The Asian Tour has published (6th June) an interview with Harald Ellison with his thoughts on the effects of the COVID-and related difficulties have been experienced by the Black Mountain Golf Course in recent times.
THE INTERVIEW Q & A IS REPRODUCED BELOW
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?
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 things are closed during another period of restrictions, the golf course, driving range and restaurant are open – no alcohol sales 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 if they are on vacation. November to March 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 been able to sell real estate as people are still moving 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.
Everything here is under the Black Mountain umbrella. It’s all one golf community and obviously the heart of the whole project is the golf course. We have a wealth of real estate –with condominiums and houses – which continue to grow; we keep building more and selling more. As I said before, even now in the pandemic we keep getting new owners for houses and condos with people moving here, and we keep building new ones as well. Most of the condos are now sold. We have 76 condos and about 100 houses (60 residential and 40 resort villas which operate as a hotel): the condos are two or three bedrooms, while the villas are two to four bedrooms, so there are quite big variety of sizes.
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 treatment for all facilities.
Q. How does one become a member of the golf club?
A key part of the whole concept here is that golf membership comes with the real estate – all of which overlooks the golf course. The concept is that we only sell memberships to property owners; everyone who is a member lives on site. 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?
In the beginning, as this is a Swedish investment, it was very heavily influenced by 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 up to secondary.
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?
Well, let me start by saying that we have been close to 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 things because of the pandemic.
The practice facilities are very popular here, they are 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 on site, unlike few other golfing properties.
Q. On that note, you have a number of high-profile professionals associated with Black Mountain. Who are they and what is the relationship?
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?
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 and 2010, when Johan (Edfors) and Tetsuji (Hiratsuka) won respectively.
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 scale has been one of the main ways of marketing this whole project. The live television element is the perfect way to promote our property.
So, tournaments have really helped put us on the map and we have been really happy with the results. Certainly, we intend to host more in the future.