Golf in Estonia – A record-breaking season is coming
Text Petri Saraste Photos Petri Saraste, Visit Estonia / Robert Lindström, Visit Estonia / Tarmo Haud, Estonian Golf & Country Club
A group of three men approach the green on the final fairway at Rae Golf. The men turn out to be Finns. Kimmo Vanhamäki is from Tuusula and Juha Varis and Ilpo Laitinen from Imatra.
The men are golfing in Estonia for the first time, but by no means the last. “We came here yesterday and thought we’d play a round of nine holes first here and then move to Pärnu, but the course was in such good condition that we decided to play here for three days,” praises Kimmo Vähämäki.
Ilpo Laitinen, who has played golf for more than 20 years, agrees. “Since there is not much snow and ice here in the winter, the greens have remained in good condition and the season can start a couple of weeks earlier than in Finland,” he says.
Piret Sepp, CEO of Rae Golf, says that courses are usually opened in the first week of April and they remain open until the snow falls in the autumn/winter.
“Rarely have we had major winter damage. Finnish golfers know this and they are often the first players here,” she says.
Rae Golf is the closest large golf center to Tallinn. It is 19 kilometers from the city center. The area has an 18-hole course and practice areas. Coaches are available for both groups and individual players.
Rae Golf’s ambitious goal is to make golf the most popular sport in the country. The Rae Golf Academy has been established for this, among other things, where ten professionals teach visitors.
There are also large sauna facilities on the site, with a smoke sauna a specialty, which can be heated on demand. You can also refresh yourself with a swim in the small pond.
The biggest event during the season is the Rae Golf Open on October 21st, but smaller competitions also take place throughout the season.
The à la carte restaurant offers lunches such as fish soup, pasta, risotto, chicken, ribs and hamburgers for 11–14 euros.
The same company owns White Beach Golf in Pärnu, which is close to the beautiful Valgeranna beach. It is Pärnu’s first 18-hole golf course.
The Corona time was ultimately good for the sport
In 2021, the Estonian Golf & Country Club was chosen as the best in Estonia in the World Golf Awards. The golf center is located on the shore of the Baltic Sea, 25 kilometers from Tallinn. In addition, Golf World magazine has chosen it four times in a row among the 100 best courses in Europe. The 18-hole Sea Course’s sister course, the Stone Course, is built on an ancient limestone plateau. A new 18-hole course is also under construction that it will be designed by ten-time major tournament champion Sweden’s Annika Söderstam.
“The goal is to create an international level golf center, the likes of which does not exist in Finland or Sweden,” said CEO Hanno Kross.
This year looks set to be a record year in many ways. “I have worked here for 13 years now and the greens have never been in such good condition after winter. During the Corona period, we got a lot of new members. With the fresh air, friends and families came here to play and the same trend now seems to continue.”
“We belong to the European golf association, and according to that, there were only three countries where you could play at the time: Estonia, Finland and Sweden. In 2020, our turnover dropped from 1.2 million euros to 800,000 euros, but now we are on a good growth path again,” says Kross.
“Many junior groups are already full and there are a dozen new registrations every day. Last year around 32,000 rounds were played. Out of about 6,000 foreign players, 5,000 were Finns,” he adds.
The most popular of the Golf & Country Club competitions is the 55+ competition. The Estonian championship will be played at the end of August. The Estonian Junior Open will be played from August 8 to 10. The senior European championships will be played in 2025.
Estonian Golf & Country Club also offers game packages, which include accommodation in the Tallink City hotel for two people and two rounds of golf.
Naturally, the area has a clubhouse, restaurant, driving range and pro shop.
For lunch you can eat, among other things, sea bass, chicken and pasta. Prices vary from 9.25 euros to 16.50 euros.
Other golf courses in Estonia
- Niitvälja Golf is one of the oldest golf courses in the entire Baltic region. The oldest golf tournament in the Baltics is also organised there. The 18-hole park course is about 30 kilometers from Tallinn.
- Otepää Golf Center is located between beautiful lakes in a park. Nature and hills make the golf there both fun and challenging.
- Saare Golf in Kuressaare offers good opportunities to combine golf with the area’s many attractions. The course was designed by the Finnish Lassi Pekka Tilander.
- White Beach Golf is the first 18-hole golf course in Pärnu County, which was designed by Kosti Kuronen. The Audru river and the beautiful landscapes of Valgeranna meander along the course.
- Pärnu Bay Golf is located about 10 minutes by car from Pärnu and offers a challenge for real golfers. It was also designed by Lassi Pekka Tilander.
- Suuresta Golf is a course located about 19 kilometers from Tallinn. It also often serves as a venue for competitions. The rolling terrain and water obstacles increase its challenge.