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Kings' Island Lights up Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail


As the Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail blows out the candle on an award-winning first year, one of its most popular links has positioned itself to capitalize on the adventure's enormous exposure. At the end of May, the entire back nine of Kings' Island Golf Club's Mountainview course will be lit for evening play. The front nine should be lit by the end of June. And then work begins on the illumination of the club's Lakeside course.

"We're blazing all kinds of new ground in Vietnam," said Joe Millar, director of golf at Kings' Island. "We were the first course to open in the north of Vietnam, and now we're the first in Vietnam to let there be light at night. This adds a whole new dimension to the game in the tropics, where many golfers would just as soon wait for the sun to mellow out before teeing off."

Kings' Island plans to keep the lights burning until 10 p.m., extending play throughout the year by three to four hours per day. Though plans don't call for work-week lighting, it's already clear to Millar the club needs more light on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"If you tee off at 5 p.m., you'll get out and back before we pull the plug," said Millar. "And if it's just a twosome, and they're cooking, they'll make it all the way even if they start at dusk."

In play since 1994, Kings' Island pioneered the game in the environs of Hanoi. The club keys on two 18-hole courses - one routed close to the shoreline of an 1,100-hectare lake and the other on heavily wooded upland terrain - accessible only by boat.

Workers at the course spent two months raising the 18-meter masts and rigging the metal halide lamps. A single mast rises over every tee box. Others march down the fairway at intervals of 50 meters to the greens, where two more shed light for putting.

Robert McFarland designed Kings' Island's 18-hole Lakeside track. Its gentle slopes and myriad peninsulas flirt with the inlets of the surrounding waters. Australian-based Pacific Coast Design (creator of the famed Alpine GC in Bangkok) complemented the 6,454-yard Lakeside track with the muscular, 7,100-yard Mountainview course. Each is manicured and boasts a setting of stunning natural beauty.

Located 25 miles west of Hanoi, Kings' Island is on the northern terminus of the Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail, a north-south suite of Vietnam's finest golfing venues. The Trail pairs first-class clubs and resorts with some of the most remarkable luxury accommodations in the world, while connecting golfers to the Trail's cultural offerings.

"Every course on the trail is distinguished in its own way, and each of us is striving to create the most memorable experience for any of the players who walk our holes," said Millar. "Now that we're switched on, we just upped the ante on what constitutes an exceptional experience."

In December, the International Association of Golf Travel Operators (IAGTO) named Vietnam its 2007 "Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year." The International Golf Travel Writers Association pegged Vietnam as the year's undiscovered gem based on the country's attractiveness, course quality, standard of accommodation and other factors. The award was a crowning moment in a pivotal golf year for Vietnam.

Currently, there are 15 golf courses operating in Vietnam, with more than 30 projects in some stage of construction. In addition to Kings' Island, golfing stops along the Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail include:

Chi Linh Star Golf & Country Club, a dazzling collection of 27 holes outside Hanoi and recent host to the Asian PGA Tour's Carlsberg Masters.

Dalat Palace Golf Club, a mile-high gem, with bent-grass greens, laid out in the early 1930s for Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam.

Dong Nai Golf Resort, a breathtaking, 27-hole track designed by American Ward Northrup, whose layout skirts the inlets and shores of a natural lake.

Ocean Dunes Golf Club, a windswept Nick Faldo design, a "tropical links" lapped by the warm waters of the South China Sea.

Tam Dao Golf Resort, a stunning 18 in the cool highlands northeast of Hanoi, convenient to the airport but a world away.

Vietnam Golf & Country Club, home to 36 pristine, otherwise private holes just 20 minutes from downtown Ho Chi Minh City.

Since its launch in July 2007, the Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail has been featured in the New York Times (http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/travel/09vietgolf.html ), the Asian Wall Street Journal (25 April 2008), Outside's Go magazine (April/May 2008), Golf.com (www.golf.com/golf/courses_travel/article/0,28136,1807251,00.html) and other leading international publications.

To make travel plans for a tour of the Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail, contact exotissimo@hochiminhgolftrail.com.

For more information on the Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail, visit www.hochiminhgolftrail.com.