Ballyneal
CO, USA

Seventh hole, 335 yards; Already the favorite hole of many members and perhaps the favorite of Tom Doak’s as well, the 7th is a half par hole of the sort that drives the better golfer into poor decisions. Downhill and often downwind, the golfer sees the flag between the shoulder in a dune and the shoulder of the large central fairway bunker. If the golfer carries this foreboding bunker 100 yards from the green, there is a relatively good chance that his tee ball will get a positive kick toward the green and get near or on the putting surface. The putting surface is shaped like an ‘E’ with numerous interesting hole locations. Using the banks around the green to work the ball toward certain hole locations will become one of the favorite tasks during a game at Ballyneal. Some courses (falsely) pride themselves on the difficulty of their more famous holes. In this case, this world class hole is also one of the easier pars on the course, a sure sign that Ballyneal is first and foremost about having fun and enjoying the game.

The flag is visble from the tee at the 7th and is seen in the left middle of the photograph above. Initially, a green complex was considered up near the 8th teeing area, as seen in the right side of the photograph.

The large looming fairway bunker (of which only its left half is in the photograph above) obscures a full view of the 7th green which sits in a natural hollow.

The key moment in the evolution of the 7th was when Doak determined that the bank to the left of the green be cleared of all native grasses and vegetation. At that point, all kinds of interesting opportunities presented themselves for bank shots and the fingers in the right of the green were created.

Laying up with a three wood has done this golfer no favors, as he is left with a horrible angle for his forty yard pitch. Cleverly though, he uses the mound...

...behind the hole to feed his pitch back to within six feet of the hole.

Eighth hole, 515 yards; Ballyneal has four holes with center line bunkers – the 7th, here at the 8th, the 13th and 14th holes. That statement may imply that it is clear sailing down the other fairway and nothing could be further from the truth as the topography that Renaissance Designs created/preserved in the fairways presents as much – or more – strategic challenge off the tee than bunkers. However, when the golfer is confronted with center line bunkers, they are among the deepest hazards on the course, particularly at the 7th and 8th holes. This forty-five yardlong Sahara bunker formation is located 210 yards from the 8th green and is in play 1) off the tee when the hole is downwind, 2) on one’s second when the hole is into the wind, or 3) on one’s second when one’s tee ball fails to find the wide fairway. Once past this impressive bunker complex, gobs and gobs of room exists but the green is angled along the base of the dune from front left to back right across the line of play.

Because of the wide playing corridors, the Sahara bunker complex at the 8th may not seem that fearsome from the tee but...

...closer inspection proves otherwise!

The interior contours of the 8th green become increasingly pronounced as the green goes uphill along the base of the dune.

Ninth hole, 360 yards; One can only imagine the enormous difficulty in routing 18 consecutive holes of a highquality across this landscape. Known to the locals as the ‘chop hills’, the abruptness in some of the dunes often gave way to drop offs that were too steep to create playing features of any great merit. Ceratinly, the landformslent themselves to plenty of great holes scattered here and there but remember: Ballyneal is a walking only course and the distance from green to tee needed to be at a minimum. Because an access road was already in place, the location for the clubhouse and lodging for Ballyneal was one of the easier decisions. From that spot,playing corridors for holes1, 8, 9, and 10were among the first that the Renaissance design team found on the property.However, though the 450 yard long playing corridor between the 8th green and 10th tee ran through a natural valley, it didn’t lend itself to a hole of good golfing qualities as a highdune shoulderon the left gave way to an abrupt drop off.In short, there was no place for a tee ball to land. What shouldRenaissance do? Scrap this routing and look for another one? Or alter the dunescape for the sake of yielding the best string of golf holes possible? Once the decision was made to cut the dune down and fill in to create a fairway with good playing qualities, the key was in the execution to make it look like the dunescapehad never been disturbed.

As seen from behind the green looking down the valley of the 9th hole, no one can tell what was or wasn't moved, such is the skill that Renaissance brought to the project.

Tenth hole, 510/460 yards; A really clever design with the bunkers and topography used in concert to creategreat playing angles. An ideal drive carries a large fairway bunker on the inside of the dogleg and gains the most level stance in the fairway as well as a perfect view of the long green between two dunes. The golfer who thinks that the center line of the fairway is fine will find that the right to left fairway slope kicks his tee ball farther left and likely down into a large bowl in the fairway. The approach shot is now blind over a large bunker complex some 100 yards shy of the green. The green contours are among the best anywhere with the green appearingas anextension of the fairway.

There is 30 yards of fairway over the bunker on the inside of this dogleg to the right. The white flag is visible in the distance and is clearly visible from the upper right side of the fairway. Of course, the strong right to left fairway slope and contours ...

...feed balls left, often leaving a blind or nearly blind approach.

Eleventh hole, 165 yards; Nobody knows just how good – or how hard – Ballyneal will become. Take the 11th hole for instance which plays from dune top to dune top. Asthe course matures, and as Green Keeper Dave Hensley works his magic, golferswill come to fear the front hole locations at the 11th as anything just short willlikely roll twenty orthirty yards down the hill.Indeed, thegolfer will hope aslightly mishit tee ball ends up in the front bunker. Fortunately though the putting surface is large, giving the golfer plenty of opportunity to show the front bank respect by hitting well onto the green and getting down in two putts from fifty feet. This hole highlightsthat the principal challenge of the course isindeed theshort grass. It also highlights the fact that sometimesthe golfer will be surprised as to exactly where his ball ends up!

The beautiful sight of the 11th from the tee, or at least it's beautiful until one's tee ball comes up short and trickles down the fairway and well away from the green.

Twelfth hole, 365 yards; Ballyneal occupies a homogeneous piece of property in the sense that it is all rumpled and rolling sand dunes. A challenge for the architect is to imbue each hole with its own identity while providing the golfer with a variety of different decisions to mull over. One of the best ways to accomplish that is by incorporating the landforms into the holes in various manners. Here at the 12th a dominant ridge runs from one o’clock to seven o’clock down the fairway. The shortest line to the green is along the high, left side of the fairway, precisely where a bunker pinches in. If the tee ball stays up on the high left side, the golfer’s approach is from the same level as the green and he enjoys a fine angle.The less fortunate golfer whose tee ball catches the fairway ridge and is pushed right has an approach fromwell below the level of the green and must contend with the greenside bunkers. As befitting a hole of this length, the green is among the more severe on the course with the high front mound within the green giving way to the back lower putting surfaces.

Late afternoon shadows highlight the stunning fairway contours at the 12th.

As seen in the two photographs above, the greenside bunker at the 12th materializes out of the natural dunescape.

As seen from its left front, the putting surface at the 12th is guaranteed to challenge the golfer, regardless of how short his approach shot.

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