Luke Donald's first design starts construction in Vietnam

The world’s top-ranked professional golfer has entered the design business, with a golf course that’s expected to debut in Vietnam in late 2012 or early 2013.

Luke Donald’s “signature” 18-hole golf course will be the centerpiece of Ba Na Hills, a resort community that’s set to take shape along the Truong Son mountain range, about 30 miles southwest of Da Nang. Sun Group, the community’s developer, announced in early June that it is “now ready to start construction.”

“I am really happy how the current design is looking on paper and look forward to getting on site later this year to further refine the detailed design features,” Donald said in a prepared statement.

Vietnam’s 5,000 home-grown golfers anxiously await his arrival.

The Ba Nah Hills area was “discovered” by French colonists, who began taking holidays there in about 1900. Nowadays, its cool summer breezes are a lure for Da Nang’s overheated middle and upper classes. In fact, one of Sun Group’s affiliates is building what’s been described as “a French-style” tourist village not far from the site of Donald’s course. The project is said to include some houses, an “entertainment park,” and “artificial mountains for climbers.”

Donald’s course has been co-designed by Brit Stenson of IMG, the Cleveland, Ohio-based sports management company. Several months ago, before Donald was assigned to the project, Stenson said he believes the track “will become one of the best courses in Vietnam.”

To be sure, Stenson is familiar with the territory. He’s had a hand in designing several courses in Vietnam, including Dalat Palace Golf Club in Dalat City, Ocean Dunes Golf Club in Phan Thiet, Montgomerie Links in suburban Da Nang, and a just-opened course at the Vinpearl resort in Nha Trang. He also has several projects in the works, including Hoa Lac Golf Course near Hanoi.

Donald, a Brit who now lives in the United States, has been one of IMG’s clients since 2003. According to a press release, he’s said to come from “a very artistic background” – he has a degree in art theory and practice from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois – and “has had an interest in golf design for many years.”

But golf design isn’t Donald’s only “signature” activity. Like Jack Nicklaus and Ernie Els, he’s put his name on wines – so far, a claret and a chardonnay – for Tertalo Wine Group.

This story originally appeared in the World Edition of the Golf Course Report, in a slightly different form. For a sample copy of the World Edition, call 301/680-9460 or write to WorldEdition@aol.com.

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