Should his schedule permit, US President Barack Obama, who has reportedly racked up more time on the links than any recent president, has several options to get in nine or even 18 holes near the capital.
Two of Estonia's seven golf courses are near Tallinn, Piret Sepp, the director of the Estonian Golf Association, told ERR News. Nitvälja Golf, the first one established in the country, is a 25-minute drive west of the capital. The Estonian Golf & Country Club (EGCC) is about an equal distance to the east, at the mouth of the Jägala River. Sepp declined to pick just one course, praising them equally.
According to current scheduling information, the president has almost 10 hours in Tallinn from the time his flight arrives until his first meeting. If he cuts back his stay at Swissotel to a bare four hours - about average for a US president with numerous international crises going on - he could get in a full game from about dawn (5:45) to 9:00. Except for the odd driving range, neither course is illuminated, but wIth red tracer balls, he could push back tee time to the pre-dawn hours.
From mid-morning on, his options will be more limited, with the only break of more than an hour coming in the early afternoon.
Of the two Tallinn area courses, Niitvälja has its fans and sentimental value, being the granddaddy of golf courses in the country. "Its mildly sloping landscapes, numerous water hazards and fairways lined by dense forest make the play interesting and require a precise playing strategy," is the Estonian Golf Association's take, making it perhaps a good challenge for the president's approach, of which not much is known but is rumored to be cerebral and technocratic.
The course east of Tallinn, the EGCC, is however the elite pearl, an emerging democracy version of an old New England institution, with its classic seaside links winning testimonials from international associations.
"It has the 18-hole Championship Sea Course and nine-hole links-style Stone Course, both created within an ancient archeological site," said Sepp. EGCC, which in September 2009, hosted the Omega Mission Hills World Cup European Qualifier, was selected by Golf World Magazine as one of the Top 100 European Courses. And the clubhouse comes highly recommended, with panoramic views over both courses and the Jägala River delta beyond.
Will it be the 18-hole Sea Course, which is in some parts a dead ringer for Obama's favorite Martha's Vineyard haunt, Farm Neck? Or the nine-hole Stone Course? Or perhaps the first nine holes of the Sea Course? Or the back nine and then a whistle-stop at Niitvälja's infamous hole 15? It's a tough call.