The department proposed a 36-hole golf course over more than 135 hectares (336 acres) in the coastal district of Can Gio, home to a treasured mangrove forest.
It said the project will not affect paddy fields and natural habitats. No particular developer has been named.
Under a plan approved by the government, HCMC will have five golf courses by 2020. One of 266 hectares (657 acres) in Thu Duc District and another of nearly 160 hectares near Tan Son Nhat airport have been fully opened. Another has been partially opened.
Site clearance work has begun for the fourth golf course in Binh Chanh District.
Can Gio's mangrove forest of 31,000 hectares (76,600 acres) is the home of around 200 different species of wildlife and 150 species of flora. UNESCO recognized the wetlands a world biosphere reserve in 2010.
HCMC is also considering building a small golf course in the coastal Nha Be District.
The development of golf courses to target affluent tourists has been a controversial issue in Vietnam. Investors see it as a big draw but environmental experts are vocal about serious pollution threats due to the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides, often near bodies of water.
For example, Tan Son Nhat golf course reportedly uses 190 tons of fertilizers and nearly nine tons of pesticides every year.
Le Anh Tuan, a senior environment researcher at Can Tho University in the Mekong Delta, said international studies have found that each hectare of these courses uses three to five times more chemicals than the same area of agriculture land.
A national development plan said that by the end of 2020, Vietnam will have 96 golf courses, including 19 in the Red River Delta and four in the Mekong Delta, the two main rice baskets of the country.