Black Mountain Golf Club joined Asian Tour Destinations – the exclusive network of golf clubs with direct ties to the Asian Tour – in August last year and so we felt it an opportune time to catch up with Harald Elisson, their General Manager, to find out how things are at Hua Hin’s preeminent golfing venue:
Q. Harald, it has been a difficult 2020 and 2021 for everyone in the golf industry. How have things been at Black Mountain Golf Club?
A. Yes, it has been a challenging time but we are weathering the storm well. I am delighted to say, as we speak, even though some local recreational facilities are closed during another period of restrictions, the golf course, driving range and restaurant are open – though no alcohol sales are allowed, of course.
Obviously, we are dependent on tourism, but international visitors are practically non-existent at-the-moment. Normally we would welcome visitors from Scandinavia, the UK, Germany and Switzerland but nobody wants to go through quarantine when they are on vacation. November would normally be our busiest period, but the numbers were drastically down last year.
However, on a more positive note we have been very encouraged by the relatively high traffic of visitors from Bangkok at the weekends domestic tourism during the pandemic has been surprisingly good. And, despite everything, we have continued to sell real estate and people are still taking up residence here.
Q. Black Mountain is a wonderful golfing oasis. Can you run through everything you have on site and explain the concept behind the project.
A. Everything here is under the Black Mountain umbrella. It’s all one golf community and obviously the heart of the whole community is the 27 hole golf course. We have a wealth of real estate options available –with condominiums, houses and villas – which continue to be constructed to meet demand.
As I said before, even now in the pandemic, we continue to receive property enquiries, with many people deciding that Black Mountain is right for them and subsequently becoming new house owners and golf club members. Most of the condos are now sold. We have 76 condos and about 100 houses.
The condos are two or three bedrooms, the villas are two to four bedrooms, so there are quite a large variety of siaes and specifications. Also we offer great value to prospective buyers. For example, on the West Course we currently are building Twinhouses along the fairway of the 1st hole where you are able to purchase a 4 bedroom property for the price of a 3 bedroom property.
We also have a resort comprising over 40 pool villas, which are two or three bedrooms, that we operate as a hotel. And, of course, we have so many facilities: the water park is probably the main one and there is also a sports area with tennis and volleyball courts. Guests staying on site have preferential access to all facilities.
Q. How does one become a member of the golf club?
A. A key part of the whole concept here is that golf club membership comes with the purchase of real estate – all of which overlooks the golf course. The concept is that golf club memberships are only available to property owners; everyone who is a member lives here in the Black Mountain residential community. This has been the plan from the beginning, and it has been very successful. We wanted to create a special and unique atmosphere for the members.
Q. Where do your residents come from?
A. In the beginning, as the investment for construction came from Sweden, property uptake heavily featured Swedish buyers, but over the years it has diversified. It is now mostly Europeans, Americans and Australians and of course some from Asia. It is very much a mix, but I would say 40% are Scandinavians.
Early on most were buying as a second home but now people are living here on a more permanent basis. We have an international school on site – not owned by Black Mountain but it is located here. So that is a big thing and means a lot of families have moved here. The school is from early years through to secondary education.
Q. Last year you became part of the Asian Tour Destinations network. The Tour is excited to have you on board. What is Black Mountain hoping to achieve with this tie up?
A. Well, let me start by saying that we have been close to the Asian Tour going back to when we started the project over a decade ago. And, of course, we have hosted many Asian Tour events but by becoming part of Asian Tour Destinations we hope to further grow the relationship through brand association, cross marketing and more importantly furthering ties with the other golf clubs who are part of the network. And we are already seeing some early benefits of this association even though it has been difficult to move forward with many strategies because of the pandemic.
The practice facilities are very popular here, they in very good shape all year round, so we have already seen some Asian Tour members here practicing and we look forward to welcoming more. Their presence is great for our residents; it helps elevate the overall atmosphere in all areas of the club. Something that few other golfing developments can offer.
Q. On that note, you have a number of high-profile professionals associated with Black Mountain. Who are they and what is the relationship?
A. I am delighted to say that all the professionals are actually residents at Black Mountain. Thongchai Jaidee and Jazz Janewattananond – both former Asian Tour number ones – and other Asian Tour winners Berry Henson and Simon Yates own property here, as do Johan Edfors and Rikard Karlberg – both winners on the European Tour. As with the Asian Tour members practising here, having this calibre of professionals live and play in and around the community is a wonderful feature.
Q. As you mentioned earlier, your venue is synonymous with hosting world-class tournaments. What has been the objective behind this, and will we see more Asian Tour events there in the future, when conditions permit?
A. We knew in the beginning we wanted to stage Tour events, and that came to fruition very quickly when we hosted the Black Mountain Masters in 2009, when Johan (Edfors) won. In addition to the Black Mountain Masters we also held the Thailand Classic, King’s Cup, and Royal Trophy here.
Essentially, hosting tournaments of this stature has been one of the main ways of marketing the whole Black Mountain project. The live television element is a very effective way to promote our course-side properties and reassure golfers worldwide of the quality of facilities to expect when visiting.
So, tournaments have really helped put us on the map and we have been really happy with the result. Certainly, we intend to host more events in the future.