Hue, Vietnam: One of Vietnam’s leading golf layouts, Laguna Golf Lăng Cô, now a Signature design by six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo, is staying at the top of its maintenance game by employing the talents of a very special group of greenkeepers: a family of water buffalo.
The bovine threesome act as bio-mowers, while also protecting the traditional Vietnamese landscape, helping to manage rice paddies by eating excess weeds and crops in the area that would otherwise require machinery and manpower to maintain.
The father, called Tu Phat, leads the charge in attending to the four hectares of rice fields located in the middle of the golf course, alongside the mother Chi Chi of their calf, Bao. The rice paddies contour the third and fourth holes and reappear in the back nine between the 13th green, 14th tee and run alongside the 15th fairway.
With prime conditioning key to the success of every leading golf course, dedicated greenkeeping staff at top clubs around the world deploy sophisticated hardware and a variety of innovative techniques to keep their layouts in world-class nick. Yet things are different at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô, where golfers encounter tropical jungle, ocean sand dunes, and rice paddies, with the maintenance shared between man, machinery and beast.
“We are pretty sure it’s a first in this part of the world to have animals performing such an important role on the golf course,” said Adam Calver, Director of Golf at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô, of the work carried out by the water buffalo.
“In the early days of golf, when courses were mostly laid out on public land, it was not uncommon for sheep and cattle to roam freely across fairways and greens. Even today at some courses, notably the wilder links clubs in remote regions of Scotland and Ireland, livestock play their part in trimming turf and thinning out rough. But, until now, courses in Asia have been less willing to let animals in on the greenkeeping act, so we’re pretty unique in that sense.”
Even on the quietest days, the water buffalo are always out wading through the rice paddies and performing their duties.
“We looked at various methods to increase the aesthetics of the rice paddies between the harvests as continually mowing the fields to maintain vast rice terraces can consume a large amount of labour,” added Calver.
Even the rice paddies are not just for show. Harvested twice a year, they yield up to 20 tons of rice that are used to support the organic farm at Laguna Golf Lăng Cô and donated to families and seniors in the area.
Talking about the rice paddies, Faldo, said: “We knew that having the holes weave through the rice fields would be a unique and memorable experience for golfers. And there would be potential to give back to the community in a sustainable and regenerative fashion.
“All the best golf courses have character and at Faldo Design our philosophy has always been to work with the natural environment presented before us. Laguna Golf Lăng Cô is a special place and, right from the first moment we were on site, we felt that if we could adapt to the surroundings then we would be close to achieving something really special with this golf course.”
Faldo Design is an Associate Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.