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Colin Montgomerie Tours First Course in Vietnam

(Forimmediaterelease.net) Buoyed by a two-day site inspection of his new design near the storied sands of China Beach, Colin Montgomerie predicts great things for The Montgomerie Links Vietnam.

“I think this site, this golf course, will become world renowned,” Montgomerie said of Central Vietnam’s first layout. “We have to build a course that challenges myself — my standard of play — and challenges a beginning standard, and we’ve got that dead right on this course.”

Montgomerie addressed a horde of Southeast Asian media during a press conference held at the nearby Nam Hai Resort on Nov. 17. Though torrential rains the previous week had caused widespread damage throughout Central Vietnam, The Montgomerie Links Vietnam is on track to open its driving range next month. Its first nine holes will open for play next spring.

Under Montgomerie’s direction, more than 150 local laborers are coaxing a world-class links-style track from this tropical dunescape. The routing moves boldly over a striking landscape of wispy casuarinas pines, a fitting-but-more-exotic stand-in for Scottish gorse. The site’s towering sand dunes afford long views of the Marble Mountains and South China Sea.

Montgomerie, the winner of 40 professional tournaments worldwide, grew up at Royal Troon on Scotland’s west coast, to which he favorably compares this stretch of Vietnamese linksland.

“The weather’s warmer here,” said Montgomerie. “In regards to design though, we found land that is hugely similar to what we find at home. Actually, it’s surprisingly similar to Scotland and the rugged nature of the Scottish coastline.”

Sure to be talked about is The Montgomerie Links Vietnam’s 11th hole, an uphill, false-fronted par-3 heavily fortified by bunkers. It’s reminiscent of No. 5 at Australia’s Royal Melbourne, one of Montgomerie’s all-time favorite courses.

“This is an exciting area, Vietnam, especially this particular region, China Beach, the historical nature of it and what we can do here,” Montgomerie said. “It’s a beautiful beach, a beautiful golf course site. To find a course site like this, these days, is very rare. To have this opportunity — to build a course here that carries my name — is something that couldn’t be resisted.”

Course developer Indochina Capital has committed $45 million to The Montgomerie Links Vietnam project, breaking new leisure ground in the most promising resort region yet developed in Vietnam.

Last December, another Indochina property, a posh super-resort and spa dubbed The Nam Hai, opened to worldwide acclaim on a site just five kilometers south of the Montgomerie Links. The most prestigious hotel groups in the world, including Raffles, Banyan Tree, Kor and Hyatt, are now developing resorts in the region.

While 15 golf courses are now open for play in Vietnam, mainly around Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the first in this central region, The Montgomerie Links Vietnam, will open to instant demand.

“We have more than a dozen ongoing projects totaling more than $1 billion in development cost throughout Vietnam,” said Peter Ryder, CEO of Indochina Capital, “but what’s special about this one is that we, with the help of Colin’s expertise, are creating something that will take golf to a whole new level in this country.”

In addition to the clubhouse and range, the 70-plus-hectare development will include 60 spectacularly designed villas for sale on 38,000 square meters called The Montgomerie Links Estates.

Montgomerie’s two-day November visit included a private dinner with some of Vietnam’s highest-ranking government officials. It was to have included a “construction commencement” ceremony at the course site. However, out of respect and concern for those who experienced loss in the central coast floods the previous week, Indochina Capital cancelled the event and instead donated the allotted funds to aid victims of the disaster.

Montgomerie and his agent IMG — which is also providing the course design and construction support for The Montgomerie Links project — made donations of their own.

“I think the warmth of the Vietnamese people, which I felt today on site, I will take with me and mention when I travel home and other places around the world,” Montgomerie said. “The people of Vietnam have a warmth, and I feel very much at home.”

Montgomerie currently has seven original course designs open for play worldwide. He has more than 10 courses in some stage of construction or design. The other four courses to bear Montgomerie’s name — an honor reserved for layouts where the site and development partners were personally chosen by the golfer himself — are located in Dubai, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

ABOUT INDOCHINA CAPITAL AND INDOCHINA LAND

Founded in 1999, Indochina Capital is one of Vietnam’s leading financial services firms with diversified fund management and financial advisory businesses. Indochina Capital manages US$1.8 billion in three funds and numerous special accounts, including two real estate funds and Indochina Capital Vietnam Holdings, which in March 2007 became the first Vietnam-related company to list on a major global stock market, the London Stock Exchange main board. Indochina Capital also owns a controlling interest in and manages Mekong Securities, a leading Vietnamese broker/dealer and investment bank.

Indochina Land is the real estate division of Indochina Capital. The division manages two real estate funds capitalized initially at just over US$300 million facilitating investment in over US$1 billion in property projects. To date, Indochina Land’s portfolio includes 12 properties in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and the Central Coast, covering the full range of property types, including residential, retail, office, resort, hotel and other leisure and industrial developments. Ocean Dunes, Dalat Palace and The Montgomerie Links Vietnam are among the golf clubs in that portfolio. Prior to the establishment of the two real estate funds, over the past 15 years, Indochina Land and its principals had developed, financed and invested in well-over US$1 billion in real estate projects in Vietnam.

AN INTERVIEW WITH COLIN MONTGOMERIE

The Scottish golfer and golf course architect talks to Mandarin Media about his new design in Vietnam, what layouts around the world have influenced him, and why the sand of Quang Nam is such a great element to work with …

Mandarin Media: You grew up in the birthplace of golf, and still play a lot in the UK. What about having Scotland in your blood has helped you most as a course designer?

Colin Montgomerie: Playing the links style of courses makes one a well-rounded golfer capable of dealing with any natural condition and the imperfection of the game. It also gives you a fine appreciation of the more subtle and traditional influences of the game. After all, the game was founded on playing this kind of course.

MM: Let’s dig in to architecture. At what point did the idea of designing courses begin to really interest you?

CM: I have always been interested in great golf courses. I think most professional golfers are at some stage in their career, because we get to play on so many good layouts … and, unfortunately, even some less-than-well-planned layouts. I really became serious when I started to think about what I could give back to the game and what legacy I was potentially going to leave. There is really no better way to put your mark on the game outside of winning championships than to put your name to a course design and influence a course that golfers will be playing for years to come.

MM: What’s the most inspiring characteristic of The Montgomerie Links Vietnam site? What most struck you about the second you saw it?

CM: First of all, the sand and the surrounding dunes are really impressive. Secondly, it struck me that the biggest challenge was to find a way to work with what nature had created, rather than move too much dirt around just for the sake of creating something. Along with my design team, we also envisaged that glimpses of the sea at certain points would be nice, and placing focus on the vistas to the mountains would make for a unique round of golf.

MM: True links courses have a very natural and rugged look; they were – or appear to have been – shaped by the likes of wind storms and sea rushes. How close to a true links do you envision The Montgomerie Links Vietnam being? What are some aspects that may differ from what you find at Dornoch or Troon?

CM: The true definition of links golf has been liberally applied over the years. Definitely the site has many the characteristics associated with links golf, but we will create a modified links layout, and even have a couple of lakes on the course in strategic locations. It is also similar to the “sand belt” courses located southeast of Melbourne in Australia, so we have the opportunity to incorporate some similar design ideas that have proven so beloved by professionals playing those courses.

MM: What are some courses you envision The Montgomerie Links Vietnam being like, once it’s done?

CM: Well, carrying on from the question above, I have always loved the design style at places like Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and Metropolitan, in Australia. A mixture of this “sand belt” style, with windswept-looking bunkers and tight lies around the greens along with my typically generous but challenging green sites can be expected. My design team knows me very well by now, having completed several high-profile courses together, and we constantly discuss ways to incorporate my playing experience into my design style and The Montgomerie Links Vietnam will benefit from this.

MM: What links courses do you like best, and what aspects of those do you plan to borrow for this layout?

CM: My favourite links course is Turnberry (in Scotland), because it has the most character. By that I mean it has some elevation change and does not just have holes that are straight out and straight back. With regards to links courses that demand the most of me as a player, I would have to say it is a toss-up between Muirfield (in Scotland) and Birkdale (in England). They force you to concentrate on every shot. Of course, St. Andrews (in Scotland), with its intricacies and history, also has a special place in my heart.

MM: Why is a seaside site so ideal for a golf course designer? What makes sand such a great element to work with?

CM: The main thing is that it usually drains so well that you can play on it 365 days per year. The sites are natural and allow you to work with the terrain. That means you are never in a position to manufacture something that looks fake.

MM: The third shot on most courses is pretty boring. You love challenging golfers with it; you like to incorporate interesting collection areas and deep pot bunkers. Why is the “recovery” shot so important to you?

CM: I have often said I like to play chess with the golf course. Holes that are straight and long do not force you to think your way around. By requiring a creative third shot, like chipping out or bump-and-run, you are forced to think about the options and the outcomes.

MM: What part of links golf is most compelling to you, as a golfer? What kind of emotions does it illicit when you walk the fairways of a place that has the look and feel of Old World golf?

CM: Fond memories of playing golf in my homeland with friends and family.

MM: What designers do you most admire, and what about their designs do you value so much?

CM: I have always liked Jack Nicklaus, mainly because his designs work well for me as a player. We both hit a high fade, and you can see that this shot is rewarded on courses he designs. What Tom Weiskopf has done at Loch Lomond (in Scotland) is also very impressive to me. Understanding that guys like this are both major champions and accomplished architects allows you to see what they have incorporated into their designs. And of course, I always find TPC at Sawgrass (in Florida) a fantastic challenge. What Pete Dye has done there makes every shot a demanding one, and in reality danger lurks around every corner. There is no letting up.

MM: You’ve got a handful of designs under your belt now, and a good dozen more in the works. What kind of comment do you strive to bring forth from those who play your courses? Why?

CM: There has always been some debate regarding the value that professional golfers offer when it comes to course design. I think that because we have had the opportunity to play the best courses in the world, with some of the best players in the world, who is better positioned to help design golf holes with great shot values and memorable features? I like to integrate the natural terrain wherever possible, and consider the course not only from the pro’s perspective but also from the perspective of those who are just playing for enjoyment and the love of the game. You will see I select grasses that allow for the best conditioning, because this is important to me. You will see that I like green complexes with options, and often incorporate little chipping and pitching areas around them. And, of course, you can always count on having several fairways receptive to nice high, faded drivers!

Contact: Scott Resch Mandarin Media 093.848.1821 sresch@mandarinmedia.net

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