Since opening in 2007, Black Mountain Golf Club has earned the reputation as one of Asia’s best golf courses. Most course reviewers rate this beauty in the top three courses in Thailand. And that’s an impressive feat when you consider there are around 280 courses in the Kingdom. Intrigued with its status, I added Black Mountain to my ‘must play’ list a few years ago. In 2012, Golf Digest Magazine rated Black Mountain one of the ‘Top 100 Courses Outside of the USA’. Since 2011, Asian Golf Monthly has named the Phil Ryan-designed layout, the ‘Best Course in Thailand’.
Earlier this month, I played the fascinating layout. And boy! I’m glad I did. Black Mountain impressed on all levels.
The stunning property is located 10 kilometres west of Hua Hin, a popular seaside resort on the Gulf of Thailand. By road, Hua Hin is 199 km south-southwest of Bangkok. From most beachside Hua Hin hotels, it will take around 25 minutes by car to reach the course. It’s a short trip that provided an interesting snapshot of authentic Thai living. Roadside food stalls flank the narrow back streets out of Hua Hin and into hills.
I arrived at the course as dawn broke. First light exposed a gloomy sky. However, not even the threat of a mid-summer downpour would put a dampener on this special course reveal.
Black Mountain’s modern clubhouse, with an open-air restaurant and seating areas, boasts expansive views over the course and Burmese Mountains. From this vantage point, Black Mountain’s 6,784-metre layout is captivating. With dramatic terrain that features interconnected waterways and undulating fairways and greens, the stunning course is even more appealing than I imagined. The black granite rock mountain covered in thick vegetation provides a grand backdrop. Red fountain grass, which is planted around the layout, offers a brilliant splash of colour. The native red grass not only creates a hazard for errant shots, it also frames the holes and adds to the stunning views.
The emerald green playing surface was immaculately presented. Tifeagle Bermuda grass provided a pure putting surface on all greens. Seashore Paspalum grass covered the tees, fairways and rough areas with a carpet like effect.
Black Mountain is ideal for all golfers. While the pros tackle the challenging layout from the championship tee, five other tee boxes at each hole, shorten the course, allowing players to choose the distance that best suits their game. Many fairways are generous in width for shorter hitters. The greens are ample in size meaning a slight mishit won’t necessarily be severely punished. The holes, which are well protected by wonderfully sculptured bunkering, aren’t riddled with a ridiculous amount of sandy traps. And although water hazards feature throughout the layout, most holes offer a safe path for a more conservative approach. While a higher risk option remains available to players looking to take the more adventurous route.
Both par-5s on the front nine are examples of classic risk and reward holes. With a long drive from the elevated tee at the 485-metre second hole, the green can be reached in two shots. However, with a creek in front and rocks surrounding the green, an approach from long range is risky. The more prudent play is to lay up short of the creek, leaving just a wedge shot to the green. The sixth also needs to be handled with care. Meandering downhill all the way, the 540-metre, par-5, plays much shorter than its yardage. Longer hitters who elect to have a crack at reaching the green, must carry water, trees and sand.
Good golfing strategy alongside careful placement of your approach shots is required to master Black Mountain. The short par-4, fourth is cracking hole. At just 350 metres, length isn’t the issue. The downhill tee-shot shortens the right-to-left shaped hole even further. For most golfers, a three-wood off the tee will be enough club to lay up short of the water hazard. With a short-iron to an island green, the second shot is testing. The undulating green, which makes putting difficult, provides the final examination of your game. The 17th is the shortest par-4 at Black Mountain. And, given the fairway falls significantly downhill from the tee to the green, it plays much less than its gentle 320 metres. Longer hitters could bomb away and go for the green, but it requires a long carry over a creek. The safer option is to lay up onto the fairway that is protected on three sides by the creek and then play a short-iron on to the green.
Black Mountain enjoys a beautiful set of par-3s. The 11th and 14th are the best picks. Both holes are fantastic short holes that require a well-struck mid-iron over water to reach well-guarded greens. The 11th includes a stunning waterfall left of the half-island green. The 14th features large greenside bunkers and the picturesque red fountain grass backdrop.
Without question, Black Mountain is an exceptional golf course. It is beautifully presented, challenging (but fair for all golfers) and offers excellent amenities (clubhouse, dining & change rooms). The caddie service was first class too. Thailand is renowned for providing excellent caddie services. And Black Mountain prides itself on having the best in the country. My caddie, Pim, was superb. She was spot on with distances to greens, water carries and layups. And, she gave me true reads on the greens. What an asset!
As a golfing experience, playing Black Mountain was memorable. If you’re looking to encounter one of Asia’s most exciting layouts, I recommend you add this Thai classic to your ‘must play’ list—that is if you hadn’t already penciled it in. Here’s a look at some of Black Mountain’s feature holes.