Poland’s first appearance in Golf World’s Top 100 Golf Courses: Continental Europe ranking, Sand Valley delivers a vivid,
intense and strategic test of golf.
Built on the sand belt that defines this part of northern Poland, some 40 miles south-east of the northern coastal town of Gdansk, Sand Valley is often touted as an inland links. The course’s designer, Tony Ristola, isn’t quite so sure:
“Honestly, I cannot tell you what type of golf course Sand Valley is. She has multiple personalities.”
And you can see his point. The holes at Sand Valley run through forest, open rolling spaces, along the river, parallel to the railway line, across wetlands, around ravines and ledges, through an abandoned quarry and across river dunes.
Within a decade, this wild ride has established itself as the country’s best golf course, and the country’s sole representative in Golf World’s Top 100 Golf Courses: Continental Europe. If Poland might not be an obvious choice for the travelling golfer, Sand Valley is helping to make it an inspired one. It is also no less accessible than the hotspots of Spain and Portugal.
No fewer than 11 UK airports offer direct flights of around two-and-a-half hours. A 45-minute drive south-east down the new S7 Expressway and you will find yourself at Sand Valley’s gates.
As you turn in, the row of luxurious Scandinavian-style white-walled villas, complete with swimming pools, gardens and barbecue areas, reminds you Sand Valley is also ranked inside the top 5 of Golf World’s Top 100 Golf Resorts: Continental Europe. The themes here are width off the tee, open green fronts and clipped aprons.
While the 1st could almost be British parkland, the par-4 2nd introduces you to the gorgeous, wriggly-edged sandy waste areas.
With pine and silver birch flanking the fairway, you could momentarily be in Pine Valley. Just 130 yards long, the par-3 3rd is a heavenly pitch to a devilish plateau green, hitched up a few yards from its surrounds with reed beds to the left.
The par-5 4th changes pace again, swinging you into open landscape, with more waste areas guarding the water hazard around which the fairway boomerangs. Asking you to wind up your power game one minute, then demanding finesse and precision the next, these holes provide an exhilarating and bewildering start. The strategy and the wide open spaces make it hard to know what you’re doing first time.
The first round can sometimes feel like a slap in the face. But once you get the hang of it, you are hooked. Sand Valley is not an inland links.
Only the sandy soil, the grass types and the ground game they afford paint it as such. A better description would be a heathland course without heather. Better still would be to avoid characterizing it at all. Playable, versatile and fun, it simply offers a rollicking good game of golf for a wide range of abilities – and that’s not far off the definition of a great course.