KN Golf Links Cam Ranh

Vietnam, Nha Trang
5 (1)
Designer: Greg Norman
Course Opened: 2018

Designed by Greg Norman’s company and opened for play in 2018, the KN Golf Links at Cam Ranh are part of an 800-hectate development in southeast Vietnam, a short distance from the city of Nha Trang. Blessed with five kilometres of coastline, the overall Cam Ranh Masterplan includes multiple high-end hotels, along with an upscale marina, polo club, entertainment zone and theme park. There are also luxury villas and a large, integrated residential development around the golf course.

Draped across an attractive collection of sandy dunes and ridges, the Links course is set inland of a road that runs through the Cam Ranh Peninsula, about half a kilometre from the water. As with the Norman course at Bluffs Ho Tram Strip, there are no beachfront holes here but pleasant views from elevated dunes across the road and out to the Sea. The similarities with The Bluffs don’t end there, with ample fairways, scrubby sandy hazards and a similarly attractive mix of natural green settings and native ground vegetation. In some ways KN is a newer, shinier version of what the Norman Design team built at Ho Tram, except with a much larger residential component.

Essentially arranged in two loops, the opening nine starts and finishes on the seaward side of a powerful sand ridge that houses both the charming par three 2nd green and tees on the dramatic par four 9th, which bends around a pop-up dune and tumbles and rises violently into its elevated green site. In between are a series of lowset holes away from the views and, unfortunately, around the main irrigation ponds. The drivable 3rd is bunkered to present an excellent risk-reward challenge, while the 8th back up toward the primary ridge is a fun and attractive hole, but otherwise this is the least appealing part of the course.

Thankfully the inward side is free of water and artificiality, save for housing around the finishing holes and more, sadly, planned for large parcels between the nines. Norman’s team get credit across the course for their use of generous turf areas, the lack of any frustrating rough and for generally sticking closely to the principals of links golf. Transitions from 8 to 9 and 14 to 15 aside, the routing flows well from green to large rectangular tee pad, and there are a nice variety of sandy settings. Greens are often tucked into natural hollows or between small dunes, or even built atop the ridges and saddles. This variety aside, the most prominent feature of design is the sand, and the manner in which formal bunkers bleed into the native dunes. It’s an effective aesthetic, and one that the maintenance staff will need to work hard to maintain by keeping vegetation growth and formal bunker edges under control.

Better holes on the back nine include the strong par three 12th, with its green at the base of a large sandhill, and the photogenic 15th, which falls from tee to green and enjoys the pick of the sea views. Both the 17th and 18th would be excellent as well with a little more space between them and the surrounding development. The finishing fairway turns attractively through shallow ridges toward the sea, and into one of the premier green sites on the property.

In terms of realising the full golf potential of this property, the primary challenge faced by the designers appears to have been working within an ambitious residential framework. This course is one of a handful that had the capability of being number one in Vietnam, and in this case it’s the sensitively of the surrounding development that most hurts that claim. Villas have already been built hard against the 18th tee, and in full view as golfers approach the par five 17th. More development is planned and impacts on the spacious, sandy sections within the routing will be difficult to minimize as buildings appear. For now, the rawness of the virgin terrain and the fun of the better holes make KN Golf Links well worth including for those visiting Vietnam.

Our recommended hotel partner in Nha Trang and Cam Ranh is The Anam, luxury beach resort


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