Proper Golf

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ballyneal: A proper review

Architect: Tom Doak
Holyoke, Colorado
18 - Solid finishing hole. Don't let your last memory of Ballyneal be double out of the bunkers, play to the right and take 6 out of play.

Located in the far northeast corner of Colorado, not far from Nebraska, Ballyneal has one of the best inland sites in the world. Due to the nature of the club and its membership, most of which is national not local, with their dedication to walking, the ground game, and keeping things as pure as possible, Mr. Doak had as close to an ideal situation as it gets.

2- Looking across the green, you can see the banking on the right side that influences every shot, starting way back in the fairway.

The routing appears fairly simple, probably as close to two loops as one can get while wondering around 1000 acres of choppy sand dunes. It even comes back by the clubhouse between 9 and 10. Although one knock on it would be that 18 green isn't visible from the clubhouse, so one cant spectate easily, when faced with the alternative of moving the green up closer wouldn't work, its to severe and would you really want to walk up the biggest slope of the day for a putt to win the match?

8 - Doak's favorite classic architects is MacKenzie

Another thing one must remember about the routing is that it changes every round. Since the club has a no tee marker policy, a different route is taken to each hole, every time it is played. The general rule is the winner of the previous hole makes the decision. Never has strategy mattered so much on the tee.

Doak takes advantage of the random tee selection, providing wildly breathtaking tee boxes that take the term "free form" to an entirely new level. Its clear that he tries to provide every type of golfer an opportunity to hit the most exciting shot on every hole, so everyone can feel what its like to be in position A, be a hero, play it smart, be adventurous and obviously think. Ballyneal gets an A+ for tee shots, putting it in a class with courses like Bethpage Black and Kiawah Ocean.

11 - Looking back at the tees and 10 green. You can go all the way back to the top of the dunes in the right corner of the picture.

The next strongest part of the golf course is Par-3's. Absolutely world class. All are different, and all play different individually depending on tee as well. Check for variety. The Golfmeister can't stand 15 hole golf courses, if you know what I mean. #3 is short and you can play wild bank shots or throw darts with wedges. #5 is normally mid-length and with a forced carry. #11 ranges from an awkward uphill wedge to skyline green (my favorite shot on the course) or +200 peak to peak beast. And #15, well how Blind v Short do you want to make it?.. Simply all world...

11 - My favorite pin, on my favorite hole on the course.

Doak has been quoted many times before saying that a golf course cannot truly be considered a 10, A+, world class, etc, without a good short par 4. Ballyneal has 3 great short 4's. While others can play like short holes depending on tee and wind, #'s: 7, 12 and 14. If you polled everyone who has played Ballyneal since it opened, #7 would win hands down. Any golfer can stand on that tee feeling like they can drive the green. A hook, carry and bounce, or the direct shot can all put you on the green here. The best part of the hole though is clearly the green. Its called the "E" green because of its shape, and often requires putts in the opposite direction to get it close.

7 - If you don't have fun on this hole, quit golf.

#12 may be the hardest short 4 I have ever seen. Your choices on the tee are, hit it as close to the bunker as you can otherwise end up blind long right, or try to carry the bunker and drive the green. The putting surface with its distinct way left and way right pins, has a severe swale, making it one of the hardest on the course. Depend on your line of approach 12 can also play like a skyline green.

12 - Reverse canted fairway, wild swale on the green, if you have been able to see the path of your ball for the entire hole you have made a very good score.

Ballyneal doesn't have a single weak hole on the property, and definitely has more than one world class hole. Ballyneal makes you never want to stop playing. You just keep wanting more, it is that fun. The short game shots here require so much imagination to play around the contours, how can one not what to go back out there are try it again. During a match I found myself inventing new shots from around the greens, which for me is the ultimate complement. Where else is the proper shot at split-hand hockey style 3-wood from 30 yards sitting in the middle of the fairway?

14 - Long is dead.

If you enjoy quirk. If you truly play golf for fun and enjoyment. If you don't mind a frilly bunker. And if you don't mind going well out of your way to experience something very few have.. Then you will love Ballyneal.

13 - Pick your route.

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