Since Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has wasted no time in welcoming visitors to its seaport capital of Tallinn, a wonderful old medieval city that takes great pride in its UNESCO World Heritage status.
At Manniva, just along the Baltic coast from Tallinn, the 27-hole modern golf complex at the Estonian Golf & Country Club is recognised as one of the best in Eastern Europe and it has been attracting a growing number of golfers to its fairways since it first opened in 2005.
One of only eight accredited PGA Tour venues in Europe, the Estonian’s 18-hole Sea course and 9-hole Stone layout were created by Finnish designer Lassi-Pekka Tilander on a site of historical significance where a number of archaeological artifacts – including arrow heads, coins and pottery – were found during construction.
Situated on the delta of the Jägala River, the Sea course is routed over three distinct types of terrain: parkland, heathland and links. Water hazards feature at several holes, most effectively at the signature par four 13th where the tee shot must avoid a rather prominent lake on the right as the fairway doglegs to the green.
The 182-yard par three 17th hole was upgraded in 2011 when the large water hazard in front of the green was replaced with an area of sandy scrubland, enhancing the aesthetics of the hole with boulders, native shrubs and a striking water feature that runs through the middle. The scrubland – as with similar areas between the 482-yard par five 6th and 408-yard par four 7th holes – is not deemed a hazard therefore golfers can ground their club before playing from the sand.
The Estonian Golf and Country Club was honoured to host the 2009 Omega Mission Hills World Cup European Qualifiers, with 2-man national teams battling to win places at the tournament proper in China.
Driving past Soviet blocks and then taking an unmarked road you end up at... a European Tour destination.
It is one of the fairest golf courses I have ever played and designed by professionals for the modern professional game. You hardly ever get a bad break for no reason, thus making pros happy. With juicy semi-rough, tall trees and perfect greens, it is a parkland golf course that could be found anywhere in Ohio.
But the more you think about the design the more you realize that the course is not as bland as it may appear, especially from the back tees there are interesting angles and decisions to be made. The bunkering is solid but not spectacular. However, 4, 5, 14 and 15 close to the marsh are rather dull and look much better in the drone shot than on the ground. Holes 11-13 are a good stretch. 13 was my favorite hole; a beautiful risk-reward dogleg right par 4 around a lake with rolling hills to the left. 16 is another good hole up the trees. Overall a very enjoyable golf course - not many great or bad things can be said.