There are many reasons to visit Estonia as a tourist – and to play golf there is definitely one of them; although golf was only introduced in Estonia 26 years ago, it is fast gaining traction as a popular choice for golf enthusiasts.
Golf was not a recognised sport in the Soviet Union, which occupied Estonia for almost 50 years. The ground for the first golf course in the Soviet Union was only prepared in 1987 – the Moscow City Golf Club. Sadly, that was the only golf course ever built in there.
The oldest club in Estonia is the Niitvälja Golf Club in Harju County, which was opened in 1993. It also has the honour of being the oldest golf club in the Baltics. Golf in Estonia is regulated by the Estonian Golf Association, and eight golf clubs are members of this governing body.
Because of the long winters, golf can only be played on outside courses for approximately six months of the year. According to the website of the Estonian Golf Association, there are currently nine outdoor golf courses and six indoor golf halls in the country. Seven of the outside courses are 18-hole courses, while the Estonian Golf and Country Club has 27 holes (one 18-hole course and one nine-hole course), while there is also one nine-hole course (the Rõuge Golf Club).
The golf courses are also very diverse, and both links and parkland courses can be played on. Four of the courses are at the coast, of which the Pärnu Bay Golf Links is a classical links golf course overlooking the Baltic Sea. On the other hand, the Niitvälja Golf Club is a typical parkland course with natural features, including its untouched forests and abundance of water, and regarded by many as the home of golf in Estonia.
With regards to the indoor halls, keen golfers have the opportunity to play golf in an indoor environment all year round. Exercise areas at these facilities provide a good opportunity to practice golf, especially in the long winters. Some of these halls are even equipped with state-of-the-art simulators, which give the player a near real-life golf experience.
Golf restaurants are part of the experience
Visiting a golf restaurant is also an important ingredient of the whole golfing experience in Estonia. There are currently eight golf restaurants across the country. While the golf courses are closed for approximately six months of the year, most golf restaurants are still open in the winter for special functions and events.
Baked into the menus of these magnificent golf restaurants, you will find a selection of interesting and delicious dishes – just what a golf player will need after a long day on the course. Duck fillet or breast are, for instance, a popular choice as a main dish, and so is a leg of rabbit. For dessert, you can choose to treat yourself to “golf balls on the lawn”, which is an almond-coconut ball with peppermint cream.
The last couple of years, several tourism companies have started to offer tailor made packages to Estonia for recreational golfers. These packages vary from one-day packages, which will only include one round of golf (with extras), up to three-day packages that will include accommodation, breakfast, airport transfers, as well as the green fees of the golf course. Many of these packages will have Tallinn as the base, as there are three golf courses within a short driving distance from Estonia’s capital.
Some clubs in Estonia are also offering corporate golf packages to companies wishing to reward or entertain their employees or clients, like the Otepää Golf Club. It is regarded as an excellent way to motivate employees or to show appreciation to clients. These packages are designed in such a way that visitors will experience an enjoyable and seamless golf experience.
As Estonia is not regarded as an expensive tourist destination, golf packages are very affordable. A one-day package, which will include transfers from the airports and green fees, start at approximately €69. On the other hand, an all-inclusive three-night package with four rounds of golf, will only set you back around €329.
Close to tourist attractions
Due to Estonia being a small country, many tourist attractions can also be visited during a golf holiday. When playing on the three golf courses in close proximity of Tallinn, a visit to the Old Town, the Kadriorg Palace or the Seaplane Harbour is just a short drive away. And when playing the Otepää Golf Club, the Kissing Students fountain and the AHHAA Science Centre in Tartu, the country’s second largest town, can easily be visited on the same day. It’s the same with the Kuressaare Castle and Suur Töll & Piret (a sculpture of Estonian mythical figures) when playing the Saare Golf Club.
Estonians are surrounded by nature, and their close connection with the land for centuries has prompted them to value and preserve its many different forms, diverse features and inhabitants.
If you look at the spectacular designs of the golf courses in Estonia to blend in with nature, this is a clear manifestation of Estonians’ love for nature. Therefore, the quote of the eight-time major winner, Tom Watson, is very relevant here: “No other game combines the wonder of nature with the discipline of sport in such carefully planned ways. A great golf course both frees and challenges a golfer’s mind.”
Cover: Golfers at the Pärnu Bay Golf Links in 2015.