The Road to Sand Valley Golf Resort
Sand Valley Golf Resort has emerged as Poland's flagship golf project in the new millennium – rated by Golf World as the best in the country and one of the Top 100 in Continental Europe. Learn about its fascinating history shared by Sand Valley's Finnish CEO, Antti Pohjonen.
Sand Valley Golf Resort’s history has its roots in the early 2000s. That was when Timo Hulkkonen came to Poland with the intent of selling the heating systems his company, LPM, was producing. Timo’s first partner in Poland was Alexander Wellenger, back then a CEO of Opec Gdynia. In the late 1990s, the idea of building a golf course was dreamt up by Timo’s eldest son, Kai Hulkkonen. Timo, on the other hand, saw the golf project as a way to give something back to Poland, because it had given him so much. He and his family are still the main owners of Sand Valley.
The Wellenger family joined the project as minority shareholders offering much needed local support to this complex and large project. In fact it was Dariusz Wellenger, the son of Alexander, who found the site in Paslek. Kai and the creative team decided that the project should be called Sand Valley and, after years of planning, the construction finally started in 2006. As one might expect, it was not an easy project, but after many ups and downs, by 2009 the course started to be finally ready.
Antti Pohjonen joined the project mid-construction during the summer of 2007, with the aim of helping his brother Kai and starting the real estate part of the project. The brothers worked together for years, but by late 2010 it was clear that Kai "had to build more courses." In the spring of 2011, Kai moved on and has now built many well-known projects in Europe, including Pärnu Bay. Antti, on the other hand, felt right at home in Poland even though Sand Valley was far from a functioning business.
"In the spring of 2011, the course was still not fully finished, there was no entrance road to the site and there were only a handful of members. Foreign golf tourism didn't exist, phones were cut off and I didn't speak a word of Polish, nor did I play golf myself. On top of that, we had no restaurant and the business was losing money every day," Pohjonen says. That being said, he also thought, "it shouldn't be so difficult to make this work."
From there on the philosophy was quite simple as Pohjonen saw it:
"It was clear for me from the get-go that it would be easier to invite foreigners to visit us in Poland than it would be to tell Polish people what a golf ball is. Sand Valley should be a resort where we concentrate on taking care of the people and their needs."
Finland was the natural first market and by 2012 there were some houses, the course started to look better and there were also a few villas where people could stay. There was light at the end of the tunnel. Paul O'Connor joined the team in 2012, and over the coming years so did many other rising stars. The foreign market quickly became Paul's main responsibility and the bread and butter of what Sand Valley was focused on doing. Before the pandemic, Sand Valley was hosting thousands of happy golfers every year.
Then came Covid-19. To understand what this meant to Sand Valley, Pohjonen said that:
"Naturally it took us by surprise, as it did everyone else. As a golf business with around 40 workers and having 80% of its income coming from abroad, it hurt us even more than one would think. We survived it thanks to our amazing team, which is still together, some well-timed governmental grants, fast booming Polish business, and of course the real estate frenzy that can be even credited to the pandemic."
During the two-year period, Sand Valley went from just over 100 beds to now offering more than 200. Significant investments were also made in the maintenance equipment and the spirit inside the company is better than ever.
"We hear it all the time from our visitors, our staff really makes them feel comfortable and relaxed in their own laid back positive style that is hard to explain in any other way than saying – Feel free to Join our Atmosphere," Pohjonen says.
Sand Valley Golf Resort is where Polish Dream Golf exists. It is located close to Gdańsk airport, from where there are daily flights from Helsinki and Turku. A TOP100 course in Europe and the best in Poland, Sand Valley is sure to surprise you during your stay.
The onsite accommodation and extras are designed to offer the perfect relaxation after your round: sit back in your private jacuzzi, recharge your body in your own sauna and take a swim in your private pool – at Sand Valley, you can do it all. Once ready for dinner, let our staff pamper you with our freshly cooked international cuisine and legendary customer service. Get ready to create new memories with Sand Valley and book your holiday today!
Sand Valley 23, 14 - 400 Pasłęk
+48 552 482 400 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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