Sand Valley: Play In A Polish Sandbox

Once again I was on the road, or rather the air, traveling to Poland to play golf. It will be my first time in Poland and I was looking forward to see what kind of golf Sand Valley Golf Resort had to offer.

I was landing in Gdansk, where in the 1980s it became the birthplace of the Solidarity movement. Gdansk played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule in Poland and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union followed. If that is the only thing they remember Gdansk  for then that is something, indeed.

The reason for my Gdansk landing is the Sand Valley Golf Resort. Golf World ranks Sand Valley as a Top 100 Course in Europe. I guess that makes it the #1 course in Poland.

Sand Valley is  90 minutes from the Gdansk airport. As the nearest town’s population.  I recommend you book at one of the spaces in the Sand Valley villas located just a few steps from the clubhouse. Sand Valley offers a variety of packages including rooms and golf for a twosome or groups of twosomes. The villas are a Scandinavian design appointed with saunas, designer kitchens and free WIFI.

If home cooking is not your thing, then do yourself a favor and enjoy the Finka Restaurant in the clubhouse. An international menu changes daily using high quality  ingredients and local produce. Here’s a tip from me. If they say they have soup…get some. I tried three different soups and they all were extraordinary.

All the same, the main attraction is the golf course. 

The course was first laid out by Finnish designer, Lassi Pekka Tilander.  Tillander is the designer of the wonderful Estonian golf course, Parnu Bay. But after the construction began it became clear that the construction crew were inferior. The sacking of that crew was the result . The German designer, Tony Ristola, stepped in to oversee the project. Ristola expected to see a mess but the terrible condition of the project was shocking.

Scrapping the original work, Ristola started anew, keeping to the original layout of Tilander. He built the course on the fly, creating greens, fairways and tees as he went along. Working with a local construction crew, he was able to open the course on time in 2009.

True to its name, Sand Valley sits in…well…a lot  of natural sand. The fairways and greens run through and around huge waste areas. Sand bunkers, some of pot design, dot the fairways. 

The elevated greens have runoffs into collection areas or said bunkering. The greens are full of undulations with a capital “U”.  Approach shots must land on the greens like butterflies with sore feet. Hard landings will just roll off into said collection areas. 

They members and staff told us that the course needs a few plays to understand. My first time through proved them correct. It was quite an adventure as I learned where all the places were NOT to hit the ball. To me, it seemed there was no rhyme or reason to what was in front of me.

Take the ninth hole. The club deems #9 as the signature hole. But not because of its picturesque quality. A good drive puts you in a risk or reward position. The green sits on a plateau on the far side of a canyon. Yes, I said a canyon. Your approach is all carry and landing short is not an option. My foursome put three of our four balls in the abyss. Use plenty of club as there is plenty of room behind the green.

But my second round went better. As I addressed each shot, the memory of playing the hole during the last round came to mind. Like I said I learned all the places not to hit the ball. So I didn’t hit them there and enjoyed a better round.

The course was dry despite only being late May. In its usual condition, the contrast between the green and the sandy waste areas is stunning (see photo). Sand Valley earns its ranking. The challenge of the golf course combined with  its facilities and service  is . top notch

Sand Valley is  about an hour by plane from Stockholm or Copenhagen.  Sand Valley is  far enough away to be an adventure but close enough for a weekend trip. You’ll have a great time no matter your score.