Hanno Kross, CEO of the Estonian Golf & Country Club and Annika Sörenstam
Annika Sörenstam, widely regarded as the greatest female golfer of all time, is to design her first course in Europe, at Estonian Golf & Country Club.
The new course, which will complement the venue’s acclaimed Sea Course, rated among Europe’s top 100 courses*, is part of a major development to create a family leisure resort and spa overlooking the Gulf of Finland.
Annika has been selected both for the caliber of her design work – she has designed five courses worldwide to date – and her appreciation of a project that is targeting families and golf tourists from Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.
Estonian Golf & Country Club, which is part of the European Tour Properties network of world class golf venues, and home to a successful real estate development, plans to construct a 150-room hotel in three phases and develop leisure amenities including a spa and tennis academy.
Hanno Kross, Estonian Golf & Country Club Chief Executive, said: “I first met Annika in 2011 to discuss designing our second course and she immediately understood and empathized with our vision to further develop Estonian Golf & Country Club into an international leisure resort and spa.
“As well as being one of the most successful golfers of all time, she is family orientated and coaches young people, so brings a contemporary perspective to the needs of a modern resort and the type of golf course and facilities that are required.
“When I first showed her pictures of the landscape overlooking the Gulf of Finland and the Jägala River Delta, it reminded her of where she grew up and so I think she immediately felt at home with this project.”
The new 18-hole course will replace the existing 9-hole Stone Course at Estonian Golf & Country Club, and will complement the championship Sea Course, which in 2011 hosted European qualifying for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, the final of which was staged at the upscale Chinese resort which also boasts an ANNIKA® designed course.
On high, flat land above a limestone escarpment that drops down to a pine forest and the Sea Course, the new ANNIKA® layout will command outstanding views over the Rebala National Heritage Area, within which the GEO Certified™ country club is situated.
Using the long, native grasses and firm turf, the course will have a links-like look and feel. Tees will be spread out with the tournament course measuring 6,445m (7,050 yards), while fully constructed forward tees will create a genuine 4,000m (4,375 yards) course for juniors and new golfers.
Annika said: “It’s exciting to be designing my first golf course in Europe, especially one that is close to home.
“What’s also exciting about this project is the approach Estonian Golf & Country Club is taking. The golf industry has been talking a lot about the need to develop golf facilities that are more flexible and family friendly, and this is a venue that is actually making it happen.
“My objective is to create a course that good golfers will find strategic, competitive and visually appealing, while the design will utilize a variety of forward tees to make it equally enjoyable and engaging for newer golfers and young players. Ultimately, the layout will offer great versatility, from tournament play to resort golf, giving all golfers, no matter how far they hit the ball, a world class experience.”
Annika is currently working on course plans with European Golf Design (EGD), the golf course design company of the European Tour and IMG, with groundwork scheduled to start in 2016.
Estonian Golf & Country Club, just 20 minutes from the country’s exquisite capital city of Tallinn, will open its new ANNIKA® Course, as well as the first 50 rooms of the new hotel, in 2019.
Hanno Kross added: “While many golfers regularly hop across on the ferry from Finland to play golf in Estonia, we hope the new ANNIKA® Course will attract more golfers and families from Sweden, who can travel here easily via a 55-minute flight or on the daily ferry, as well as other European countries.
“This is an exciting new concept for golf tourism in northern Europe – where our long, sunny summer days are perfect for active, outdoor holidays – and we are extremely pleased Annika is on board and is contributing so much to the strategy behind this project.”