GEO: What would a visitor see or experience when they come to Hoiana Shores Golf Club?
Ben: Our goal was always to ‘pay homage’ to the Ancient town and its traditions that date back hundreds of years. Our initial choice of RTJ Jnr to design knowing well he understood the game of golf, the history and would pay respect to those through designing an ancient style links course.
GEO: Can you briefly give us the background to how the Hoiana Shores idea came in to being – and the decision to be as proactive on sustainability issues as you have been?
Ben: Hoiana Shores Golf Club is a part of the Hoiana Integrated resort in Central Vietnam, south of the Ancient town of Hoi An. The land that the golf club sits on is largely flat and right on the seaside looking out towards Cham Islands (pure links land). It was important that given the scale of this project, the location and the steep history of Hoi An that the development of the site was done with care, respect and revolutionary for the country in terms of sustainability and the protection and restoration of its former flora and fauna in golf.
When golfers arrive at the gates and see the Colonial Style clubhouse, reminiscent of the great in Europe and the USA, we want them to feel like they have been transported back in time to the game’s origins. In keeping with this theme, the Clubhouse interior welcomes golfers to a ‘time gone by’, no TVs in the bar or restaurants. Teak classic styles furnishings, central spiralling staircase leads golfers down to their cart and caddie and the course.
Something peculiar is waiting for the golfers on the first green, a lantern topped flagpole – no, we wanted to reach into the culture of Hoi An attach something special to our course, hence the logo and our icon – the lantern, after all, Hoi An Town is known as the City of Lanterns. The pure links-style course awaits golfers; rolling fairways allow generosity in course management and a good margin for error off the tee. However, the returning golfers usually note the large greens will deceive, if their shot is off, they could be in for a 60 foot put over a plethora of undulations or a nasty short-sided chip from the firm and fast green surrounds.
GEO: Given your role in this project, you have been heavily involved in the realisation of Hoiana Shores – what has been the most enjoyable part of this process for you?
Ben: I have been in Vietnam now over 14 years, I love the country, its culture, and most of all, the people. It is a huge reason I love my role, seeing staff grow and develop in the game I love. Golf is still relatively new here in Vietnam, so, generally, when I am developing a course the staff are from the local towns and provinces with little understanding of the game.
Hoiana has created social change to the whole area with our strong involvements with initiatives from the government, one of which is Quang Nam – Hoiana Tourism Vocational Training Center. By providing tourism industry training such as golf course maintenance and operations, housekeeping, F&B service and language skills, graduates are well-prepared to join the international workforce. More than 200 students received the certification from the centre and have been accepted to work at Hoiana.
Most of our caddie and management team members are proud graduates from the Training Center. I am very glad to say that our team here are all dedicated and passionate about their Club and creating an amazing golfing experience for everyone who visits.
GEO: From the start of the project, sustainability was clearly part of your team’s thinking, but what led you to the OnCourse® Development programme and what were your own sustainability priorities for the project?
Ben: It was very much an early decision in our development stage back in 2017. We did a lot of research into the market. Personally, I wanted to make sure we were collaborating with a real firm that would keep us accountable for our actions, assisted us along the way and would only accredit us with the international certification once we had ticked every box. After all, we must ensure we take the very best proactive care of Mother Nature and leave the land in a better place than we found it.
I feel great knowing we achieved that here at Hoiana Shores Golf Club.