Midnight Golf?
Archived Articles 29 Jul 2009  EWR
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Mark Kendall, Sky Sports

It would be fair to suggest that in recent years Estonia has developed a reputation, amongst British travellers especially, as a stag hot-spot more than a golfing destination. Indeed, only the most well-informed and intrepid golf travellers out there would view the former Soviet state as a potential venue for a golfing holiday, but that could just be about to change.

Golf is a relatively new phenomenon on these shores, but the game is beginning to command the kind of popularity that makes it such big business across the way in Scandinavia, from where many of Estonia's golf tourists currently flock.

When the country emerged from the former Soviet Block in 1991 to reclaim independence, the game did not exist at all. Indeed, just a few years ago there was only one golf course in the whole of Estonia, but the landscape is changing rapidly and the Estonian Golf Association now boasts eight of varying standards.

The trailblazer was the Niitvälja golf course, some 30 or so kilometres from the capital city Tallinn, which opened a nine-hole course back in 1993. Today it houses the Tallinn Golf Club and also a picturesque 18-hole lay-out that provided our first taste of golf the Estonian way.

The course weaves a charming, scenic path through some dense forest terrain and, while largely flat and not offering anything too stringent in the way of elevation changes, it is peppered with water hazards to keep you honest - or in my case, keep you reaching into your bag for replacements.

Wildly undulating it may not be, but at 6,411 metres and a par 72 it provides a more than fair test for golfers of all standards with the signature par-five 15th to an island green a particular highlight.

But while Niitvälja might be the pioneer, it is the Estonian Golf and Country Club that is now at the vanguard of the national golf scene. The EGCC offers 27 holes of golf located within a beautiful natural setting: the 18-hole Sea Course and the nine-hole Stone Course.

A baby it may be in terms of age compared to many courses - the complex was only opened in 2005 - but this toddler is already rubbing shoulders with the big boys in the playground.

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