Considering the extent and standard of the golf courses, it is strange that so few foreigners know golf in Finland, or visit the country, to enjoy the golf honors.
In fact, fewer Europeans travel to Finland to play golf than to neighboring countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
This despite the fact that these countries have less than ten golf courses each. While Finland is a developed golfing country with more than 150 courses and 140,000 registered golfers.
The explanation is probably that the Finnish golf industry does not market its offer internationally, to any extent. Which is remarkably identical to the situation in many European countries.
Easy flying to Finland
We fly with Finnair on a Tuesday morning, landing less than two hours later in Helsinki. There we’re met by our Finnish colleague Esa Mäkinen, who is a golf’s globetrotter with over 1000 golf courses in 167 countries on the merit list.
The first stop is Linna Golf (9th & 1st holes pictured above) in Vanajanlinna, about 100 kilometers north of Helsinki. A course that since its opening in 2005 has been ranked among the country’s best.
The clubhouse is an eye opener, literally. The building appears to be the size of a castle, and turns out to contain all the facilities one can think of. Including 18 twin suites. All named after famous golf courses such as Muirfield, North Berwick and more.
Top-level training facilities are located in the immediate vicinity of the clubhouse. In addition, there are buildings with more accommodation for visitors. Also the resort’s hotel is within walking distance, in a stately old manor house.
Containing restaurant, banqueting rooms, beer cellar, detached sauna with a jetty that lays out in the lake. The building is even more impressive, at least architecturally, than the clubhouse. The manor house has a glorious history. But also a not as flattering past as the Finnish Communist Party’s headquarters.
We check in and are awarded the Muirfield Suite. The suite includes a kitchenette, living room and a sauna for more than one person. In Finland, sauna is truly a pervasive phenomenon, which after the golf course is an integral part of the experience. It becomes a wonderful ending of the round, which makes good for a tender body.
A top quality golf course
From the clubhouse it is easy to see that Linna is a quality golf course reminiscent of the best European woodland courses. With large pine trees, little water in play and fairways that lie to themselves in the woods.
The course is designed by European Golf Design, which has well-known golf courses all over the world in its portfolio. Among them Spanish PGA Catalunya, of many considered among Europe’s best. The Linna path appears like a forest course with a muscular, American feel, solid bunkers and partly elevated greens.
In the direction of Helsinki again
The next day we’re heading to Kytäjä Golf about 50 kilometers back in the direction of Helsinki. The club’s two 18-hole courses opened in 2003 and 2004. There is also a 9-holes short course, good fitness facilities and a highly futuristic clubhouse, totally different from what we met at Linna.
The golf courses are built on what was once the Nordic region’s largest private property, dating back to the 17th century. Today, the property belongs to the Laakkonen family, a well-known name in Finnish sports environment.
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Kytäläs two courses are highly rated in Finland. Many people regard the South-East course as the country’s best, while the North-West course, which we play, is considered among the top 10.
The North-West path is in an occasional open and rolling landscape, without much water in play. While the South-East is located along the big lake Hyvinkää, where several of the holes flutter with the water edge.
The courses are signed by Canadian architect Thomas McBroom, who has more than 60 courses around the world on the resume. Both courses have clear American moves with generous fairways and big, undulated greens as well as extensive bunkers.
The experience playing on the exquisite green surfaces was of the greatest kind. The following sauna in the clubhouse, along with at least ten other players, and not least the beer afterwards, was a high end finish.
After finishing on the terrace of the state-of-the-art clubhouse we drive the 60 kilometers to Helsinki city center, where we will stay the last night. There is also plenty of time to look around in the city’s pleasant center. The day ends with a drink in the bar on the 16th floor of the city’s tallest hotel.
Finishing near the airport
The last day is dedicated to Master Golf, a 36-hole resort at Lake Bodom in Helsinki suburb Espoo, about a half-hour drive from the city center and 20 minutes to the airport.
It proves to be an excellent place to end our visit in Finland. The beautiful clubhouse is the first that catches the eye on arrival. The centuries-old former farmhouse on the Bodom farm is beautifully situated overlooking the adjacent lake.
The settlement reminds a little of Forsbacka Golf Club in Swedish Dalsland. The Master Course winds around and along the lake, while the Forest Course enters the forest in a lightly rolling terrain. Maintenance may stand a little back from the two previous courses, but not much. The courses are well-groomed at a level most golfers will be most pleased with.
Then the sauna afterwards! Magnificent! So is the beer, which tastes exquisitely refreshing after the sauna. And not least, Finland’s best hamburger, enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the great putting green below and the beautiful lake beyond.
Just then we feel we have not had a better golfing experience anywhere. And that we have no trouble recommending to visit the hidden golf gems of Finland.
Finland is a member of the EU and has adopted euro as its currency. Early departures from European capital cities and late departures from Helsinki and short flight time make full use of the arrival and departure day. Helsinki is a lively city, well worth a visit in itself.