Courses We Love: Ballyneal
Sometimes in life you find something that just doesn’t seem like it should be possible. That’s the case with Ballyneal. How do the sand dunes that look like they’re straight out of Ireland exist in a remote corner of northeast Colorado, thousands of miles from the ocean? Well, Jim O’Neal, who grew up in Holyoke, CO and his brother Rupert contacted Tom Doak to build what could best be described as a great American links far from the ocean with wide firm fairways, wild greens and big blowout bunkers. A true destination private club where many of the members live out of state or in Denver a few hours away and come stay at the club for a few nights in one of the club’s many on-site rooms. All perfectly sufficient for anyone coming to Ballyneal for a few days to play as much golf as they can. And boy what a place to immerse yourself in the game for a few days and enjoy the chop hills of Colorado.
The one thing we must draw to your attention is one of the tenants of Ballyneal that we agree with more than anything…that walking is mandatory as there are no carts on the property. Caddies, push carts and carrying are the only options…golf as it was meant to be played. Another unique thing about Ballyneal is there are no tee markers. Each hole has 4-5 tees and you can peg it anywhere you want making the course play different every round. How cool is that?
Holes to Note:
#2 - par 4 490 - 360
#2 is a big par 4 with a wide fairway, but with a big speed slot at about 280, depending on the tees you play. Hit that and you may have nothing more than a wedge into the first wild green on the course. The green has a big dune protecting the right and slopes right to left with a swale running front to back. If the pin is on the right, birdie is a tough proposition, while pins on the left present more opportunities.
#4 - par 5 573 - 360
Standing on the 4th tee gives you a sense of the scale of the property as the view is just incredible. Playing some 100+ feet down to one of the widest fairways on the course, feel free to wail away as you likely can’t reach the bunker on the right. However, the 4th is one of the best strategic greens on the course. Perched 15 feet above the fairway atop a dune with a big false front. A layup to the left side gives you a good angle into the green.
#7 - par 4 352 - 283
Unless you want to walk up a huge dune to the back tees, this hole should be played around 280 to 300 as it makes for one heck of a drivable par 4. Standing on the lower tees there’s a huge bunker in the middle of the fairway that acts as an aiming point. Anything slightly left should get up close to the green, but if laying up, anything right will give you a good angle with a wedge. The green is one of the narrowest we have ever seen with a huge slope to the left that kicks balls down on the green. The slope makes for some fun strategy watching your ball cascade down the hill to the pin. This guy hit driver to twenty feet and nearly made eagle!
#11 - par 3 200-125
One of the hardest huge green par 3s we have ever played. The green is relatively flat…for Ballyneal anyway, but something about this green just repels shots in all directions. A deep swale on the left side leads to a deep bunker a golfer wants no part of. Front hole locations are no bargain either as this uphill hole has 20-30 yards of steep slope short of the green that might take a poorly struck shot down that slope and a tough chip to get up and down may result. Take par and run to the 12th.
#12 - par 4 375 - 240
One of the most interesting holes on the entire course. A short par 4 with a dramatic fairway that slopes uphill and left to right. A drive to the left leaves a good view of the pin and a relatively level shot to the pin, but must contend with the deep fairway bunkers. A shot that ends up on the right side is likely blind over bunkers to a green with a huge mound short and a 7 foot drop to the back and left hole locations. How bold do you wish to be on your tee shot dictates what kind of 2nd shot you end up with on this hole.
Photo Credit: Ballyneal
#13 par 4 510 - 330
Photo Credit: Ballyneal
Standing on the 13th tee late in the day, looking out at the setting sun and the rumpled, wide fairway nearly 100 yards wide, one really admires what Tom Doak and his Renaissance crew accomplished. While the fairway IS 100 yards from one side to the other, 4 fairway bunkers intersperse this fairway making it play more like 3 30 yard wide fairways. In addition, #13 has the largest green on the course at 11k sq ft. A huge ridge starting at 5 o’clock and running towards the middle separates divides the left and right portions of the green. The right side is a sort of half pipe and presents a ton of interesting shots of this green is missed short. Do not miss short with a right pin!
#15 - par 3 237 - 135
A sort of punch bowl sequence green greets the players on this downhill big par 3. A saddle runs across the fairway about 40 yards short of the green and will propel balls down onto the front of the green. A shot missed slightly right of the green could run all the way around the back and end up on the far left of the green. We only know this because it happened.
#16 - par 5 546 - 410
The last of three par 5s at Ballyneal and one of the most fun. A wide fairway on this sharp dogleg left invites the golfer to challenge the left side for a shot to reach this green in two. A bailout left makes for a certain layup. However, from the right side of the fairway a golfer must contend with two large dunes that hug either side of the fairway, making the layup difficult. The green is slightly elevated with a bunker protecting short and two on the right.