raffles, Banyan Tree, Kor and Hyatt, are also developing resorts in the region.

In addition to the course and practice facility, the 70-plus-hectare development will include a dramatic 3,000-square-meter clubhouse and 54 three-bedroom villas for sale called The Estates at Montgomerie Links. The villas will range in size from 276 to 395 square meters on ample lots that range in size from 350 to 700 square meters. All villas feature heated swimming pools, contemporary American-style kitchens and expansive views of the course.