It’s not unusual in Asia to play on a golf course next to paddy fields of rice. But it is uncommon – indeed almost unknown – for a golf club to have a rice paddy as part of the course!
It’s also quite common for golf clubs to have a close relationship with their local community, especially as a source of permanent and casual employees. But it’s uncommon and almost as rare for a club to fund and supply equipment for a local community’s health services.
This is part of the remarkable story about Laguna Lang Co Golf Club near Hue, Central Vietnam, where taking care of the rice crop and the health of local schoolchildren is as important as maintenance and presentation of the recently opened Sir Nick Faldo-designed course.
Laguna Lang Co’s three-hectare rice paddy fields are located in the centre of the playing area, between holes three and four and 13 and 15. This area, as with most Vietnamese countryside, was traditionally used for growing rice before the golf course, which officially opened in March this year, was built.
Not only did Sir Nick Faldo want to retain the “rice-paddy look” in his design, he was also eager to have the real thing growing on the course. It also made sense for the course’s owner, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, which wanted to preserve and enhance the natural environment as much as possible, to plant several million native trees and shrubs and extensive areas of native grasses.
This “best of both worlds” result means Laguna Lang Co can produce up to 30 tonnes of rice from two harvests each year, much of which will be used by the resort itself and donated to local orphanages.
Visiting golfers, many of whom may have never been so close to a rice paddy, may have more of a rice-growing education than they’d planned if a shot goes wild!
The rice project is under the watchful eye of Laguna Lang Co’s landscape director, Stuart Donald, a Scot who is being guided by a an eager group of local workers familiar with rice production.
Meanwhile, a water purification project sponsored by Laguna Lang Co in five local schools is helping to improve health services at local communities near the resort. Each school has been provided with reverse osmosis water filtration systems to ensure school children have clean, fresh drinking water.
“It’s a very practical way of helping these communities,” explains David Campion, Banyan Tree’s group director of corporate social responsibility. “Water and sanitation-related illnesses are common in Vietnam and lead to school absenteeism. Our commitment is to supply filtration systems and three years of filters and hygiene training. Already, we are seeing the benefits as schools get behind the program.”
Binh An primary school, just a few kilometres from Laguna Lang Co, is one of the beneficiaries, its filtration system now ensuring a much healthier water supply for several hundred students from the local village.
Laguna Lang Co Golf Club is also beginning free golf classes for local schoolchildren to help develop the game in Central Vietnam.