Sunday, 26 December 2010

Ballyneal Golf Club

The trip out from Denver is three hours through some incredibly flat land. You have to get all the way to Holyoke before you notice a break in the terrain south of the town. It was at this point that I saw that the land might be unusual for the area, but it wasn’t until we ventured up the entry road and came to the clubhouse site that I got that first breathtaking view of the massive sand hills.

Here is what I saw…

We went out and walked a few holes till the light was too low. We went back to the clubhouse to have a wonderful dinner hosted by the designer of the course Tom Doak. It was just me, Mike Young, Tom, the owner Rupert and five of his associates at dinner. I’ve been lucky to spend time with the “Renaissance Boys” a few times and I enjoy their company a great deal. Most conversations revolve around architecture, but we talk of family and life on the road too.

The course begins with a solid four, followed by a beautiful long five up a wonderful valley. The next hole was my favourite of all the threes, with the green nestled down in the dunes featuring a short iron into a rollercoaster green. Very cool.

The opening three from the short tee

The moment you walk through the dunes and stand on the 4th tee and see the remainder of entire front nine unfolds below you, you are left without appropriate words for the impressive site. The hole is an outstanding drop into rolling land between the dunes. The finish is up to a terrific plateau green.

The tee shot on the 4th

The rest of the nine features some wonderful holes that work there way between the “chop hills” or dunes of the property. The finishing four holes stood out through the diversity and variety of interesting ideas forum in each.

The back nine opens with another exceptional long four, but the real stunner was the 12th. You have no idea on what is to come until you finally reach the most undulating green on the course that magically works well because of the scale and spacing between large features. We fed putts there into every area with no issue once we had discovered the proper line of attack.

The wild 12th green worthy of three trips out to see the green

The back nine rambled through the dunes leading to an awesome finishing three. The 16th was one of the better fives I have seen in quite some time. In fact, it would likely make a list of my favourite fives in golf. The tee shot must be carefully placed to attack the hole otherwise the massive mid dune becomes a major issue for the second shot.

The awesome final par five playing around the biggest dune on the property

The finishers are both very long but quite interesting to play since both are set so differently from each other. I think this is one of Tom’s best courses to date and likely the best finish he has offered up.

I was lucky enough to play both rounds with Tom and his crew. They were all generous enough to share routing decisions and why they ended up with the course they have. They also showed me where they had to make changes to make the holes work in such severe land.

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