Directive 11/CT-TTg follows on the heels of Decision 1946/QD-TTg that was issued in November 2011 addressing golf course construction until 2020. Dung said any golf course project must prove it was necessary before it could be built, as fears about prime agricultural land being eaten up by courses have hit the headlines in the past few years.

Projects are barred from using agricultural, forestry or industrial land. In addition, Dung said local people’s committees and investors could not build residential housing on land zoned for golf courses.

However, developers can use 10 per cent of the land for support facilities such as transportation, management offices and clubs. Regarding projects approved prior to Decision 1946, provincial people’s committees must submit documentation to the MPI for approval and then it must be approved by the prime minister.

Golf reared its head in Vietnam in the late 1990s and there are now, on paper and in reality, 87 golf course projects in 34 provinces and cities. More than half are financed by foreign developers. At present, one can actually play golf on 29 of them, 22 are under construction and 13 have received their go-ahead investment certificates. The remaining 23 have been approved informally.

It is thought that by 2014, 52 golf courses will have little white balls sailing across them. However, critics have claimed that golf courses were being built on rice paddy land and local waters were being polluted by the herbicides that are used in large amounts to keep a golf course pretty and green.

“The demand for more new golf courses is real, construction requests are being made by local people’s committees,” said Hoang Ngoc Phong, deputy director of the MPI’s Development Strategy Institute.

According to MPI, tax collection from 29 golf course developers in 2010 might have been around $25.4 million and the courses employed fewer than 10,000 people.

Vietnam Investment Review - April 25, 2012