Estonia: 5,000 years of golf

Golfmagic heads to Tallinn to and asks readers:

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Thu, 12 Jan 2012

“Estonia,” I mumbled as I shuffled to the relevant gate at Stansted Airport at a time I didn’t know existed. “It doesn’t scream ‘golf holiday’, does it?”

“That’s why I’m taking you there, AP,” replied my dear friend and host Matt, stifling a yawn.

Three short hours later we had checked into Tallinn’s only boutique hotel, The Three Sisters, and were now standing under the glorious rustic clubhouse of the Estonian Golf & Country Club.

We were introduced to chief executive Hanno Kross, who was itching to start us off with a history lesson.

“This club is built on one of Estonia’s oldest settlements,” he explained. “When we were building, we found 5,000 year old artefacts – and they were really fascinating.

“What we found were stick and ball-like equipment carved from stone, resembling clubs and balls – so a game similar to golf may have been played here 5,000 years ago.”

So that explains the tagline.

We began our 27-hole day on the Stone Course, a fascinating nine-holer track lying on a limestone plain between junipers, restored fences and protected National Heritage areas offering a story for every hole.

Open to the elements, the 3,200-yard nine-holer has a real British links feel to it and a perfect warm up for the main event

After lunch, it was time to hit the Sea Course. Those who have visited EGCC before have joked that God / the Big Bang (delete according to beliefs) created this area with golf in mind. It’s easy to see why.

Stretching across more than 7,000 yards, holes wind among unspoiled forests, reach out to the Baltic Sea and to the Jägala River.

“Shall we play off the whites?” asked EGCC’s sales manager and unprofessional Al Murray lookalike Pepe Aaviksoo.

Matt and I, both off 18, looked nervously at our muscular 5-handicap playing partner and squeaked responses in the affirmative.

Like most golf courses, EGCC begins at the first. And you couldn’t ask for a much more difficult opening hole.

The 580-yard beast has OB terrorising either side of the fairway and a green well protected by sand and water. Make par here and you’ll be delighted. If I’m completely honest, I was delighted to take a point from this hole having hooked my first drive.

With drink splitting the 370-yard par-4 second, a sensible shot off the tee is advised, and be sure to stand back and take in the scenery from the third tee, a hole which swoops down the valley and toward the Gulf of Finland.

But most importantly, both provide a good chance to pull a shot or two back that might have been lost at the first.

The fourth, a lengthy par-4, offers a bit more room to manoeuvre – and when I found the greenside bunker, I heard a sentence I’ve never heard uttered on the golf course before.

“Just putt,” suggested Pepe. And I laughed, as it was clearly a joke. 

“I’m serious,” continued my new Estonian friend. “There’s no real lip and the sand is wet enough.”

I took his advice – and you can imagine my face when the ball halted just short, agonisingly close to a birdie and my first ever hole-out from a trap.

The course then heads back in-land with the first of four par-3s, while six and seven run parallel to each other separated by a sandy wasteland which – and Dustin Johnson take note – you’re allowed to ground your club without penalty.

A tricky 200-yard-plus par-3 follows, before the ninth takes you back up the hill toward the clubhouse.

“Watch out in there,” warned Pepe as I helped Matt search for his wayward tee shot. “There are a lot of snakes.”

You know what? Losing a shiny new ProV1 is not always the worst thing…

Article continues. Click here to find out more about the course and Tallinn.