Greg Norman's latest design is The Bluffs, a links-style track routed over and through sand dunes adjacent to The Grand Ho Tram Resort in southeast Vietnam, about 2-1/2 hours from Ho Chi Minh City.
2 of 11Tom Eubank
The East Sea provides a picturesque backdrop to the par 4 opening hole. At just 337 yards from the tips, the first shares a fairway with the ninth hole and lets players ease into what will be a memorable round.
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Norman compared The Bluffs to his well-received Doonbeg design in Ireland. "As you walk down the fairways and you look at all the undulations, and the greens settings -- most of those are exactly the way the original form (of the land) was,” Norman said at the course's grand opening. “So it’s almost the least disturbance approach you can possibly do.”
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The Grand resort can be seen in the distance from the 157-yard par-3 11th hole. The 541-room, 20-story beachfront hotel features world class dining and casino gaming. It opened in July 2013 as Vietnam's first international luxury casino. "When players go somewhere, what we like to have are the creature comforts, and you certainly have those here," Norman said.
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Bagpipers attended the official opening of The Bluffs, an appropriate touch for the links-themed course. The par-71 plays 7007 yards from the back tees, 6287 from the blue, 5615 from the white and 4785 from the forward tees. It's Norman's 87th design.
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Greenskeepers tend to the 14th hole, a 340-yard par 4. The course, open for play since last spring, has been nominated for three Asia Pacific Golf Awards: Best Golf Course Superintendent (Ali Macfadyen), Best New Golf Course in Asia Pacific and Best Golf Course in Vietnam.
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Former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell (left) and two-time European Tour winner Robert Rock (right) joined Norman for an exhibition match at the course's opening. “It’s just spectacular," Rock said. "It’s definitely challenging, but it’s also fair. I could play here every day. That’s not something you can say about most courses." Also playing in the match were Vietnamese LPGA Tour pro Tang Thi Nhung and Ngo Bao Nghi, a native of Vietnam and member of the women's golf team at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
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One standout on the front is the par-4 8th hole, which plays 412 yards from the back tees. The downhill routing features a fairway split by a natural water feature.
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The green on the 376-yard par-4 third hole is framed by some of the lush foliage surrounding the course.
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The 10th hole is a three-shot par 5 with a multilevel green nestled between a bunker and a waste area.
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The 18th hole plays to an uphill finish, 489 yards from the back tees. The multi-story clubhouse at The Bluffs features floor-to-ceiling windows, a 100-seat restaurant, men's and women's locker rooms and two large practice putting greens.
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