Review by Bill Healey – VGM’s Contributor
Dalat Palace a Golf Club :: A golfing oasis within an urban setting
Rising above Xuan Huong Lake in the central highlands of Vietnam is Dalat Palace Golf Club, the oldest golf course in the country. Built in the 1920s, it served as the personal course of Emperor Bao Dai, Vietnam’s last emperor. Though the course has been through a few changes in its 95 years, it still retains its original charm along with the feel of a leading, historical club.
The trees and shrubbery around the course were a testament to the maturity of the course. Despite having the city grow around the course, Dalat Palace still maintains its status as one of the country’s preferred golfing venues. I particularly enjoy the setting as it exudes a vibe as a golfing oasis within an urban setting.
We were fortunate to spend a good part of the day at the club, playing an 18-hole round followed by a nice lunch hosted by the club’s General Manager, Tran Quoc Hung. The round was interrupted for about 10 minutes by a heavy rain, but we were able to resume and complete a full 18.
As with other courses built in the early 1900s, I found there to be more challenge in the need for careful club selection than by length. A driver was not always the best option off the tee as water hazards occasionally dictated a shorter shot.
On the 513-yard 18th hole, I played it a bit cautious, teeing-off with an iron rather than a driver out of concern for the motorists on the road. A busy thoroughfare created a tight out-of-bounds on the right hand side, and was a draw for too many wayward balls. A few other holes dictated a club selection for better ball placement than for distance.
The course underwent a multi-million dollar re-development in 1994, re-opening amid much anticipation. It remains the most awarded club in Vietnam, and continues to be a draw for both residents and international tourists.
Review by Vietnam Golf Tourism
Dalat Golf Club (dalat palace golf) is situated in the the South-western highlands, 1500m above sea level in the temperate highlands of Dalat, a 30-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City or 1.5-hour flight south from Ha Noi.
Imagine a place where you can forget about the sea of crazy motorbike traffic, where you can stay outside all day long, enjoy the sun and play golf at one of Asia’s best golf courses in a country where daytime temperatures rarely fall below 20°C (68°F) and humidity hovers around 80-90%. It’s time for you to go to Dalat Palace Golf Club.
The 9-hole course initially designed by a French architect in 1922 as a private golf course for Emperor Bao Dai, Vietnam’s last Emperor. The course is located in the center of Da Lat city, rising above the Xuan Huong Lake, which is considered as the heart of Da Lat. It used to be a popular destination of French and American officers who wanted to enjoy the cool climate and fresh air of the mountains during the French Indochina War and American War. The course has reflected the changing times in Vietnam. After the Reunification of Vietnam in 1975, the course was left to nature and weeds until 1993 when a millionaire named Larry Hillblom, the co-founder of DHL, did a big renovation that turned the golf course into a full 18-hole golf course which has now become one of the leading courses in the whole of Asia.
Contrary to the other courses in VN, with its year-round cool weather, Dalat Golf Club (dalat palace golf) is the only golf course in Southeast Asia with Bent grass tees, fairways and greens. Bent grass has very thin blades that grow densely and can be very closely mown, resulting in a felt-like smoothness to the putting surface.
The course measures 7,009 yards, par 72 and provides an enjoyable challenge for players of all skill levels. A series of lakes in the course will test and challenge low handicap players. High handicappers will find relief with large accommodating greens normally left open for run-up approach shots, as well as wide, forgiving fairways.
The Club House, built in 1956 in Tudor style upon a high hill, sets the scene for the entire course, and was completely restored to its former beauty in 1990. It boasts a fully stocked pro shop catering for all golfing needs, a wood burning fireplace, outdoor patio areas and international standard restaurant serving a great mixture of Vietnamese and Western food.
Surveys in 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007 by Golf Digest ranked the Dalat Palace Golf Club as the top course in Vietnam. Asia Golf Monthly Magazine in 2011 recognized the course as one of the top-10 in all Asia. The club is also a member of the Finest Golf Clubs of The World (London). All awards are a tribute to Vietnam’s best golf course!
Review by Thailand Golfasian
Dalat Palace Golf Club: Scenic and enjoyable course 5,000 feet above sea level dates back to the 1920s
The Dalat Palace Golf Club is situated 5000 feet above sea level in the temperate highlands of Dalat and plays downhill to the Xuan Huong Lake. Golfers at Dalat Palace are reminded of the days when the pursuit of leisure was the norm for the French colonialists. Local Vietnamese staff greet guests with warm, friendly smiles and service that has made Dalat a popular retreat for decades.
Built as a 9-hole layout in 1922, it took support from the country’s most prominent golfer (Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam) to finish the construction of a full 18-holes later in the decade. The Dalat Palace golf course was abandoned after WWII and revived in 1959. In early 1966, Dalat palace hosted professional golfers from around the world including Billy Casper several months before he beat Arnold Palmer to win the U.S. Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. The course was abandoned again in 1975, after the reunification of Vietnam, and initiated its second comeback in 1993 with a major renovation by a group of American investors. In early 1994, Dalat emerged once again as one of the up-and-coming golf destinations in Southeast Asia with the revival and expansion of Dalat Palace Golf Club.
Dalat Palace crosses through stately pine trees to oversized and delicately manicured bent grass greens, the only ones in Asia. Today, it’s the top-rated course in Vietnam due to the excellent layout, many elevation changes, and for the bent grass greens. In fact, due to the cooler climate in the mountains of Dalat, Vietnam, the Dalat Palace Golf Club is the only golf course in South East Asia with bent grass tees, fairways and greens. Bent grass is often considered to be the ultimate playing surface in golf. The large, undulating bent grass greens are maintained to impeccable standards and present a good challenge. Once golfers adjust to the fast speed, they agree that the greens at Dalat Palace are among the finest in Asia.
The Brett Stensen redesigned course measures 7,009 yards and is an enjoyable challenge for golfers of all levels. Low handicap players will be tested by a series of lakes, which meander through ten of eighteen holes, as well as strategically placed bunkers, which penalize the miscalculating risk-taker. High handicappers will find relief with large accommodating greens normally left open for run-up approach shots, as well as wide, forgiving fairways.
Dalat Palace Golf Club features par 3’s ranging in length from 164 to 234 yards and par 5’s up to 556 yards. These varied lengths require that players use each club in their bag, one of the signs of a well designed golf course. Four different tee boxes on each hole make the golf course appealing to golfers of all abilities.
On downhill tee shots, such as the 400 yard thirteenth and seventeenth holes, longer hitters should use irons or fairway woods to stay away from the water. The par 3 fifth requires a carry of nearly 230 yards over water to reach the green. But the 547 yard par 5 sixth is even more difficult. Water lines the entire left side, and OB is on the right, requiring accurate tee and approach shots. The 387 yard seventh calls for a tee shot to carry two lakes, though shorter hitters may play to the left of the water for a 180 yard uphill approach to the green. The deep pot-style bunkers along the right side of the 374 yard fifteenth fairway are unique in themselves.
The original clubhouse, built in 1956, at the Dalat Palace Golf Club is still in use today. The clubhouse has been fully restored with a full pro shop, restaurant, wood burring fireplace and outdoor patio areas. The clubhouse restaurant offers both superb Vietnamese and International cuisine. A full practice facility complements the golf course and clubhouse, with a 290-yard grass driving range, a putting green, and practice bunkers. Areas surrounding the clubhouse are landscaped into beautiful gardens with bougainvillea, red salvia, impatiens, mimosa and hydrangeas. Views from the clubhouse patios include terraced rice fields and pine forests.
Surveys in 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007 by Golf Digest ranked the Dalat Palace Golf Club as the top course in Vietnam. Asian Golf Monthly in 2007 recognized the course as one of the top-10 in all Asia. The club is also a member of the Finest Golf Clubs of The World (London). All awards are a tribute to Vietnam’s best golf course!