By Robert Bicknell

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March 25, 2007

A 19th hole is just as important to men as a lock on the bathroom door at homeÖ

The 19th Hole bar is a time-honoured tradition throughout the world, except in Vietnam, but that could change if the ultra-private Van Tri Golf Club (Bushwood - Vietnam) has anything to say about it.

At most clubs in Europe and the US, the 19th hole, also known sometimes as the Menís Grill, provided a safe haven to unwind before rejoining the general populace of the club after the round. In addition to providing a comfortable place to wait for friends to finish their round or shower, it had the benefit of being private. Having a drink in the restaurant after a round just doesnít provide the same atmosphere.

Menís Grills are perfect locations for men to engage in uniquely un-gentlemanly activities, such as getting blitzed and smoking cigars while arguing football or other subjects, playing cards with friends, complaining about their wives or business and, of course, breaking wind as loud as they want with anyone complaining.

Ok, sometimes an eyebrow was raised if the windows shook.

When the mood is right and beans were on the menu, watch out. Olives are also a big staple in the Menís Grill and not just for martinis as I have seen a few bets settled through wind-passing contests over the years.

One of the unique features of a Menís Grill is that members will often come there for lunch or simply to hang out, even if theyíre not playing golf that day. Iíve seen times when some members stayed in the Grill until past midnight. When that happens, you know a club has truly become a memberís club.

The unspoken rule is that whatever is said or done in the Menís Grill, STAYS in the Menís grill. Its sort of a club within the club.

Lets face it, we love our wives, but there are times when every man needs to be around people who understand and do not constantly judge him. This is why little boys build tree-houses and erect signs saying "no girls allowed".

As we get older, our tree-houses get bigger and more lavishly furnished, but the concept remains the same.

At home, itís the bathroom, but at the club, itís the Menís Grill. At 48 years of age and being married with a child, I now understand why my father used to lock the bathroom doorÖit was the only place he could get any peace and quiet.

Yet, for all the benefits and camaraderie that a 19th hole or Menís Grill affords, this concept hasnít really taken off here in Vietnam. When I was working for VGCC (Thu Duc) we had a wonderful 19th hole, yet nobody ever used it unless the restaurant was booked for a tournament awards ceremony. We tried everything to get people interested in using it, but to no avail.

Players, for the most part, preferred to have beers after the round in the main restaurant of the club and, from what I can see, they still do. Most of the clubs in Vietnam experience the same problem and nobody seems to be able to pinpoint the reason why,.

But as I say, this could be changing due to the efforts at Van Tri.

The new clubhouse is coming along nicely and as you might expect from a clubhouse designed by Graham Taylor, a Western architect who plays golf (if you can call hitting caddies with stray shots "playing golf"), there is a beautiful 19th hole bar adjacent to the Menís locker room.

According to Van Tri management, despite a beautiful terrace with a great view of the golf course and a reflecting pool, itís the 19th hole which is becoming a favourite gathering place for the male players after the round and it isnít even fully furnished yet!

Van Tri is still waiting to install the wide-screen plasma TV so players can watch their favourite sports while enjoying a cold beer, or, if they lost badly, a stiff drink in what might be one of the most comfortable atmospheres in Hanoi.

The 19th hole is a wonderful tradition and I can only hope that it catches on elsewhere in Vietnam as wellÖ

Especially as Graham Taylor also designed my clubhouse at Dam Vac.

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