This course has collected more awards than a Hollywood superstar. Michael Bridge visits Black Mountain’s 18-hole championship course in Hua Hin, Thailand to see what all the fuss is about…
If you live in the colder climes of Europe then playing golf in Thailand, especially between November and April, is a welcome change. In fact, the climate in Hua Hin allows for golf to be enjoyed 365 days of the year.
I decided to avoid the bustle of Bangkok and the Russians on Phuket Island, driving two and half hours from the capital to Hua Hin. The seaside home to the King of Thailand, who has his summer palace here, Hua Hin offers several kilometres of sandy beaches.
Originally a sleepy seaside fishing town, Hua Hin is now popular with Bangkok-based Thais, especially at the weekends. During the week, however, the resort is fairly empty. Not as brash as Pattaya or Phuket, but still offering the usual night markets and of course superb cuisine, with fresh fish high on the list.
Hua Hin also has many international hotels including the Hyatt Regency, the Hilton and the Centara Grand, plus several unusual boutique hotels, so you are spoilt for choice.
Home to Thailand's oldest golf course, The Royal Hua Hin, the town and its neighbour Cha Am actually boast over 11 courses, including the award-winning Banyan Golf Resort, Springfield and Majestic Creek. However, the one course everyone always wants to play here is Black Mountain.
OOZING STYLE. In fact, as I turned the corner and saw the set-up of this resort for the first time, I knew I was in for a treat. Everything about Black Mountain oozes style; from the caddies uniforms to the club’s award-winning restaurant… here even the cleaners wear high heels!
The course was designed and crafted by Phil Ryan of Pacific Coast Design and offers an 18-hole, Par 72 (7,587 yards) championship golf course. Although it has hosted many major tournaments with the likes of Stenson, Jaidee and Montgomerie conquering the 18 holes, it is also designed to appeal to the average golf vacationer with a series of seven different tee boxes on each hole. They are numbered from 76 down to 57, depicting the actual total yards you can play. I chose tee number 61 giving me a chance at 6,100 yards.
Once I teamed up with my smiling Thai caddie Nong, kitted out in chic black trousers, a yellow top and a cute Black Mountain cap, everything then clicked into action.
If you wish to warm up they have a superb driving range and there is also a putting green close to the clubhouse. Another clever touch was their mini supermarket under the clubhouse, where you can stock up before your round. Thongchai Jaidee , Simon Yates and Johan Edfors are just a few pros who all own property here, so you may spot them as you go round the course.
WIND FACTOR. Playing in January the wind plays a big factor here, so after a few tips from Khun Nong, I teed off on the first hole and my adventure began. A par-4, No 1 looks fairly easy with a relatively wide fairway. However, it is vital to try and pass the ridge down the fairway, so you have a clear view for your second shot of the valley up to a raised green.
The second hole is a great par-5 with the possibility for the long hitters to almost go for the green with their second shot. As some deep bunkers and water guard this green, I decided to lay up and got to the green in three.
Holes number four and six both have tricky island greens. Both are elevated so your drive needs to handle the wind. Hole six is in fact the longest at 598 yards.
On the front nine you need to position yourself on every drive, so your second shot has a chance to land on the greens, some being islands surrounded by water and some cheekily placed bunkers.
WATER WORKS. Turning to the back nine, apparently they have recently altered the 10th, which now has some strategically placed water hazards. I was told that by adding the water it actually cools you as you tee off.
Many say the par-3 11th is the hardest on the course, as you tee off downhill over water to a relatively small green. My caddie said the guys who fish out the lost balls fight for the right to swim here, so be warned.
The 12th starts your climb up the mountain and the highest tee box is the mighty 13th, a 614-yard, par-5 downhill to a green again with water. Good idea to try to reach the ridge here, otherwise your second shot is going to be blind.
The finishing four holes are very cool with bunkers, boulders and more bunkers to contend with. In fact, by the time I reached the 18th, I definitely felt I had been on a roller coaster of a course. It didn’t really matter what my score was, it was just so much fun.
As you leave the course the only way out is through the club’s gigantic pro shop, selling everything from Puma to real estate. It was one of the busiest pro shops I have seen, as everyone wanted some souvenir with the famous Black Mountain logo to show off back home. I liked the club’s caps and visors in white or black available for just THB100 (£2). Clever idea, as it is a great way to have satisfied golfers promote your course globally.
THE VILLAS. On this trip I was lucky enough to stay at one of the Black Mountain pool villas. Large living area, small pool and very comfortable bedrooms – perfect for a short stay. The 57 villas, ranging from one to three bedrooms, have been built surrounding the par-3 course, and you can book them by the night or by the week.
As well as golf, the resort has several other distractions to enjoy – including paddle tennis, swimming, spa massages, cocktails and a first-class restaurant overlooking the 18th hole.
If you still want to carry on playing, but don’t necessarily have the energy to handle another 7,500 yards, then they have perhaps one of the best par three courses in the world.
Designed again by Phil Ryan, he has created this course in a natural valley. Each hole requires a precise tee shot to find the green and to avoid going into the water or the bunkers. From the black tees the nine holes run at 1,357 yards and from the ladies tees a shorter 969 yards. Longest hole is number six at 182 yards.
Apparently, several leading European tour players all enjoyed testing their own skills around these nine holes. Johan Edfor is quoting saying, after his round here, “You could take every hole, put it on a championship layout and it would fit fine. It’s a great course to sharpen up your short and mid irons and the greens are big enough to hit. For me I can learn more in an hour playing one round here than from a day on the range.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges that these nine holes offered, and I actually forgot I was only playing par threes. Concentration is vital here, but it definitely is a great way to practice your short game.
THE SWEDISH CHEF. Black Mountain’s awards do not stop just on the golf course, as their clubhouse restaurant has also made its own headlines. Swedish executive chef Mårten Karlsson, who came to Thailand and joined the club four years ago, has created a superb menu.
Breakfast is served from early morning with a choice of a Fitness Breakfast of Yogurt and fresh Hua Hin fruits or the full American Breakfast.
“As the club has people from many countries, we have a very wide menu. I think the signature dish here would be the Toast Skagen, which is a typical Danish dish of boiled shrimps and chopped onions in dill and lemon mayonnaise, served on bread. It’s one of the bestsellers,” says Karlsson.
“All Europeans know what it is and really like it, the Thais like it as well. Of course, we get many Thai golfers and visitors, and the most popular dishes for them are the Phat Kra Pao Moo (pork stir-fried with basil) and the Phat Met Mamuang Himmapan (stir-fried pork, beef or chicken with cashew nuts), which our western guests really like as well.”
WATER PARK. As well as the superb clubhouse restaurant, luxury spa, bakery and handy supermarket, the owners have recently launched a new state of the art Black Mountain Water Park, close to the par-3 course.
The focal point of the 55,000 square metre facility is a 17-metre tower, from which nine water slides ‘empty’ their riders into a series of pools. There is also a giant wave pool, a 60-metre long beach pool, overlooking the adjacent wakeboard park, a kiddies pool, food outlets and locker rooms. And if that’s not enough, you can enjoy the Black Mountain gourmet restaurant down in the town opposite the Hilton Hua Hin.
This golfing destination ticks all the boxes and is well worth checking out – it will not disappoint.
GREAT GOLF HOLIDAY OFFER
Good to know
Many airlines fly from the UK to Thailand’s international airport Suvarnabhumi. Once you have landed, book a taxi from the airport to your hotel. Transfer time is approx two and a half hours by expressway. Visit www.suvarnabhumiairport.com
WHEN TO GO
Thailand’s climate is governed by three seasons: rainy (roughly May to October), cool (November to March) and hot (April to May). The best months to visit are between November to April, when there is almost no rain and the temperatures are cooler at around 28c.
If it does rain, these courses have excellent drainage so you can almost guarantee you can restart within 15-30 minutes.
Black Mountain Golf Club
Green Fee: GBP57-79, including mandatory caddie fee. www.blackmountainhuahin.com
Banyan Golf Resort
Green Fee: GBP57-79, including mandatory caddie fee. www.banyanthailand.com
Majestic Creek Golf Club
Green Fee: GBP57, including mandatory caddie fee.
Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin first opened its doors to welcome guests in the early 1920s. Wonderful old-style, five-star hotel close to the centre.
205 rooms and spa suites set on a 250-metre beach. About 2km outside town centre.
Hilton Hua Hin
Located right in the heart of Hua Hin and excellent for local restaurants and night market.
Black Mountain Villas
Located between the par 3 course and the water park, rates are from GBP60-90 for one bedroom per night and GBP100-163 for a three-bedroom villa, depending on the season. There is a free shuttle bus to the main clubhouse or the Water Park. Each villa has TV and free Wifi and a small plunge pool.
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