Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip is gearing up for next month’s inaugural Ho Tram Open which will attract global coverage.
Ahead of what promises to be a memorable month in the short life of the facility, Ben Styles, Vice President of Golf & Residential, Ho Tram Strip, looks back on a remarkable first year for The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip, a Golf Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
AGIF: It has been quite a first year for The Bluffs. Tell us a little bit about it.
Ben Styles: We have had a fast start, there is no doubt about it. We knew from the get-go we were working on a special project. When you see the reaction of someone with Greg Norman’s experience during the construction period, it is pretty apparent there is something exciting in the offing.
We recently turned one year old, which comes just a few weeks out from the Ho Tram Open and we have just been recognised as the World’s Best New Golf Course by the World Golf Awards.
There hasn’t really been time to stop for breath, but we are all passionate about the course and destination and will continue to strive to improve and further establish Ho Tram as a leading golf and luxury destination.
AGIF: You have almost a decade’s worth of experience in Vietnam. No doubt there’s been a great deal of change in that time. Where is golf heading in the region?
Ben Styles: I have enjoyed every minute here. I have a beautiful Vietnamese wife, Ly, and my four year old son, Will. So it’s safe to say I’m settled here and call Vietnam home.
There has been a great deal of change in the golf sector and with what we can see on the horizon there are some exciting times ahead. It is hard to pull the exact stats out when comparing the acceleration of golf developments here, but I struggle to think of anywhere else in the world that is moving more swiftly and with more purpose than Vietnam.
In terms of our evolution at Ho Tram, I think we see ourselves shouldering a good deal of responsibility with the delivery of the Ho Tram Open. The decision to invest significant funds into the event stemmed from the desire to create a shop window for Vietnam, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu and Ho Tram.
Our live broadcast reach and the benefit moving pictures gives you was enough for us to take the plunge. It is the moment that the producer hits the ‘on-air’ button that will set a new course for golf events in the region. We have seen the rushes of how our course looks on broadcast and we cannot wait to see the reaction.
AGIF: Year one of staging any major golf tournament is a challenge. How have you approached this?
Ben Styles: I think any time you approach something for the first time, you are prepared for some challenges. A few things have gone in our favour. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism were hugely supportive and have provided us with a pathway to delivering an event of this magnitude. I am very thankful for that.
In addition, the commercial support of our partners, who have joined our journey and will allow us to invest further to amplify the experience of the event.
The key lesson for me in this has been the importance of having the right team around you. We brought in a unique group of experts with Troon, who have helped us shape not only the event staging and logistics, but the event positioning, focused at driving returns from the event via effective destination marketing.
Everyone is fully committed to staging what will be a historic sports occasion in Vietnam and laying solid foundations for future events.
AGIF: You have a strong roster of players lined up. What was the thinking behind this?
Ben Styles: The players are obviously a key to unlocking interest from the general public and from viewers on TV. The Asian Tour members who qualify will bring some of the most talented golfers in the world to The Bluffs. We wanted to make some strategic additions and bring in some well-known faces from some of the other Tours.
Sergio (Garcia), his personality on and off the golf course and his popularity convinced us he was a great fit. Darren (Clarke) is exactly what Ho Tram is about – style, entertainment and class. Robert Rock is our ambassador and has become a great friend here to all the team. He is a great player and we are hoping for a good performance from the home favourtie.
Geoff Ogilvy is a Major champion and an Aussie favourite, Thomas Bjorn is a giant of the game and Michael Tran stands tall as Vietnam’s number one and real home favourite.
AGIF: You have a strap-line, ‘Where entertainment meets golf’. What is the thinking there?
Ben Styles: We are in the entertainment business and to stay true to our company’s philosophy we have framed the championship with a week-long entertainment plan.
Our gala dinner will be Black Tie and will have Brian McFadden performing alongside a host of well-known Vietnamese singers. We will have an afternoon and evening ‘Poolside Groove’ each and every day for guests who travel down and wish to continue the party. We have a Muay Thai Fight Night on Friday and a concert on the Saturday night – all free entry for those who come to The Ho Tram Open.
The aim is to inject energy into the resort for all our guests, sponsors, players and VIPs and showcase The Grand Ho Tram as much as the golf course. We have built a reputation around hosting some major concerts, parties and EDM’s and we wanted to collaborate with the entertainment teams to pull off something quite unique in golf.
Tickets are free and all guests have access to The Grand Ho Tram entertainment through the week.
*For more information on The Bluffs Ho Tram visit http://thebluffshotram.com/
Singapore: This year’s SMBC Singapore Open has been cancelled due to on-going concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic in the region.