Named after Charlie Mulligan, the first caddie at Ballyneal Golf Club, the Mulligan course is a 12-hole par-three layout constructed in 2016 by Tom Doak and Renaissance Golf Design as an entertaining short game option for members.
Tom Doak awarded Mulligan a rating of seven out of ten and commented as follows in his Christmas 2017 Confidential Guide update:
“Our new, twelve-hole par-3 addition to Ballyneal plays to the club’s established fondness for wild undulations and natural golf. Many of these greens are close to what we found in the natural terrain, be it as gentle as the slight fallaway of the 3rd, or the heaving undulations of the 7th; but we felt free to take more chances in our design because it’s only a par-3 course, and no one would take it too seriously. All of which has reinforced my belief we should treat every project this way. It’s worth the drive from Denver, all on its own.”
When Ballyneal Golf Club opened, golfers weren’t slow to wonder how many more courses could be built in this region of Holyoke, CO. There is an abundance of sand dunes for as far as the eye can see. When Sand Hills broke the mold in 1994, we heard stories of the architects identifying at least 200 holes and had to choose the best 18. A similar situation probably faced Tom Doak when he showed up at Ballyneal. Of no surprise, he was onsite mid-June taking a look at other stretches of golfing terrain. My point is, that it was of no surprise that a par 3 course was added a few years ago by Doak’s team, named after one of the original caddies at the club – Charlie Mulligan.
The addition of a short course is in line with the global movement for bigger clubs to add a shorter option if they have appropriate land at their disposal. There have been a dozen examples over the past 5 years in America alone.
Doak built one of the most intriguing and enjoyable set of Par 3s I’ve ever played. To say this course is “cool” doesn’t do the layout justice. Fascinating punchbowls, wonderful contours and magnificent use of the dunes are here in spades. The downhill 5th hole has the most impressive green I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve been playing golf for 30 years, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine seeing a downhill hole to a green with a 10-foot tier in the middle of it. You have to see it to believe it. There are endless (literally countless) ways to putt your ball on this fascinating creation.
The Mulligan will quickly let you know how good (or bad) you are with a wedge in your hand. One thing is for sure though, you’ll fight for a second go at it. I absolutely loved the course and take my hat off, once again, to Mr. Doak.
The Ballyneal Mulligan course, designed by Tom Doak, is a wonderful addition to Ballyneal, where I have the most fun playing golf. There is no other par 3 course in the world like it. While it does not have the beauty or the challenge of Bandon Dunes Preserve, it is more both more natural and more fun (other than the finisher at Bandon Preserve where you take your putter out to have a go downhill at the green).
Let’s get the negative out of the way. The Mulligan course is twelve holes with the first hole beginning at the second tee, so one either has to walk down the first fairway or take a cart ride from the pro shop. The ninth hole finishes near the clubhouse with the tenth beginning off the patio section of the clubhouse. After playing the tenth, the eleventh and twelfth continue going away from the clubhouse leaving you in the middle of nowhere, somewhat close to the fifth green and sixth tee but down a hill and through tall grass to get there.
Therefore, most people tee off in front of the clubhouse on the tenth hole and do a routing of 10-12, then 5-9 for a total of eight holes, or they play 1-12, then 6-9 for a total of 16 holes.
Mr. Doak is famous for saying he builds golf holes according to what the land gives him and the Mulligan course is no exception.
Those are minor complaints. Very minor complaints because the Mulligan course is a blast. I generally play it after playing 36 or in between rounds. You can take 1-2 drinks with you (although tough to manage but should you care?), and there are cupholders at the tees.
The routing takes you up and down hills with the following yardages:
1 – 85-145
2 – 90-115
3 – 100-150
4 – 120-140
5 – 150-180
6 – 125-155
7 – 85-180
8 - 85-150
9 - 85-95
10 – 85-145
11 – 90-120
12 – 100-115
In general, you only need three clubs unless you want to play the upper, longer tee on the seventh.
The beauty of the course is that you can drop your ball anywhere and decide to play. There are alternate loops on the scorecard indicating different yardages for different rounds. The scorecard includes a column for “bets.” It also suggests a foursome have a match with “Self” and “partner” play against “opp” and “opp.” You can even tee off the backside of a few green surrounds to the next hole instead of going to the tee for the next hole. You can even make up a few holes of your own of shorter chips to a close green if no one else is on the course.
The greens are expertly placed into dunes, or alongside dunes, or downhill in the valleys. There is an amazing variety of par 3’s. The bunkering is excellent as are the contours of the greens. Most of the greens have a substantial tilt to them. The dune forms surrounding the holes are wonderful. You can quickly get yourself into trouble if you miss the green by too much to any side as you will be in taller grass, yucca plants, or uneven sand. There are uphill par 3’s, downhill par 3’s, level par 3’s over valleys. There are a couple of greens where the tilt is amazing, including a green that has a higher plateau of six-seven feet.
You do not have a care in the world when you play the Mulligan course. Quite frankly, anyone who takes it too seriously should probably not even be at Ballyneal. There really is no competition even if betting against opponents as fun and laughs will likely result in scrapping any match. You look at the somewhat small greens which make sense for the yardage and you both chuckle, marvel, and smile. Mainly, you play the Mulligan course to celebrate, acknowledge and be thankful for the game that we love.