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Golf “leagues” in Vietnam

With every passing day, there seems to be yet another golf “club” popping into existence. Is this actually good for golf or not?

By Robert Bicknell

With every passing day, there seems to be yet another golf “club” (an association, not an actual property-based playing facility – in the U.S. we called them “leagues”) popping into existence. The question arises whether this is actually good for golf or not?

People also question if these groups strengthen or weaken golf development.

Personally speaking, there is a huge difference between a legitimate “golf association” and a bunch of people getting together to play golf. However, that isn’t to say that regional or provincial golf associations are not legitimate. In fact, that all are supposed to operate under the auspices of the national association, in our case the VGA (Vietnam Golf Association).

Way back in 1998, the Saigon Golf Club was probably the first actual “club” in the country and these people were strict. It held events according to strict rules of golf and took no prisoners when it came to catching handicap cheats. In fact, if you shot over your handicap you got fined. And if you shot under your handicap, you got fined as well. Yeah, these guys were brutal, but they kept players honest.

When I started the handicap system at VGCC, the Saigon Golf Club was there to monitor as many of players were members or frequent players at VGCC. Every month they would be checking the updated handicap lists. This was a good thing.

Anyway, there are many benefits to having non-property based clubs or “leagues” as it gives people more reasons to play golf. I can think of a popular one in Hanoi – “Red Red Wine Golf” who take its group everywhere to tee it up.

There’s GLC, Golf Friends, Saigon Golf Club, Hanoi Golf Club and a gazillion other groups as well. In my view, these are all good things provided they work hand-in-hand with the national golf association. By that, I mean they should be diligent about reporting scores for handicap purposes after an event.


It really makes no sense if one group has its own handicaps different than another group’s. In addition, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the group is actually enforcing handicap rules properly.

Heck, I know one major golf club (who shall remain nameless) whose handicaps are borderline laughable. When those guys enter tournaments they shoot net 60s. As you might expect, the VGA is not happy about it and is taking steps to rectify it, but the problem is that it can happen anywhere if the administration of the handicap system is not strictly enforced.

So, if a golf “league” wants to be anything more than just a bunch of guys getting together to play golf, it must enforce handicaps.

Now, on the other hand, there are groups which are nothing more than a bunch of guys getting together once or twice a month to play golf and they take things quite lightly. It’s more about camaraderie and the opportunity to consume massive amounts of beer.

That’s OK too, but don’t expect tournament organizers to accept your handicap from that group.

In many cases, players will keep their score cards after a league round and submit them to the handicap system of their home (or frequent) club. Those get reported into the national database and provide players with a legitimate handicap.

When a lot of these groups first started popping up, it seemed they were doing it just try and get discounted green fees from the various clubs. Many club managers kind of balked at the idea, unless it was a legitimate provincial association and part of the VGA.

But, as mentioned, some of the groups mentioned above have many “members” and those groups can leverage those players with the local golf courses to get better rates. As you can imagine, it’s not a lot of fun for the club managers, but in the end they usually accept because it’s hard to turn down a weekday booking of 50-80 players.

Now there are junior leagues popping up and I think this is not a good thing. I think this is a GREAT thing. We should create every possible opportunity to get more young people to play golf, because without them, golf will slowly die out and nobody wants to see that happen.

What I am a little miffed about is there is no golf club for “Senior Citizens.” You know…OLD people (like me). Golfers over 55-60 years of age.

There should be something for them which allows buggies on fairways, caddies who speak louder than average (because we’re hard of hearing), caddies with good eyesight (because we can’t see anymore) and can keep score relatively well because we can’t remember what we shot for the hole either.

Bottom line, in my view, golf leagues are good for the development of the game.

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