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Pärnu Bay

Reiu, Pärnu maakond
Reiu, Pärnu maakond
  • AddressKlubi tee 1, Reiu, 86503 Pärnu maakond, Estonia

Opened for play in 2015, the course at Pärnu Bay Golf Links was set out by Lassi Pekka Tilander, the Finnish architect who was also responsible for designing the 27-hole facility at the Estonian Golf & Country Club some eight years earlier.

The course is situated on a narrow strip of land in a stunning coastal setting where the forest meets the sea at Pärnu Bay, featuring wide fairways, expansive sandy waste areas and multi-tiered greens.

There are too many trees and small lagoons for it to be considered a classic links in the true sense of what you’d expect to find in Scotland or Ireland but, for this part of the world, it’s nothing short of a golfing wonder.

The following edited extract by architect Lassi Tilander is from Volume Seven of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected].

“It was during 2005 when Peter Hunt (the Swedish-Estonian entrepreneur) purchased a ‘half-finished’ golf course from developers, assuming it would be ready for play within two years. Soon, though, it became apparent that work done on the course, starting with the original design, was mostly unusable. Further issues emerged, including problems with permits. It took several years to straighten everything out, and we finally shook hands on the deal at Tallinn airport on 18 December 2010.

At first sight, the proposed area was impressive. It was a golf course architect’s dream, comprising sand, 180 degrees of coastline, and heathland. Further inspection brought up some interesting challenges regarding the design. The property is long and narrow: approximately 1.5 kilometres in length and 400 metres in width. As the clubhouse location had already been established at one end of the property, it meant there would be many holes running on a north-south axis.

A second challenge was the low-lying nature of the property and the possible rise in sea levels during autumn storms. The area is slightly tilted towards the sea: roughly four metres above sea-level at its highest, yet only one metre above at its lowest level. Of concern, was the fact that a good majority of the proposed golf course lay below the two-metre mark. Much work was undertaken to build and raise all areas to at least this height.

Pärnu Bay represents my design philosophy at its core. Personally, my playing strength has always rested upon a tidy short game: and my designs demand that same skill in and around the greens. Even when fully stretched to the tips, the course is short at only 6,143 metres. The challenge, therefore, comes when approaching the greens; and from strategically situated bunkers.

Visually, the open landscape harkens back to golf’s traditions. The wide fairways were shaped only as much as was absolutely mandatory for drainage purposes. Beyond the fairways many holes have large waste-bunker areas. As the city of Pärnu is well-known for its expansive beaches, from the outset I wanted to bring the same element to the golf course.

Limited resources forced us to concentrate on the green complexes and the bunkering. But it is these elements that really make the course come alive! It was a privilege to work alongside lead shaper Mick McShane, a Scotsman with much experience. The bunkers he carved with his bulldozer ended up exactly as raw-looking as I wanted them. The large, multi-shaped greens will make each round feel like none other.

Maintenance plays a major role in how the course is experienced. From the start it was clear that all grass would be pure fescue. Drought-tolerant fescue was chosen because of its superb playability, and for its low-irrigation needs. Optimally, the playing surfaces are being kept firm, giving rise to the importance of mastering the low-flying bump-and-run shot. All regularly maintained areas have only two mowing heights. The entirety of the playing area is cut short, while the greens are maintained to be especially ‘keen’.”

Opened for play in 2015, the course at Pärnu Bay Golf Links was set out by Lassi Pekka Tilander, the Finnish architect who was also responsible for designing the 27-hole facility at the Estonian Golf & Country Club some eight years earlier.

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