By Robert Bicknell

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January 8, 2006

Ok, one New Year’s celebration down, one more to go…

The holiday season is really aimed more at businesses than at individuals or families. Ok, sure, it does give people the opportunity to get together with family members who live far away, but there is no denying the fact that businesses wish Christmas was a year-long holiday.

Every retailer, manufacturer, restaurateur or golf course manager secretly sings "What a Friend We Have In Jesus" during holiday season and most of them aren’t even Christian!

Still, if it wasn’t for the holiday season, most people would probably not take time to relax, so any reason to spend time with the family, or play more golf, is fine by me. Personally, I managed to sneak in a few rounds as the weather cooperated nicely over New Year. It would’ve been nicer in Phan Thiet, but I guess we will have to keep putting pressure on Jeff Puchalski and hope for a "Christmas Open" next year.

As I mentioned in the last column, I did bring my 15-month-old daughter to the Vietnam News Christmas party dressed as Santa Claus and she had a lot of fun. It turns out that a few other parents had the same bright idea, so there were a few "little Santa’s" running around loose and a bunch of frantic parents trying to figure out who was who, but a nice time nonetheless.

Driving yourself that night through Hanoi, which was one huge parking lot, is a sure way to lose your mind. It seemed like every motorbike in the entire country was in Hanoi and it took two hours to get from Tran Hung Dao to West Lake…simply unbelievable. No wonder Santa takes to the skies…

A friend of mine who recently moved to Vietnam was quite disappointed with the lack of "New Year" festivities offered when compared to Christmas, but highly appreciated the available golfing opportunities.

Little does he know that in a few weeks, the entire country will come to a grinding halt as Tet begins and the hangover he will encounter should reach epic proportions. Tet will make him forget all about the Western "New Year".

Maybe I’m crazy, but does it seem it seems that the time between Christmas / New Year and Tet moves in slow motion?

The amount of golfers remains high during this period. So, apparently people use this time to finish old business and wrap things up before the Lunar New Year and take it easy for a few weeks.

Like many others, I’m doing the same, making plans for next year, playing a little golf, spending time with the family and working on this year’s Tet column.

I get many comments from players at this time of year because most golf greens turn funny colours. The reason for this is the types of grass used by courses here in Vietnam.

Southern courses have a pretty stable climate, so the greens stay green all year-long, whereas in the north the climate is changeable. We call this a "transition-zone" because cool weather grasses cannot tolerate the heat of summer, while hot weather grasses cannot tolerate the cold winters.

For the most part, the grass in the north goes to sleep for a short period of time each winter, but recovers quickly once the warmer weather returns.

The golf course industry has been trying to develop grasses which can handle the differences in temperature and while they have created grasses which are a bit more tolerant, they have been unsuccessful in finding grasses which can handle the extremes.

This is sort of the "holy grail" for grass development companies. So far, they’ve managed to create grasses which are more disease resistant, or can handle different types of soil, but the temperature problem continues to elude them.

Now you know.

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