What can we say about Ballyneal, it’s one of the world’s top rated golf courses after all. It’s designed by Tom Doak and it’s located in a region full of unique landforms that make up the chop hills of Colorado.
Ballyneal was our last stop on a trip that included the likes of Prairie Club, Dismal River and Wild Horse, and it proved a great way to end the week.
Each of the golf courses on the trip had unique themes. Prairie Club was one of the most expansive golf courses we’d ever played, Dismal River one of the most remote featuring some of the biggest dunes we’ve ever seen, Wild Horse has gentle topography and smart golf, and finally Ballyneal checked off the ‘wildly undulating’ checkbox.
At 4,000 some odd feet, you can expect to get some much appreciated extra yardage at Ballyneal. But it doesn’t really matter because Ballyneal isn’t as much about the yardage as it is about playing the shot in front of you. There are no tee blocks here; tee off from wherever you feel like teeing off. There are no yardage markers either. Ballyneal demands golfers embrace the most enjoyable aspect of golf and that is feeling the shot, feeling the ground, and executing — it’s exhilarating.
Lending itself to this sort of ‘back to its roots’ style of golf, Ballyneal also has a strong walking culture. It is a golfers club and they are big on upholding the tradition of walking the golf course. They have a great caddie program, which the vast majority of members and guests take advantage of, because the caddies here flat out know what they’re doing and know the course better than anyone.
Ballyneal is a destination club. It has all the conveniences of a modern club (including exquisite accommodations), but it’s a second club for most used to entertain clients and just get away from it all. The routing configuration allows members to play in various loops, and now they’re even added a new 13-hole short course built on the largest chop hills on the property.
It’s interesting to note that as of our visit they didn’t have a single Canadian member at Ballyneal, which is sad. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive from an easily accessible major airport in Denver and a club that we think is perfect for Canadians looking for a national membership. We can tell you, everyone was happy to have these good ole’ Canadians around.
OUR FAVOURITE PAR-3
Ballyneal is full of awesome par-3s with a ton of variety but the 15th hole is a beast. The bunkers on this hole flow out of the chop hills as if they were always meant to be there. The green sits in a hollow and the surrounds serve as a funnel feeding golf balls using the contours properly towards the green (fitting considering the length of the hole). A large slope about 40 yards short of the green can and should be used to get close to front pin locations and is a great example of the kind of thought provoking options Tom Doak presents to golfers throughout the round.
OUR FAVORITE PAR-4
We love drivable par-4s, and with this one, Tom Doak created one of the most original and daring ones we’ve ever seen. The putting surface here is shaped like an ‘E’ and is full of exciting pin locations while the tee shot also provides tons of visual deception. Using the various green slopes to feed approach shots to different pin locations is so much fun and we wish we could have played this hole a dozen times over.
OUR FAVORITE PAR-5
There are some really good par-5s at Ballyneal, including the dramatic 4th, but we have to pick the shorter 8th as our favourite. The fairway narrows to almost nothing around the 300-yard mark from the tee and is guarded by a Sahara bunker complex. The hole finishes on one of the most severe greens we’ve ever been witness to on a par-5, and it’s angled away from the line of play.
UNIQUE ABOUT BALLYNEAL
Tom Doak wasn’t afraid to take risks here and the wild undulations prove that. The ground game present at Ballyneal is rarely found in North America and memorable even months after first play. Each round will be different and you’ll want to get back as soon as possible.
With the season quickly coming to an end here in Canada we’ve started to reminisce about our year and some of the places we’ve visited. Ballyneal is one of the courses we can’t stop thinking about and one we wouldn’t grow tired of playing over and over. We’d love to spend a week playing as much golf at Ballyneal as possible because every round and every shot reveals something new about this worldclass golf course.
OUR VINE TOUR OF BALLYNEAL
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