The Helsinki Golf Club, founded in 1932, is the oldest course in Finland. It is also the home of the Finnair Masters for the Women’s European Tour.
The course is only three miles from the center of Helsinki, located in Tali Manor Park, which most locals call “Tali.” Tali has hosted more championships than any other club in Finland, including the Finnish Amateur Championship each year. For the last four years, it has also hosted the Ladies European Tour competition. The course is classic parkland with a relatively flat layout and measures 6,374 yards from the tips. The greens are medium-sized and include small slopes which make them demanding and challenging. The course demands accurate tee shots and good distance control on approaches. There are no “bad” holes on the course, as each has its own ch
aracter. The course has always been considered harder than it looks, as proven on numerous occasions during tournament play.
I showed up as a lone traveler and teamed up with three Finnish golfers playing hooky from work — Markku, Reino and Teemu. They were kind enough to allow this wayward American to join their four-ball.
Hole 2 (413 yards, par 4)
This is a difficult hole as you have to drive a near-perfect ball to land near the narrow opening to the green. If you go right, like most players do, you will need to play through an elevated, wooded area which has to be cleared to make or get near the green. On this hole, Markku teed up and hit a ball directly left and out of bounds. He turned and scolded Reino and Teemu in Finnish. I then said, “Do you want to hit another?” He replied, “I see you understand Finnish!” The other two were talking during his back swing and it was obvious he was blaming them for his poor shot — the same translation in any language!
I did not pay attention to the suggestions of the group and drove my ball right. I was lucky enough to make it through the wooded area; then I chipped up to the slightly elevated green. Two bunkers flank the right and left sides of the green and often catch wild shots.
Hole 4 (530 yards, par 5)
Ranked as the most difficult hole on the course, the trouble here involves both the length and the narrow shoot you need to clear on your second shot. Markku told me to place my drive center right. I chose to drive the ball slightly right, which appeared to be too far for a clean second shot. When we approached my ball, I was able to muscle a mid-iron to get me into play before a beautiful 4-iron shot to the green. The others struggled with a narrow spot on the fairway. Reino knocked his ball in the woods, which I miraculously found. My ball, on the green, offered me a birdie putt of 15 feet, which I made, impressing my new friends.
Hole 5 (393 yards, par 4)
From the tee box, you can clearly see the three traps that are lined up one after the other on the right side of the hole. As the hole turns slightly left and uphill, these three traps are ready to catch your drive. We all favored the left side; Teemu landed directly in the first trap and Markku landed in the high rough in between. My drive luckily landed and kicked right on the fairway, near the second trap. As my colleagues struggled, I hit an iron shot, landing just off the left side of the elevated green. From here, I chipped and two-putted for a five.
Hole 9 (165 yards, par 3)
This is a peaceful and serene hole and really should not be difficult. A simple straight shot to the center of the green will put you in scoring position. A trap lies directly in front of the green and another slightly left to catch balls that come up short. Our entire foursome played this hole like beginners. I pulled my ball left, missing the creek and landing in a flowerbed 30 yards from the green. Markku lost his ball in the water and Reino found the front trap. Only Teemu landed near the green and chipped on, saving par. The rest of us had higher numbers.
Hole 10 (323 yards, par 4)
You can’t cut too much off of this dogleg; it turns too sharply left and is blocked by dense trees which will suck up your ball. I had a nice drive and probably could have been a little more left, but was pleased with my position. There are two traps that catch those slicing off the tee box, making par almost impossible. Still about 150 yards from the green, I took out a mid-iron and landed on the back of the green, avoiding the forward bunker guarding the right side.
Hole 11 (335 yards, par 4)
This is a tricky hole, and we all laughed at Teemu’s tee shot, so I figure it is worth sharing the story. Both Markku and I drove our balls a little too far and off the fairway on this dogleg right. We still had a shot to the green and we both wedged ourselves to putting positions. Teemu decided he was going to cut the corner on this dog and, in doing so, slammed into about five trees before bouncing back into play. His next shot went back into the woods where there was a little old lady walking her dog. (I thought for sure the shot killed the dog, but it was just rolling around playing in the woods.) The green is tucked away on the right side with a small trap on the left. I tapped in my second putt, walking away with par.
Hole 12 (509 yards, par 5)
I never saw the fairway on this hole, but I was on the green trying to putt for par at the end. It really should not be difficult, but this hole is ranked as the No. 2 most difficult on the course. Honestly, there is plenty of room to drive to an excellent position, but I decided to pull my ball left among some trees. My next shot got me in position to get back in the game with a perfect 3-wood landing 100 yards from the green. I was so busy with my game, I was unable to help the others as they struggled looking for their errant shots. My trusty sand wedge got me on the green in four, about 10 feet from the pin. Markku lost a ball on the left side that scrambled past the path into the woods. My putt missed by an inch, carding a six on this par 5. Not bad, considering the start.
Hole 13 (224 yards, par 3)
This hole was a complete disaster, as I had to re-tee after shanking my drive left into the wooded, brambled area. The next shot left me with a chip to the green, where I was able to catch both traps on successive shots. Not really a difficult hole if you can cleanly pace a 220 shot from the green, but it turned out to be my nemesis.
Helsinki Golf Club
00350 Helsinki, Finland
tel 358 9 2252 3710
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