Golf courses mushroom in Vietnam as government eases policy

By Anh Tu   October 12, 2023 | 09:23 pm PT
Golf courses mushroom in Vietnam as government eases policy
A golf course in Vinh Phuc Province. Photo by Vietnam News Agency
With the current trend of building golf courses across the country, experts predict there will be 400-500 of them by 2030 as against the current 100.

Hoa Binh Province now has only two courses with licenses issued for three others recently.

But the northern province plans to become a golfing hub and eyes 16 more by 2030.

Another northern province, Vinh Phuc, plans to have 40 tourism and other projects with golf courses in the towns of Phu Yen and Tam Dao by 2030.

Many other northern provinces are also planning massive investments, with Bac Giang and Thai Nguyen planning to build 13 courses each and Quang Ninh 22.

Speaking at a meeting held to discuss golf course development in Hanoi Thursday, Ngo Cong Thanh, a former deputy director of the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s planning management department, said that the boom is an outcome of the previous easing of investment procedures that has devolved authority locally.

Until 2021 applications to build golf courses had to be submitted to the ministry for appraisal first before the Cabinet considered licensing them.

But Decree 31/2021 guiding the Investment Law conferred on provinces and cities the right to license gold courses, Thanh said.

He said that by 2030 Vietnam could have 400-500 golf courses, up from 100 now.

Provinces have identified investors for all the courses they plan, attracting both domestic and foreign money because demand for playing has begun to increase and shows potential, he said.

Besides, after their 50-year land lease expires, the investors would be given priority in renting the land or converting the course into urban areas or industrial parks, he said.

Phan Huu Thang, former head of the ministry’s Foreign Investment Agency, said the government should identify golf as an industry.

It also needs to have a national golf-course map and appropriate policies for each region and locality, he said.

It is necessary to simplify licensing procedures in remote localities to attract investors since mountainous provinces in the northern, central and Central Highlands regions want to have their own golf courses, he added.

Nguyen Ngoc Chu, former general secretary of the Vietnam Golf Association, cautioned authorities against allocating too much land for golf courses.

"A golf course only needs 50 hectares of land but some are planning to grant 100-120 hectares, which is a waste."

Besides, they should not allow investors to leave the land idle and instead make sure they proceed with the project once they get possession, he said.

Thanh said localities also need to be careful in identifying locations for golf courses, citing the example of Hoa Binh Province, which allowed a VND80-billion (US$3.2-million) course in a location with water reservoirs and forests requiring to be cut down, causing a public outcry. As a result, it has been abandoned, he said.

Commenting on the current golf market, Chu said the sport is still very expensive, costing VND3-5 million to play one time, which is a barrier to its development.

He said before golf courses consider attracting foreign tourists, they need to think about letting Vietnamese use them first.

"It is unreasonable that the cost of playing golf in Vietnam is much higher than in the U.S. or Australia," he said further.

Vietnam needs more courses to break the monopoly in the market and bring down prices, he said.

He estimated there should be 500 of them for the cost to come down to the same level as other countries, where players only pay $20-30 and also carry their own gear.

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