A relatively new player in the golf development market, FLC are an ambitious company with several high-profile projects completed or partly under construction in Vietnam. On top of golf and residential development, they established an airline business in 2019 to fly customers to what are, comparatively speaking, remote destinations. One such location is the FLC Golf Club Ha Long Bay, situated in close proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage listed site of the same name.
While there is no suggestion that the golf at Ha Long Bay is the best in the FLC portfolio, we expect it to be their busiest course; such is the popularity of this amazing region. For those who haven’t been, Ha Long Bay is world famous for the beautiful rocky islands and atolls that rise vertically throughout its pristine waters. A two or three day cruise of the bay is truly unforgettable.
Given the allure of Ha Long Bay, therefore, golfers shouldn’t have any trouble convincing their partners to come with them on a trip, nor should they be concerned about what to do with their down time. In many ways, FLC Ha Long Bay is the ideal golf destination as it offers plenty for the golfer and non-golfer alike, plus should bring positive economic benefits to the broader region.
Less ideal is the actual site that designer Brian Curley was given for this golf course. So mountainous and heavy was the terrain here, that he had no choice but to move enormous quantities of earth, and to essentially terrace holes up and down precipitous slopes that are far too extreme for sensible golf.
Curley himself would probably concede this is not a golf course that should be judged on the quality of its holes or its routing, but rather on whether it’s fun to play while on holiday (and in a cart), and likely to entice high-spending visitors to what remains an undeveloped part of the world.
In our view, as a ‘vacation course’ it pretty much hits all the right notes. There are some nice par fours and fives along the gentler ground, as well as two incredible par threes with water backdrops that alone make this a destination worth visiting. The longer 8th plays more toward the main town below, whereas the tiny 12th appears to almost float above the bay. Playing little more than a wedge, its green is small, tiered and fronted by a trio of bunkers spaced evenly from left to right. As nice as the hole is, it’s the view that literally stops you in your tracks.
Other noteworthy holes include the cross-reservoir par three 5th, the dangerous ledge par four 10th and the plunging par three 13th which also has a nice Ha Long Bay outlook. Most of the remaining holes plummet or climb at slopes that far exceed what might be regarded as reasonable for golf. The first hole measures 358 yards from the back tee but drops so severely that strong golfers able to blast across its dogleg could probably reach the green with a long iron. What goes down in golf must come back up again, and so it is with the 2nd and 3rd holes climbing what feel to be almost vertical fairway slopes. Continuing the roller coaster start, the par five 4th then crashes back off a crazy steep ridge, requiring a Lombard Street-style cart path to enable golfers to safely reach the lower fairway valley.
Although the routing here and the landforms are extreme, the ‘holiday’ nature of the resort and the region itself make it hard to be overly critical, and of course the views are sensational. FLC Ha Long Bay is certainly not in the “Best course in Vietnam” discussion, but we recommend it nonetheless, if only as an excuse for golfers to visit the incredible Ha Long Bay.