Flagstick Flourishes in Booming Vietnam Golf Market

Martin Moore on site in Vietnam.

Hanoi, Vietnam: For Martin Moore and his Flagstick Golf Course Construction Management team, the little matter of a global pandemic was never going to be allowed to compromise their commitment to quality or derail their grand designs.

Despite a combination of stay-at-home orders, severely restricted travel and frustrating periods of compulsory quarantine, Moore is able to reflect on the most trying of years with justified pride.

“In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, Flagstick had a very busy 2020 and a hectic start to 2021,” said Moore, after completing his latest 14-day hotel quarantine in Ninh Binh in mid-February, followed by an additional seven days of self-quarantine in the Hanoi office/apartment of Flagstick, a Full Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.

Last year, Flagstick not only successfully completed a handful of projects, but also began planning on a variety of exciting new developments across Vietnam.

For a man accustomed to constantly being on the move and who has routinely spent 200-plus days on the road every year for the past two decades, Moore had to readjust his own plans – and mindset – as well as those of his staff.

With traditional methods of conducting golf course design and construction severely hampered and replaced by stringent new protocols and standard operating procedures, Moore adopted a creative approach to ensure work did not grind to a halt.

“We’re very fortunate to have more than 20 foreign staff based in Vietnam, along with a solid team of an additional 25-30 Vietnamese professionals. That enabled us to move forward without interruptions,” said Moore, who had the foresight to set up a representative office in Hanoi in 2016 as a sign of Flagstick’s commitment to Vietnam.

“With hindsight, I can say that’s been elemental in enabling us to serve our growing Vietnam clientele effectively and efficiently during the pandemic,” he added.

Although Moore spent much of 2020 in lockdown, like a conductor waving his baton, he seamlessly orchestrated proceedings from his Bangkok home/office.

With restricted site visits by course architects, alternative forms of communication with the on-the-ground Flagstick team were required.

A drone shot of Faldo Design’s Serena Valley Golf Club.

“In order to keep up to speed with the architects through each stage of construction, we had many virtual video meetings, sharing photographs and drone shots of specific areas that were being worked on,” said Moore, safe in the knowledge that he could not be accused of flouting social distancing regulations.

“Flagstick was also fortunate to have talented management and shaper resources already based in Vietnam. Without that, it would have been exceptionally difficult to proceed,” he added.

Having completed the second nine holes of the Nicklaus Design course at BRG Danang Golf Club in the first quarter of 2020, focus turned to projects with Faldo Design, Greg Norman Golf Course Design and Golfplan, all members of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.

  • Serena Valley Golf Club (18 holes, Faldo Design): Just north of Hanoi, work continued on this project throughout 2020 with the last hole being grassed in mid-February, 2021. Currently, sand is being installed in bunkers and final touch-up work is being carried out with a view to opening in mid-2021.
  • NovaWorld Phan Thiet (36 holes, Greg Norman Golf Course Design): As of mid-February 2021, the 18-hole Ocean Course was completely grassed and in grow-in stage, while the 18-hole Garden Course was 75% complete. All construction on the site that sits high on a hillside with spectacular panoramic ocean views is scheduled to be completed by May. 
  • Binh Tien Golf & Beach Resort (18 holes, Golfplan): Having commenced work in the second quarter of 2020, nine holes are now grassed with construction completion set for June. This schedule was helped thanks to an extraordinary effort from course designer David Dale, who provided crucial input during a visit in December, 2020.

Dale said: “During the pandemic, on-site architectural review of construction works has been significantly impacted. Flagstick’s team of highly qualified experts on the ground have been in constant contact, utilising WhatsApp, digital photography from ground level and drone still shots and videos for golf hole and feature review. These tools allowed us to communicate details specific to the course’s architectural character and direct refinements with photograph mark-ups.

“Before I acquired Covid-19 free approval to visit the site, Flagstick’s team kept the project on schedule and we’re very pleased with the implementation of our design. Having spent a week on the ground with the Flagstick team, we didn’t miss any of the architectural details that will set this course apart in the coastal region of Vietnam.”

  • Royal Golf Club (18 holes, Jack Nicklaus II Design): A unique property littered in natural rock outcroppings in Ninh Binh, nine holes of the Queens Course have been grassed with completion of the full 18 scheduled for July. The course was creatively routed through the outcroppings, which were used as part of the strategy.

To remain on track, daily drone footage was sent to Nicklaus Design’s Jim Wagner, while there was frequent communication and valuable input with Jack Nicklaus II. Wagner said: “Despite the challenges Covid-19 presented, Flagstick has gone to great lengths to ensure our design is implemented per the plans and concepts discussed in the field prior to travel shutting down. We’re confident the Queens Course will not only be a wonderful golfing experience, but will also perform at the level we expect, due to the high-quality construction standards typically associated with Nicklaus Design and Flagstick GCCM.”

In addition to its presence in Vietnam in 2020, Flagstick also celebrated the completion of a high-end Kyle Philips Design project on the outskirts of the Thai capital of Bangkok.

Now, though, Flagstick’s focus is firmly on Vietnam where Moore plans to remain for at least the next three to four months, doing what he loves most – being hands-on in the field, working side-by-side with his staff.

“It’s the intention for me to visit and support all the projects we have under construction. I’m also working on pre-construction planning of soon-to-start Flagstick projects,” said Moore, who is excited at the prospect of new developments in Haiphong, Quang Binh, Hoa Binh and Pleiku, all of which are due to get underway in the second and third quarters of 2021.

Moore said: “The golf market in Vietnam continues to boom and Flagstick is proud to remain extremely active here, as well as pursuing other opportunities across Southeast Asia.

“Now I’m back in Vietnam, I’m especially looking forward to meeting new prospects I’ve been communicating with over the past few months. After all the virtual meetings of these past 11 months, it will be a pleasure to return to face-to-face get-togethers. In the end, there’s no substitute for that.”

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