Ballyneal - Colorado - USA

Ballyneal Golf Club,
1 Ballyneal Lane,
Colorado (CO) 80734,

  • +1 (0) 970 854 5900

  • Golf Club Website

  • Leave I-76 at exit #125 then 50 miles E on Hwy 6

  • Members and their guests only

Ballyneal sounds Irish so it’s fitting that this is a links course albeit an inland links. The dream of Rupert and Jim O’Neal has become a reality and we think that this course, which is located in the middle of a huge Colorado dunescape, will eventually rival Sand Hills. Even the address – Holyoke – sounds like a current Open Championship links venue.

This is what the minimalist architect Tom Doak has to say about the exciting Ballyneal:

“There are more than a hundred links courses scattered around the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland, yet no two of them are very much alike. Indeed, on many great links, the holes at one end are of a much different character than the holes at the other end of the course. Such is the variety of Nature, the infinite combinations of wind and weather which give birth to sand dunes.

Ballyneal is set upon a thousand acres of such dunes, and our goal has been to take them as we found them and build a course which is a product of the land, rather than forced upon it.

Ballyneal is unique in one respect. I don't know another course where large natural undulations are such a big part of the greens and green complexes, and affect the strategy as much as they do at Ballyneal. This was not a concept we started with; it just evolved during construction.

Most of those "natural undulations" were, in fact, modified from their original form so that the ball would eventually come to rest in certain parts of the green. Some of them were that steep! But the natural contours dictated the form of nearly every green, and all of the finished contours tie in to the natural contours on the exterior, so that you can still use the natural contours to get your approach shot into position."

The following article was written by former golf professional Doug Sobieski and is an edited extract from Volume Five of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected]

Travelling through the high plains of eastern Colorado, rural roads connect dozens of small farming and ranching communities – many of which evolved as the result of railroad expansion a century ago. A few miles before reaching the Nebraska border, Holyoke, boasting a population of 2,400 and at an elevation of 3,736 feet, is not dissimilar to many of these towns.

However, as you continue south down miles of dirt roads, an exceptional landform known to locals as the ‘Chop Hills’ appears in the distance. Hidden within those contours exists Ballyneal, which makes Holyoke distinctly different.

Covering less than five square miles (approximately 3,000 acres), the Chop Hills bear no resemblance to the elegant undulations found throughout most of the Great Plains. Sharp changes in elevation render them unusable for crops or livestock, in complete contrast to the gently rolling land reaching for miles in every direction.

Jim Urbina, Senior Associate for Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design, visited the Ballyneal site in November 2001 to evaluate the opportunity. In spite of being a lifelong Colorado resident, Urbina was unaware that dunes existed in his home state that rivalled those found at the greatest links around the world. The following spring Doak made his initial visit and recognized character in the land that would enable Ballyneal to be included in any discussion of great golf in the United States.

Isolating and cultivating the Ballyneal ‘look’ was a constant consideration from the outset. It was critical to make the edges of the course ‘believable’ by blurring the transitions from fairway to rough, to native landscape. The end result needed to make it appear that there was little in the way of human involvement in the creation.

Bruce Hepner, Doak’s lead associate for the project, mowed the entire course-corridor to a height of six inches in a single weekend. Given the steepness of the slopes and the high centre of gravity of the tractor, this proved to be a more dangerous task than expected. Hepner claims he was nearly killed half a dozen times before they even began shaping!

The team knew that they were part of something special, but they made a conscious effort to avoid such talk, hoping that the course could stand on its own merits. Ballyneal was basically built in just 21 weeks with nothing but a one-page construction plan, a ‘human grading plan’ without detailed blueprints, an irrigation crew of locals and an abundance of design talent.

This gifted group included the entire Renaissance roster as well as individuals normally associated with other design firms (Pete Dye’s and Coore & Crenshaw’s), and architect Kye Goalby too. The result is a collaborative effort that Doak likens to his first job working for Pete Dye at Long Cove on Hilton Head Island. According to Tom, “Ballyneal was just a dozen guys having a great time”.

Tom Doak - Back in the Ballyneal Sandbox

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Description: Ballyneal sounds Irish so it’s fitting that this is a links course albeit an inland links. The dream of Rupert and Jim O’Neal is located in the middle of a huge Colorado dunescape, and even the address – Holyoke – echoes that of a current Open Championship links venue. Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Reviews: 13
Mark White

It is hard to objectively evaluate a course where one is a member. I joined Ballyneal in late 2006 after joining a golf trip in early July, 2006 that took me to Sutton Bay, Sand Hills, and Ballyneal. It was on this golf trip that I first met Ric Kayne, later to build Tara Iti, as well as having a long conversation with Ric and Dick Youngscap at Sand Hills. After playing them, I decided I wanted to join one of them.

I knew of Tom Doak before playing Ballyneal, having bought the first edition of his original “ The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses.” My first trip to Bandon Dunes was in August, 2004. After playing Ballyneal, meeting Rupert O’Neil, talking to the seven other playing partners who highly praised the golf course, and later talking to Jim O’Neil, I decided it was a club I wanted to join if they would have me.

The club was once owned by Rupert O’Neil, his brother Jim (the head professional at The Meadow Club in California), and a handful of founding investors. It is now owned by Rupert’s brother-in-law, John Curlander, who has since added the par 3 Mulligan course and additional lodging.

I will start this review with some random thoughts….

The main road through Holyoke, Colorado is named “Inter-Ocean Avenue.”

You arrive an at “oasis in the desert” once you make the final turn up the dirt road to the club.

It is complete joy, fun and exhilaration.

It is like playing golf on the moon.

It is a perfect routing for the terrain taking maximum advantage of the Chop Hills.

The greens are large and wonderfully contoured. Perhaps a couple greens are overly contoured such as six and twelve.

When my putter “disappears” on me for too many holes every now and then I use my driver to putt. It seems to reset my stance and focus. One time at Ballyneal, I resorted to using my driver to putt on #12 and #13. I decided for fun to use only my driver for every shot on the next hole to see if I could par it. I parred #14 (par 4), then I parred #15 (par 3) and then #16 (par 5) including using the driver for my third shot from the bunker fronting the green. I bogeyed #17 (par 4) but had fixed my swing for the afternoon round. That is the type of fun one can have at Ballyneal due to the width of the fairways and the green surrounds.

There are scattered “back tees” around the course that few know of.

There is an outstanding variety of holes from long par 4’s to short par 4’s, some for par 3’s. You have to find some of the hidden back tees to add variety to the length of the three par 5’s.

The wind changes everything turning easier holes into very challenging holes and changing harder holes into easier ones. However, given the width of the fairways, wind has less effect than it can have on other courses, particularly seaside courses.

Playing seventeen as a par 3 by using the back tee on eleven is a really cool downhill shot.

Playing sixteen as a semi-blind flick of a wedge from the seventeenth tee is also cool.

I used to think the third hole, a short par 3 was too easy until I double bogeyed it three rounds in a row.

Six is the hardest hole on the course for me. I had never parred it and took a long-hitting friend from Chicago GC who birdied it the first time he played it knocking his approach to 3 feet. Eventually I birdied it by making a 60 feet “snake” putt before I parred it the first time.

The next hardest holes for me are the second, followed by ten, then eighteen and seventeen.

Three and seven are the easiest holes, followed by four, eight and nine.

The front nine plays easier than the back nine as there is more variety in the terrain on the back nine creating different angles and some uneven stances.

The most beautiful spot on the golf course is also the most obvious. One walks up the third to get to the tee of the fourth and sees the 30+ mile view. It is a wonderful view of the hole below you with a view of a road in the distance with the occasional car or truck passing by. While the longer view is of scrubland and endless sky, it is still breathtaking.

Only the bravest climb to the sand hill to the right side of the sixth tee to put a tee down to play this long par 4. It is an amazing tee. My understanding is that Tom Doak wanted to put a tee up there but maintaining it would be a problem.

One time we had a heavy thunderstorm come through in the evening when all of us were staying in the farthest cottage next to the “driving range” a quarter of a mile away. We were stuck in the bar for eight hours with the rain never ceasing. Ultimately it rained something like 5 inches in those eight hours. Eventually we decided to run to the pro shop where there were two carts waiting for the eight of us. With two inside and two hanging off the back, we remembered to turn on the headlights and somehow weaved our way back to the cottage driving as fast as we could with no visibility. The next morning we discovered a quarter of the road had completely washed away leaving a 3 feet falloff to the exposed water pipes. We played a morning round and many bunkers were washed away. By the time of the afternoon round, two-thirds of the bunkers were restored.

Sitting outside of the Turtle Bar near the firepit and watching a lightening storm off in the distance is just beautiful.

The tremendously large and undulated putting green is a ton of fun and a good way to settle bets.

The greens have never been fast except for the steeper downhill parts of the greens. Early in the season and at the height of summer some areas will either not yet be recovered from the winter or burnt out by the heat. This is because if they have them firm and fast they would not be able to be putted in many spots.

The normal green speeds run at the speed of many links courses in the UK and Ireland.

Every trip I plan to Ballyneal I get excited and cannot wait to arrive.

Every time I leave Ballyneal I am happy and satisfied. It does not matter what my scores are.

The accommodations are great, the food is fabulous for all three meals, the caddies are a lot of fun, and the staff from reception to dining to the pro staff are welcoming and terrific.

Just when I think I have a hole finally figured out, I will double bogey it in one of the next three rounds.

It is a very walkable golf course. In the less busy times of the season, one can easily play three rounds in a day. My record is four and could have done more but I wanted to stop and talk with Rupert.

I like to run the golf course in the morning, waving hello to the maintenance teams, and then return, shower, have breakfast, play, have lunch, play a second round, and then take a drink out to play the Mulligan course. Then shower and off to dinner and drinks. As I get older, the run might likely now be 9 holes only.

The course is at roughly 3700 feet of elevation at its highest point so one gets about a 6% advantage on their shots.

I have been told the sand is 80 feet deep in areas.

I do not have a favorite hole. I like all of them for different reasons. The only hole I do not like as much as the others is the fourteenth, but only when I go into that deep bunker on the left or get too close to the lip of the centerline bunker. Is that Tom Doak’s fault I hit my ball there? Nope. Otherwise, I really like the fourteenth.

I prefer the tee off the first on the small raised “island’ just beyond the putting green for the tee shot, creating a sharp dogleg left as opposed to teeing it up in front of the Turtle Bar. But I am okay with playing the second round of the day from in front of the Turtle Bar.

A few notes regarding the holes:

#1 – 382/350 – one cannot go into the bunkers left of the large green sloped back to front and right to left with many depressions. Every other “miss” has the chance for recovery. When teeing off from the “island’ tee and making this a dogleg, a big hitter could have only a sand wedge to the green provided they carry the farthest point left of the left side bunkers.

#2 – 490/470 - one of the most difficult greens on the course particularly when the pin is anywhere on the right side. The big hitters can be left with a wedge as their ball goes down the slope while against the wind I have hit a three metal more than once. This hole can play longer than the 490. Favor the left center of the fairway as balls can run out downhill into the bunkers or rough on the right side of the fairway where you then are likely will have a blind shot. The bunkers on the right side of the fairway are some of the more difficult ones on the golf course.

#3 – 145/135 – always aim for the middle of the green. The wind will likely carry one’s ball to one side or the other and then the slope of the green often brings it back to the middle. Never make the mistake of being short of the green or hitting into the bunkers left of the green.

#4 – 573/562. No matter where you are in the fairway, favor the left side into the elevated green. Do not go over the green as it is a slippery putt or chip coming back due to the mounding on the back part of the green. This is probably the second easiest green on the golf course.

#5 – 165/160 – tee it up wherever you want to create the best angle for yourself. I often play it off the front side of the #4 green. The pot bunker in the front middle of the green is very problematic. A ball hit to the right side will almost always come onto the green provided it avoids the two bunkers. Never, ever hit into the bunkers to the left of the green. The tiers and spines in this green are very tricky.

#6 – 480/420 - take a five and be okay with it. The tee that creates the dogleg left although a semi-blind tee shot is much more exhilarating. From the left tee do not try to hug the left side as there are bunkers there and the fairway is farther right than it seems. The green is one of the most undulating on the course. Do not miss short down that valley to the right of the green because you will have a blind recovery shot.

#7 – 352/341 – the safe play is to the right of the large bunker which reminds me of the large bunkers at Royal St. George’s and St. Enodoc Church. If you land in this bunker, there is a high probability your ball will plug high up leaving no chance of recovery. If it does release, given the height of the bunker, you likely have no chance of recovery. Motto: make sure you can carry the bunker. This is perhaps the most fun green on the golf course, thin in the middle with the high to the left of the green to bring balls back onto the green. The view through the green to #4 fairway is really neat. The putt is equally difficult whether the pin is in the back or front of the narrow two-tiered hourglass green.

#8 – 515/470 – the most photographed hole on the course which gets prettier the closer you get to the narrow green angled left to right. Try to come into the green from the left or middle. Do not go long over the green into the back bunker. Do not go into the bunker on the left side of the fairway about 100 yards out from the green. Better, longer hitters can and do make it through the narrow opening between the rough on the left and the large bunker complex on the right. They often bogey the hole from there as they get too greedy given the narrowness of the green and the undulations in it. Only the front left and a small section back right of the green are smooth.

#9 - 362/351 – after hitting the tee shot, walking to one’s ball reminds me of the walk up #18 at Augusta National given the rise of the land. Of course, visually it could not be more different. Bigger hitters do thread the gap between the high hill on the left and the bunker complex on the right much as they do on #8. This is a large green with lots of undulations and three putts often occur from a putt of 25 feet. Pins can be put into very difficult positions on this hole.

#10 – 509/475/430 – pick the tee right for you for the downhill tee shot. A tee shot to the left will end up in a valley with an uphill blind approach shot to a relatively narrow opening to a very long green. A tee shot to the right tempts the rough area and large bunkers. The green has multiple ripples in it. A par here is a bonus.

#11 – 200/177/165 – pick the tee right for you or depending on how much of the hill one wants to climb to the tee. This is an uphill tee shot where the only acceptable miss is long and right of the green. Missing left of the green will likely result in a blind recovery shot given the steepness of the land. Every other round at least one player will be in the rough area of the hill short right of the green.

#12 – 375/335 – If you play too safe to the right you will go down into a valley with a blind approach shot that has to carry a very difficult bunker complex. Missing the fairway to the left likely means you are in one of the two difficult bunkers. The green is very undulated and despite the shortness of the hole, a par here is well earned. You must hit the green and hope for a “kind” pin position.

#13 – 510/396 – how many can find that back tee on the other side of the #12 green? This downhill tee shot has a centerline bunker to avoid on two shots depending on what happens on the tee shot. These bunkers are deep and remind me of the Devil’s asshole on #10 at Pine Valley. Going left one can find the speed slot but can also end up in another valley with a blind approach shot. Going to the right adds length to the hole. If the pin is on the right behind the smallish hill, one will have a blind shot to a green that is not very receptive to long shots. The large green is in sections of higher and lower levels and is very tricky.

#14 – 362/340. There are acres of fairway right of the bunker. This is a good line even if it adds one-two clubs to the approach shot to the elevated green with another large valley fronting the green. One must avoid the small centerline bunker although the real bunkers to avoid are the ones left of the fairway. I prefer to play the hole more of a dogleg left putting the tee down just off the $#13 green with the restroom to my left. This is perhaps the easiest green on the golf course.

#15 – 237/212. You play through the gap of a blind shot to the green. After the gap the land falls to the green. You can hit well right and a bit left of the green and the ball will come onto the large green. But you have to clear the hill. The large green has a lot of mounds and swales to it.

#16 – 546/494 – I have seen people tee off to the left of the #15 green which adds another 20 yards and creates a blind tee shot of this sharp dogleg left. Unless one hits a long tee shot down the center or right, the next shot is primarily blind and one’s approach line is determined by which fence post you want to aim for on the hill above the fairway to the right. Big hitters can reach this green in two. There is a large bunker fronting the green. Balls hit to the left or long have very little chance at recovery given the green is sloped fairly steeply back to front. The first time I played this hole I did not like it, the second time I loved it.

#17 – 481/464 – either tee, right or left is fine playing downhill to this sweeping dogleg right. The fairway falls off to the right. A ball hit down into the valley on the right will find the bunker and another blind shot. A ball hit down the left will stay on the hill providing a view of the green but it is a long shot and the bunkers on the right front of the green as well as the valley have to be avoided. Longer hitters play down the middle and let their ball release down the slope of the land. This is a very large green that has good undulations to it. It is a sneaky difficult hole.

#18 – 463/425 – there is another hidden back tee here on this dogleg left. Longer hitters will take on the bunkers on the left side of the fairway and can have as little as a wedge. Playing safely out to the right will result in a much longer shot in. The center bunkers fronting the green are very difficult. A safer play is to take an extra club and ensure you get on the green even if slightly long.

#19 - Walk the 150 yards to the pro shop, thank and pay the caddie, and decide the next wonderful thing to do.

Until Tara Iti came along, I thought Ballyneal to be Tom Doak’s best design. I am privileged to play here. After nearly every round I feel as though I have discovered something new and fun about the golf course. There is not much I can critique. Others complain about the green speeds and the bumpiness of the greens at selected times of the years. This is not Cherry Hills or Castle Pines, this is a course set in the Chop Hills and very much in concert with the naturalness of the land.

I wish I was there right now.

April 19, 2020
9 / 10
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April 20, 2020

What a nice review - a relative stream of consciousness of passion & insight that overshadows any member bias.

Although Ballyneal might have made the job easier, it’d be great to have more regular reviewers appraising the courses where they regularly tee it up.

Just like a top class short par 4, it can offer up different angles, both obvious & subtle.

Brad Olsen

I know I’m in the minority but this course is very, very good but I certainly I’d not find as intriguing as others top 100 courses I have played. I have played the course multiple times during different times of the year and just have never found the condition of the greens ever to be up to anything but average.

The course is extremely fun to play and I think some of the fun is the adventure to get there and the greatness of the accommodations on site. It is extremely playable and provides you a different look and feel based on where you are playing from ( in the fairway, rough, bunker, etc.), the wind conditions. However, because the difficulty of the course does not truly lie off the tee, but really the approach shot and in - the greens must be better in my opinion to receive a higher rating.

March 05, 2020
7 / 10
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David Davis

First off I have to say I love Ballyneal, the location, the set up, lodging etc. Everything has been done right. Too bad it’s so far away.

My first visit there was a about 6 years ago during my first visit to the Sand Hills of Nebraska and if I’m honest I had a blast but struggled to remember much about the routing and the course. This really inspired me to head back for a couple more games to try Ballyneal Golf Course - Photo by reviewer and understand what that was as usually I can remember almost everything if not everything from the great courses I play.

I think I figured it out, I think for starters the overall level of the course is fantastic, even world class but given it’s wonderful setting it may provide a sort of sensory overload. All the holes still blend in a bit for me even though it’s fair to say they are all unique. It’s tough for me to pick out favorite holes here for some reason and perhaps many of the holes would be standout holes at other courses but here they are all good and the net result is that the routing still doesn’t stick in my mind and as I sit to write this 6 months after my visit I struggle to find standout holes. If I was forced to pick a couple I would say the par 5 6th offers one of those big boy moments that drive you to want to swing like a long drive champ. From high up on a dune the valley ahead reveals itself and the you can follow the snaking of this long par 5. It’s a magnificent view. A good drive will push in the direct of 300 yds or more even for the not so long players. Maybe just maybe you are afforded with a chance to swing for this long par 5 in two Ballyneal Golf Course - Photo by reviewer but the last 50 yds are straight up hill so that shot plays much longer than you think.

The 7th is a short par 4 easily drivable but with huge risk. The drive is played semi blind to totally blind on the Tiger line and the long narrow hourglass green that sloped back to front is a huge challenge. Off the tee the player has to carefully judge the value of ending up in one of the green side bunkers a cactus or the rocks and how difficult the approach or recovery will be.

The back 9 picks up withere the front nine stops and continues the excellent run of golf.

The 19th hole affords a wonderful place to relax before heading back out for another round or if 36 have already been played on the day the new short course awaits and delivers in a big way providing crazy greens well into the setting sun.

Ballyneal – YES!

September 27, 2019
9 / 10
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Richard Walters

I was lucky enough to play 36 holes last summer, and Ballyneal is hands down the best experience I have had in golf. We drove in from Denver and pulled in around 2:30 pm. They were kind enough to send us out with the Caddy Master. It was a firm and fast paradise with plenty of width. Some people in my group found the buried elephants in the greens to be a bit excessive, but I thought they fit right in with the entire experience. This was my first Doak course and am dying to play more of them. To top it off, an orange cat named "Bunker" greeted us on the porch after finishing up both rounds (RIP, I saw on twitter he is now napping on that great big practice green in the sky). Play it if you can.

April 16, 2019
10 / 10
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M. James Ward

It's truly amazing when you drive through the town of Holyoke, which is simply ordinary and quite flat, you begin to wonder what the fuss is all about regarding Ballyneal. Then you head south for a few miles and you get an initial glimpse of "Chop Hills"-- a dunes scape land mass that is the home location for Ballyneal.

I have always believed no less than 60% of any course assessment rests with the land site which any course occupies. Ballyneal is truly blessed in this regard as the holes which architect Tom Doak and his talented team created fit within the natural folds and rolls of such land.

The second critical component for any overall course assessment is the critical partnership with the overall routing. Here the challenge is to weave a diverse nature of golf holes and, at the same time, hitting all corners of the property to integrate all the topographical features seamlessly. This avoids predictability and keeps players - especially low handicap types -- from simply relying upon one type of stock shot to bring success.

The final item I use when gauging a course is how creative are the overall shots one must need to play to be successful. That means the wherewithal to control one's ball for both trajectory and to work the ball in both directions. Here Ballyneal again showcases a tour de force result.

You get the feeling of how grand the course is with the starting hole. Playing 382 yards the hole commences from an island tee angled smartly to the far left. The player must decide how aggressive or cautious to play. The fairway rises slightly and as you get closer to the green the fairway tapers down considerably. Even with the prevailing wind helping you just have to think through what will work best for your level of game. Get too aggressive and pull your tee shot left and you will be likely re-teeing for your 3rd shot.

Doak has always been a major proponent of ground movement -- not just within the putting surfaces but throughout the fairways as well. Ballyneal excels in this phase -- there is always some sort of movement to nearly all the holes. Often times the premium angle into the green is not gained by being just in the center of the fairway but to one side or the other.

With no trees to intervene, Ballyneal is always subject to varying wind directions and velocities. The firm turf does permit a ground game option but here again you have to be in the right spot in the fairway to maximize your opportunities.

There are a number of excellent holes -- the short part-4 7th is simply grand stuff. Strong players can reach the green but it means nothing unless your ball stops in the right place. Power can certainly help but it is not the end all be all at Ballyneal.

The choke point down the fairway at the par-5 8th is especially well done to keep strong players on their toes or suffer the consequences.

On the inward half you have a fascinating array of different hole types. The par-4 10th is a muscle long par-4 of 510 yards usually playing into the prevailing southwest wind. If you think you have big time distance off the tee -- test yourself against the 10th when the wind is really singing.

Doak and his team brilliantly create change of pace situations. At the 12th you have mid-length par-4 that features a spine-like fairway -- staying left is the better play but the slightest error can have you find your ball down to the lower right side thereby having a more challenging approach.

The par-4 13th runs the other way and again is artfully and strategically defended with interior bunkers that must be dealt with smartly. The long par-14th forces players to stay down the right side so that you can more easily flight one's approach to the green.

The ending is done well with a fine long par-3 at the 16th and its bowl-like green followed by two very strong par-4's at the 17th and 18th respectively.

Ballyneal is a golf chess match. Every space you attempt to occupy has to be done with total thought and high-level execution. It's not just executing one move -- but how they all tie together. There will be various bounces of the ball -- some good and others not so kind. The greens are also the perfect compliment -- itemizing different shapes, sizes and more importantly, different angles. Be aware when you miss a green at Ballyneal the requisite demand to recover is placed quite high.

So how good is Ballyneal? In all the courses I have played -- in excess of 2,000 -- Ballyneal is easily among my 50 finest in the world and is just as easily among the top 25 I have played in America. Candidly, I also see Ballyneal as being certainly worthy to be in the discussion with the likes of Sand Hills which is nearby in Nebraska.

Ballyneal is that rare blend in which top tier players are sufficiently challenged while permitting higher handicaps a reasonable alternative course of action. Credit Doak for doing that and for not dumbing down the nature of the holes so that they would be beautiful looking but strategically deficient. To weave such magic takes a land site that truly inspires and Doak and his talented crew have seen fit to rise to the occasion. As a final note when I played the course the greens were running at a 9-10 speed and frankly if they were to be ramped up to 11-12 a number of potential pin locations would no longer be in play. The key is always to have the turf sufficiently prepared to bring to the forefront all the architectural flourishes.

There are very few inland based courses on the planet that truly convey the links like land which Ballyneal possesses. Sand Hills is clearly one of them. What's simply missing to convey that sort of total similarity would be a large body of water adjacent to the layout. Ironically, Ballyneal has no water whatsoever within its routing.

Golf design can only reach its highest pantheon when the air and ground games are adroitly weaved together. Ballyneal does that in a grand manner. This is that rare course if you were to receive the invite to play -- drop everything and go. It's that good -- and that special.

M. James Ward

November 30, 2018
10 / 10
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Manc Golf

Ballyneal is about as good as links golf gets. Ballyneal along with Tara Iti and Pacific Dunes is Tom Doak's best work. This is a course that is always fun to play and plays differently each play depending on the conditions and the pin placements.

February 04, 2018
10 / 10
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Ballyneal is a real thinking golfer's golf course. Unlike most courses, there are many ways to play each hole at Ballyneal and many ways to hit your approach shots due to all the various slopes and undulations in the greens. The course forces you to become creative which is one of the highest compliments you can give a course.

I played 36 holes and didn't play any hole the same either due to differing tee shot bounces, differing approaches to the greens, etc.

The reason it doesn't get the highest marks in my book is due to the conditioning of the course. The course was pretty baked out due to a 100 degree heat wave earlier in the season and the greens were punched. I can see how beautiful the course could be in say the Fall when the heat takes a back seat but honestly the conditioning marred my experience slightly.

Overall this is a great links course and in true Scottish tradition, has blind tee shots, blind second shots and challenging greens all of which makes for a great walk. Check it out if you can!

August 18, 2016
8 / 10
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Max Monroe
Haven't been to Bandon yet but this place is still amongst Top I have played. You just have to play it and learn the course to appreciate it even more.
October 27, 2011
10 / 10
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Mac Plumart
Very, very fun golf course. In all honesty, I don't think the smile left my face for the entire round...and that includes when I putted completely off the first green! The severe undulations took me just a few holes to get used to. And perhaps that is what people could knock the course on, the severity of the green undulations. But in my opinion that is what makes the course what it is. It is fun and open to drive the ball on and challenging like crazy on the greens. Fun times!!
August 19, 2010
10 / 10
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Jim Colton
Ballyneal is destined to be one of the top 20 golf courses in the world. There are simply no weak holes on this golf course. Tom Doak brought the ground game back to the States.
July 30, 2009
10 / 10
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