Pärnu Bay Golf Links is the newest golf course in Estonia, completed in 2015. As the name hints, it is located just outside of the summer capital of Estonia, the small town of Pärnu.
Pärnu Bay Golf Links is an ambitious project that has been in the works for almost ten years. The lead designer is Finnish golf architect Lassi Pekka Tilander, and the financing comes from blanket tycoon Peter Hunt.
Right from the get-go you get the feeling that money has not been a limiting factor when building this course. Even though the club house was not quite ready when we visited, you could sense that the ambition level is high. And when you step onto the course, that feeling is confirmed.
The entire course has been built up from sand. The land next to the Gulf of Riga is fairly flat, and the fairway have been left fairly level, with only small undulations. The greens, however, have been more aggressively shaped, and often feature several different levels. In addition, they are well protected by numerous bunkers, build in links style with lots of overhanging “beards”.
Actually, to be more precise, the course has no bunkers at all. All sandy areas on the course, and there are many, have been designated as “waste areas”. This means that you can ground your club and take practice swings, and you don’t strictly have to rake (although I think you should). For being waste areas the look a lot like bunkers, though.
Another distinguishing feature is that all fairways have only a single cut, there is no second cut between the fairway and the rough. Many of the holes are lined with rough on one side, and giant bunkers (“waste areas”) on the other. The rough is very links-like, so you most often have no problems finding your ball. Because of the single cut, there are no tee boxes. This leaves the greenkeeper to put the tee boxes wherever it makes sense for the conditions of the day. This I think will be a very nice feature to keep up the pace of play, even when conditions are rough.
The course runs back and forth along the edge of the forest, with a nice mix of par threes, fours, and fives. Most of the holes look fairly easy from the tee, but fairway “bunkers” and large waste areas come into play on most holes, severely limiting your options if you want to challenge the holes. With the option to move the tee boxes around, this makes it possible to configure the course to suit any player, regardless of ability.
The course finishes with a beautiful stretch of holes along the water of the Bay of Riga.Hole 14, as par 3, takes you out to the coast, and then holes 15 to 18 parallel to the beach, with a forest of tall pine trees on the other side. This part of the course faces south, so you will have sunshine on these holes the entire day and into the sunset hours. A beautiful finish.
Situated with a panoramic view over the Bay of Riga and the 18th green, it looks like the clubhouse will be a stunner. Just as at Saare Golf, the lower level will have the pro shop and changing rooms, and the top level will house the restaurant and bar. The top level will also have a terrace around the entire clubhouse, so that you can sit in the sun any time of day if you so desire.
With the course being build on sandy soil, it is expected that it can remain open for most of the year, longer than most courses at this latitude, something that we got a hint of when the heavy rain from earlier in the day we played the course quickly drained away.
We highly recommend this course.
Pärnu Bay Golf Links and Saare Golf are owned by Swedish-Estonian businessman Peter Hunt. Hunt was born and educated in Sweden, but with Estonian family roots. In the 90s he partnered with Estonian textile producer Wendre, supplier to among others IKEA, and in the end purchased the entire company. Wendre has two factories in Pärnu, and now also a golf course.