By Robert Bicknell

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November 12, 2006

APEC Summit blues / Van Tri revisited…

As you are reading this, the 2006 APEC Summit is underway. While this is great for the economy and prestige of Vietnam, it is sheer misery to those who live here and must deal with the traffic detours just to get to work. However, there is a solution…

Hit the road, Jack.

Most golf courses in Hanoi have suitable accommodations within a reasonable distance of the club, so why torture yourself? Close the office and head for the course…you’ll be a lot happier, believe me.

Vietnam’s bamboo fax machine must’ve been in action last week after I mentioned that I’ve lost interest in playing golf lately, because Grahame Harris gave me a call and invited me out to Van Tri for a round.

Asking me to play Van Tri is like offering me pizza, I’m not gonna say "no" and I was glad I went as it restored my sagging spirits and made me want to play the lottery so I could afford a membership there.

The back nine, which will open around April 2007, might be even better than the first nine, if you can believe that.

I predict that the 18th hole will result in a lot of people crying in their beer after the round. It’s a nice little Par 4 which has enough sand traps to make Rommel happy and water down the entire left side. Suffice it to say that if you’re in a close match for a lot of cabbage you won’t be looking forward to playing this hole as it will be far too easy to yank both your tee and approach shots into the lake.

However, what really blew me away was the driving range.

Like the Hanoi Club, this is an "aqua" range with floating golf balls. However, unlike the Hanoi Club, the Van Tri range has greens out there big enough to land a helicopter on. No, they’re not grass, they’re Astroturf and will maintain their colour all year long. The only drawback is that there is no drawback. No backspin, but it doesn’t really matter.

Ya gotta see it to believe it.

Playing with Graham Harris and Ian Fleming was highly enjoyable because the wisecracks and jokes never stopped. I’ve known these guys for years so they know which buttons to push to crack me up and it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you cannot stop laughing.

After the round we sat down with Peter Rousseau (aka "Inspector Rousseau", who is Inspector Clouseau’s illegitimate 4th cousin and the General Director) and he completed the demolition with a fairly good Peter Sellers imitation.

While it might sound like being a member of Van Tri is a guaranteed good time, not everyone will survive the screening process. My mother used to say that "you cannot buy class" and, for the most part, she is right.

This applies to membership at Van Tri as well.

Having money doesn’t guarantee you a membership and it certainly will not help you keep your membership if you violate the club’s rules and regulations once too often.

Van Tri is a "private" club, meaning either act respectfully or get out. They are deadly serious about this, but they have to be if they want to reach the standards of a proper upscale private club.

Clubs in Vietnam are not "true" member clubs, they are a business. Members do not have ownership rights, nor a say in management. While most club managers will kill themselves trying to keep members happy (yours truly included), a few members have been able to abuse the rules knowing the club owner is afraid to lose money. This is a problem.

Being late for tee times, no-shows, slow play, five-ball groups, hitting into others, noise violations and just general rudeness is not uncommon, which is sad. Obviously, not everyone has read the "Etiquette section of the Rules of Golf."

You will not see this at Van Tri and if you do, chances are you will not see it twice from the same players – probably because those players will not be there any longer.

Indeed, Bushwood has come to Vietnam…and its about time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go play the lottery.




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