Back to the Bluffs
April 14, 2016
I had the opportunity to revisit The Bluffs GC at Ho Tram and stay a few days with my family at the Grand hotel last month. It was my first visit back since the soft opening of the full 18 holes. I was looking forward to this trip because I figured this course agrees with my game and style, so I might have the opportunity to go even lower than the first time around.
What goes around comes around and the course took its revenge. You see, there’s a bit of difference between playing in dry season and rainy season and it has nothing to do with drainage. It’s all about wind direction and this time the course turned into a snarling beast with really big fangs.
Poor me. I did not give the beast the respect it deserved and it bit back.
I started at the driving range which was still under construction during my last trip. As with everything in this project, the range is first rate and even has Titleist range balls, a really nice touch. There are target greens galore and even two full size pitching and chipping greens which will come in handy when serious tournaments come to town.
I rate a golf course driving range very simply. If it’s a place where I can happily hit balls for a few hours, it’s good and this place is very good.
The Bluffs is a fantastic course regardless of which season you play and there will almost always be a lot of wind, so you need to know how to play “wind golf”. Having played in many parts of the world, including Texas and Hawaii, I learned how to keep the ball low, but this time around, my swing just wasn’t up to snuff and the course exacted its revenge. C’est la vie.
Putting was excellent. The GC Superintendent, Ali, and his staff keep them rolling at around 10 and very true. Pick the right line and the ball will track to the hole like its on rails. Miss the line and tempo and it’s a three-putt if you’re lucky.
I was a little surprised that the greens would be as firm as they were given it was rainy season. I really couldn’t get any significant backspin. It played like a true links course where you need to land the ball early and let it roll out to the hole. This was a refreshing change from the target golf we find at most other courses.
Changes have been made to the bunkers, so instead of the clean edges, they made them a bit ragged to resemble natural erosion instead of a man-made obstacle. I am not quite sure I like them, but most of the people I spoke with are raving about the look, so I guess I’m in the minority. Either way, the bunkers play remarkably well. No plugged lies and ball came out quite nicely.
As for the rough…last time it wasn’t really grown in, but it is now. My advice, stay out of it. The ball settles down a bit and you’ll be hard pressed to hit a decent shot. The only advantage of the rough areas is that there are sandy wastes which might give you a decent lie to hit a recovery shot.
The clubhouse is fully under construction again, which is a very welcome sign and I even saw the designer, Graham Taylor, roaming around in a buggy. Graham designs pretty good clubhouses, with outstanding locker rooms. With the location, this should be a great place to kick back after a round, have a few beers and watch the tide roll in.
As for the Grand hotel…as usual, it was simply superb, if a little crowded.
According to management, they have been fully occupied and when I say “fully” I mean even the luxury suites are stuffed. If you want to visit on a weekend, plan to book ahead, otherwise, come during the week, which I might add is a super bargain – golf and room for a ridiculously low price, gotta love it!
I didn’t have the opportunity to visit the casino as my wife and daughter were in tow, but I did spend a lot of time at the pool and the ocean, which was quite enjoyable. There is nothing like falling into a pool with your kid, splashing around and finding your favorite ice cream waiting for you when you get out.
All in all, we had a great time and I strongly recommend a visit if you’re either a serious golfer looking to play one of Asia’s Top 10 courses, or just wanting to relax with the family in luxurious comfort.
I’m not bluffing, you’ll have a grand time.