GEO - As the head superintendent of Hoiana Shores you were here right through the construction process, what was your role during the building of the course and what did you most enjoy about that time?
Rob - My role was to observe, audit and identify any potential issues and proactively manage them from a maintenance perspective. Also, to initiate the college syllabus and implement and monitor pre-opening training, set up the workshop, procurement of machinery & sequence the staffing onboarding.
Being able to have some small inputs have duly helped with reducing fuel usage and protecting the environment by demarcating areas of environmental sensitivity. Through auditing, we revealed some specific areas of remediation to limit water use and save time and/or money and congruently improve turf surfaces.
GEO - How have you set this course up to play – it looks and feels like a Vietnamese links to play - what does that mean and what will the players’ experience be like when they come to Hoiana?
Rob - Firm and fast is the short answer. Initially, we set up the course to be very firm and fast with limited fertility, whilst this played well the look wasn’t quite to the clienteles’ liking, so we have greened the course up considerably since, whilst keeping the playability at a premium. Wind plays an integral role, and we are conscious of this daily, with our golf course set up parameters.
Their golfing experience will be unparalleled in Vietnam from the moment they enter the clubhouse for check-in till the moment they leave for the day. Service levels are elevated due to the clientele we are expected to receive, and therefore, the entire experience is on another level also. Being a unique golf course also correlates with a unique caddy experience as well. Local caddies have been taught the specialties of links play and they deliver on this accordingly.
GEO - What are the main points about the design and construction work at Hoiana that were so different and unique in your experience?
Rob - This is the first links course I have worked on, so I experienced a lot of distinct contrasts to my previous experiences. The day I arrived I saw that irrigation was going to be critical in the delivery of expectations for this course. Duly were we extremely fortunate to hire Le Van Thuong who is one of, if not the best, Head of Irrigation in Vietnam, possibly Asia. Working with him closely we have facilitated changes above and beyond to remediate and fine-tune the irrigation system.
Utilizing hand watering techniques remediating nozzles and moving/levelling/spacing heads have been the core changes made to ensure we put water exactly where it’s required. As a result, we don’t waste as much water and don’t use as much electricity as we did before we did the audit.
Every single head was audited and it revealed we needed to significantly address the issues to achieve not just uniformity but reduce the amount of water that was being wasted. In some cases, we improved uniformity percentile by 35%. The wind is, was, and will be a constant factor to the point we have to mindful of irrigation and wind direction ensuring we get as a uniform coverage as possible.
Other unique aspects are that we are a predominately treeless dunescape with undulating fairways starting from the ribbon tees ending up at the largest greens I have ever worked on. That, coupled with surrounds that can take your ball either towards or away from the intended target and by and large having to play a ground ball is very different to most golf here in Vietnam and Asia for that matter.
GEO - What were your own main considerations around sustainability and responsible golf course management during construction and how will you be applying them to the future day-to-day management?
Rob - The main considerations for both construction and ongoing through maintenance were/are were ensuring that we limit waste and implement an integrated pest management program that limits pesticide usage as much as possible.
It’s important to keep controls in place to ensure turf quality, recycle our green waste by allowing the landscape contractor access to this for their mulching. We’ve also utilised local recycled timbers for course hardware, limited water usage through irrigation auditing and through the use of moisture reading technology, protected the beach through use of eco-bags and through local species selection vegetative controls. Grass choices, especially the Zeon Zoysia, have proven to be excellent from an environmental standpoint, limited inputs required and had very few, if any, fungal issues in this environment.
Linksshape, the construction contractors along with sub-contractors, Sport Turf Solutions and Gateway/ Rainbird were very understanding and accommodating in achieving this certification it must be said. They onboarded the passion we had and were extremely diligent and understanding of our environmental goals.
Ongoing, the GCM team are very committed to our environmental responsibility from our office space through recycling print paper to not wasting electricity, to being accountable for efficiencies and controls on the course.
The salivating thing about Hoiana Shores Golf Club is that we have created a sanctuary for both flora, through our environmental demarcation zones, and fauna. Examples of this include migratory bird breeding and local quail, raptor and bee-eater populations have increased as a result of increased breeding vantages and stable food sources from dune establishment. This has also bought about an increase in reptile numbers increasing since construction completed. To see this as a superintendent is very encouraging, we have done the right things and are following the right processes in relation to our environmental stewardship.