New Swedish Initiative Opens Golf Course in Hua Hin

Late during dry season the landscape in most places in Thailand is commonly dry, simply due to lack of rain.
But a huge valley with open fields, 10 kilometres inland from Hua Hin, surrounded by the completely dry landscape up in the hills, is for some reason still green. And it is guaranteed to stay so all year round. Here is namely the new Swedish-initiated golf course Black Mountain built – and open for playing.
The Paspalum grass is shining emerald green, the 16 000 planted trees and 380 000 other plants and bushes are growing and one can hardly visualize what it will look like later on – with full-grown lush greenery.
The process to acquire the land started only two years ago and the first 18-hole course out of two and the club house, stood ready to greet customers in late April 2007. But the project is far from completed and a golf course never gets “ready”, says Project Manager/Director Kjell Ove Asplund after 13 months of designing, structuring and nurturing the course.
“It’s always growing and changing.”
Meet some of the faces behind this undertaking, who will party also serve golfers at Black Mountain Golf Club, to learn more about this major venture.
It is the seventh golf course, and probably the most ambitious one so far, in the royal seaside resort. Its main investor is the Swedish entrepreneur and golfer Stig Notlöv who has spared no resources in ensuring the absolute top quality for this course.
“It should become one of best in Thailand, as well as in Asia,” says Jörgen Persson, Director of Instruction, who will run the golf academy and training centre.
“Our goal has been to design a course that’s fun and enjoyable for the normal golfer and challenging for the top players. The response so far has been very positive, both from touring professionals and weekend golfers.”
“However everyone has different opinions about what constitutes a good golf course, it’s like with paintings. One person will like the design, another won’t. But one thing that everyone pretty much agrees on is the quality. Any golfer ought to come and check for themselves.”
The next phase of the project is the just started construction of villas and condominiums on the 280 rai of land, which will have extensive views over the golf course. A hotel and spa are also part of the master plan.
The background to how they could get the land happened by chance. Simon Yates, one of the Asian Tour’s star players, was the first person involved that was shown the land and he brought the team there two years ago.
“We were looking at the site saying: ‘This would be a great place for a golf course, but it’s no way it’s going to happen, to get this land.’ About a week later, I had a contact from a person who wanted to sell some land, who took us overlooking exactly the same land but from the other end,” recalls Jörgen.
But that was not all land needed, so Kjell was the man who did the hard work – a major feat – to buy the rest from the land owners, 61 all in all.
Key elements to obtain the intended quality are: quality of irrigation, draining, the grass, and construction of the greens and fairways.
“The better products you buy to build the course with the better golf course you’ll get,” says Kenny Walker, Director of Golf.
Jörgen compares with constructing a house: “You can have a nice house that looks great the first six months. But if it’s built with poor quality; after a couple years it’ll look pretty shaggy. But with good materials and quality it’ll look good for a long time and you won’t have any problems.”
“Everything that has to do with Black Mountain, the construction, the machinery bought, even the golf carts are absolutely the best you can get. The construction of the bunkers and the greens is the best. The grass we reckon is the best you can use in this part of the world,” says Kenny.
They chose to use seashore Paspalum for this golf course’s fairways.
“The strongest benefit with this grass is that it gives you a great playing surface and a better colour. So its looks better and play better,” Kenny explains.
For those golf-knowledgeable it is worth mentioning that the course, named after the large rocks set into the mountains, always has a safe route, but for the more adventurous player there is a higher risk option with a potentially greater reward.
The fairways are generous for the shorter hitter but become narrower for the longer. The greens are large with many pin positions, with different degrees of difficulty, and the course is well protected by sculptured bunkers.
The designer of the first course is Phil Ryan, who designed Alpine Golf Club and assisted Greg Norman in designing Thana City Golf & Country Club. Gavan Wilson is Superintendent for construction and maintenance.
Irrigation has been another major challenge in the project, explains Kjell: The big issue has been the water and is the water. We have built three lakes and moved 3.4 million cubic metres of soil in the process. We have pump capacity for 20 000 cubic per day. So it’s a really big investment, the biggest in the whole golf course actually.”
As much rain water as possible will be collected from the mountains and water left-over from the irrigation system will be recycled.
The watering system, as hi-tech as it can possibly be, is entirely computerised and connected to a weather station.
“The water that the grass doesn’t need or that sinks through goes back into the system. This design also helps the golf course to stay dry even in the rainy season,” says Jörgen. “Otherwise you’ll get muddy fairways and slippery grass and then it’s not pleasant to play.”
“When it rains here it pours down and you want the golf course to be playable within 10-15 minutes of the rain stopping. Here we have very good drainage,” adds Kenny.
Black Mountain mainly differentiates itself from other courses with that is has a lot more undulation than the other ones.
“They tend to build courses on flat land. Visually it’s going to be more of a wow factor too. Mountains and slopes round about and of course the way it’s been designed. Some courses don’t bother much about that.”
Another difference is to construct the golf course first and the houses afterwards, and not the other way around, which of course will attract home buyers more easily. People can see the quality of the golf course when they commit to buying a house.
In terms of players and house buyers they target golfing tourists in general where Hua Hin is more and more becoming a golfer’s paradise
Says Jörgen: “It’s a higher percentage of golfers every year arriving with their golf bags asking for packages, combining it with a nice beach holiday.”
“And this new golf course will help promote golfing in Hua Hin. It’ll be good for all the courses,” says Kenny.
Swedes will come automatically, given the sport’s enormous popularity in their nation and the large number of Scandinavian visitors and long-stay residents to the resort destination.

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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