Before leaving home to travel, I was rather into playing golf. During the early summer I’d bunk off work early a few nights a week to squeeze in a quick round on Allerton golf course before it went dark. I wasn’t doing bad either – I even won a ‘nearest the pin’ competition at a charity golf tournament, my underwhelming prize being a flimsy Barclays branded umbrella which summarily dismantled itself at the first whisper of wind.
Alas, since then, I’ve not swung a golf club in anger. At least, I hadn’t until today, when Paddy and I found our way to the driving range at the Thang Loi hotel. There they have installed a driving range which involves whacking your balls out into Westlake.
It was pretty good, actually, in a typical Vietnamese ‘almost good but not quite good enough to actually be good’, sort of way. Yes, there was a driving range. It had mats and rubber tees, and even the usually rubbish floating golf balls were decent quality. You could very comfortably swing and drive. The watery range even includes distance markers, a few flags and even a big target net to practice your chipping, should you thus be inclined.
At the same time, as is standard for Vietnam, it was just all a bit rough around the edges: the hire clubs were about as rubbish as golf clubs can be, the reception girl refused to hire us a driver on the basis that ‘it is only for members’ (note the singular pronoun ‘it’ – the club has just one driver which everyone has to share), and the whole upper deck to whence we were shoo’d looks like its ready to collapse from rust.
Its also not cheap: 160,000 Dong for a box of 100 balls (about a fiver), plus 20,000 Dong per club for hire. Hardly bargain basement prices.
Be that as it may, it was still a lot of fun, and it felt good to hit a few balls off again. Despite some early scares I didn’t end up accidentally losing my grip and chucking a rusty golf club into Westlake. And I’ve never before gone to a driving range and had to measure my shots against a concern for local men who are fishing – yes, fishing – right in the middle of the range.
What can I say – nothing in Vietnam is ever quite as you expect…