I remember reading the story about Sand Valley’s painful birth in one of Paul Daley’s “Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective” books four or five years ago and wondering if I’d ever get the chance to see the place in person. Well, I arrived at the resort just a few weeks ago on a press trip with several other European journalists who, like me, were keen to find out more about golf in the north of Poland.
According to Sand Valley’s CEO Antti Pohjonen, the resort has an annual growth rate of more than 50%, with the vast majority of visitors arriving through Gdansk airport from Scandinavia. The key to the business’s success is offering golfers value for money, based on Antti’s “four pillars of a perfect golf holiday” which are golf, accommodation, catering and service. For sure, the villas are well-appointed, the food and drinks setup is superb and the service (under “Happiness Concierge” Marcin Polec) is unsurpassed but what about the golf?
Well, the stated aim in the course guide book is to have guests “head home with memories of every single golf hole they have just played” and, although that’s quite a tall order, I think most golfers will leave remembering a large proportion of the holes for one reason or another. The guide book also states: “we believe in wide and rumpled fairways, in heavily contoured greens and planning your way around a golf course” and “we believe that by providing firm and fast conditions throughout the golf course more fun can be had by all skill levels of players.” Again, I agree with those sentiments 100%.
The course is nicely routed across undulating terrain with two nines returning uphill to a ridge that the clubhouse sits on. Water only comes into play at a handful of holes, three on the front nine and two on the back, and sandy waste areas proliferate on many of the holes, either running alongside fairways or across them, calling for a carry from the tee or to the green. My favourite holes on the front nine were the par fours at the 2nd and 6th, both of which dogleg right from the tee to the target. On the back nine, the par five 12th was easily the best hole on the card, played from an offset, raised tee position across a massive expanse of wasteland before a blind second shot is then required as the fairway moves 45 degrees further right and down to a green that runs away from back to front.
On some holes, the putting surface contours bordered on the outrageous and on others – such as the 3rd, 4th, 14th and 16th – the greens were jacked up way too high for my liking. In fact, I’ve not played a course since the Castle at St Andrews with greens as controversial as these. Now that could possibly be turned into a real marketing ploy as I’m sure most players here will never have putted on greens like these and they probably never will again. With generally wide fairways, tee shots are not a problem here – approach play and putting are, so golfers should have their short game in tip top order before venturing out onto the course at Sand Valley.
Date: June 05, 2018