Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (12th Hole)

2/26/2010 0 comments

12th Hole - Par 4, 375 Yards
The 12th is one of Tom Doak's favorite holes on the course, and it's not hard to see why. Lots of risk/reward; a birdie opportunity if you can execute the shots, but still very easy to make a big number. What more do you want in a short par 4?

The aggressive player will flirt with the left hand bunkers in the picture below. There's fairway beyond that bunker and a flat lie, leaving less than 125 yards in to attack the pin. For mere mortals, the hole requires navigating the natural ridge that runs along the hole lengthwise. There's lot of room to bail out right, but that's going to lead to a blind approach shot.

The green is what makes all those alternatives off the tee so important. This is probably the wildest green on the course, a series of integrated bowls that I believe were just sitting there waiting for somebody ballsy enough to turn it into a greensite. Simply being on this green in regulation is not enough. You want to be in the right quadrant. To do so, you probably need to be in a good position to attack with a view of the green. The front bowl requires flirting with the very deep little bunker short of the green, but provides a backstop beyond the flag to keep the ball there. The back right ridge is the most demanding pin position and requires a well-struck shot from any part of the fairway.

As you can imagine, being in one of the bowls and putting to another may lead to a putt that you've never encountered before in your golfing life. This can lead to disastrous results, such as misjudging the break completely and leaving yourself with an even tougher putt than your first one. Or it may lead to an all-world two putt that you'll tell your buddies about for years to come.

Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (11th Hole)

2/24/2010 0 comments

11th Hole - Par 3, 200 Yards
The 11th is a solid par 3 to a green perched on a plateau. Many call this hill uphill because of the area leading up to the green, but the green actually sits at the same level as the back tee boxes. Doak & Co. provided a bunch of different starting points, so feel free to mix it up over the course of a weekend. The best tee box is probably the second from the back, which brings the two right bunkers more into play relative to the tips.

It's obvious that the two bunkers on the right need to be avoided. Of course, this is easier said than done and the slopes near the green make them effectively bigger than they actually are. What you don't see in the picture is that missing left is even more costly. Left is really, really bad on this hole. In the pictures, you can see a hint of three bunkers left of the green. No doubt, they are nasty, but they are a significantly better alternative than the 20-foot drop-off even further left.

I believe the safe play is to aim for the back right quadrant of the green. If you're a little long or a little right, it's not going to kill you. You still have a good chance of getting up and down from a relatively flat lie.

Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (10th Hole)

2/22/2010 1 comments

10th Hole - 509 Yards, Par 4
The 10th is quickly becoming one of my favorite holes on the back nine. I call this hole "the Holyoke Speedway" as the last 100 yards to the green is where this firm and fast layout is at its fastest.

The first thing you'll notice standing on the tee is the large, menacing bunker down the right side. You probably can't tell from the tee, but there's fairway on the other side of that bunker. It's a tough carry from any tee box, so make sure you have enough to clear it. Carry of not, you have to flirt with that bunker off the tee to have a view of the green on your second shot.

Most tee shots that drift left will find the bowl down the left side and will leave a blind or semi-blind second shot. There's nothing blocking a run-up shot, so just figure out the right line and stick to it. Like I said at the outset, the fairway and green is real fast going from front left to back right.

Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (9th Hole)

2/19/2010 2 comments

9th Hole - 362 Yards, Par 4
The all-world front nine at Ballyneal finishes with a short, uphill par 4. Downwind, it's possible to drive the green or close to it, although the prudent play it to take whatever club you need to get to the fat part of the fairway. The fairway is hourglass-shaped with a narrow neck about 270 yards from the tee.

The 9th is not a difficult par if you find the fairway, but it's easier said than done. It's easy to run one into the yucca, and any number is possible from there. My pet shot is the block 60 yards left up into no man's land. Take it from me, 60 yards left is not Position A.

If you find the left-center of the fairway near the neck, you'll get a nice view of the back-to-front tilted green. There's a ridge that bisects the fairway just in front of the green, making shots to a front pin position difficult. The back of the green provides some nice backstops, so plan accordingly.

The view looking back the 9th fairway from this angle is known as "The Ed Oden". The shadows really show the magnitude of the slopes in front of the green.

Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (8th Hole)

2/17/2010 1 comments

8th Hole - 515 Yards, Par 5
The 8th is a perfect follow-up to the roller coaster 7th hole. It runs the opposite direction as the 7th, so if that hole played into the wind, you're downhill here, or vice versa. These two holes can make your round if you manage to birdie both, but often you're left kicking yourself walking off the 8th green for failing to take advantage of either.

The fairway narrows to a neck about 300-310 yards off the tee. If it's downwind and you want to go for it in two, you need to be down the left side to have a view of the green. The right side of the fairway is guarded by a huge Sahara bunker. It's deep and it's on a huge upslope. It's definitely reachable of the tee and also plays into second shots from the right fairway if you get greedy and don't take enough loft on your second. Yes, I speak from personal experience.

If you're laying up, the key is to simply avoid the bunker left and about 70 yards short of the green. There's lot of room right. Of course, left is the place to be in order to get a view up the slope of the green that run sharply uphill from left to the right.

The 8th green is probably the most severely tilted green on the course as has a series of humps and hollows throughout. It's essential to be on the correct shelf, otherwise you're going to be faced with one heck of a putt. My favorite pin position is on the top right shelf, as it provides many different options to get the ball close to the hole.

One more out for hail!

Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (7th Hole)

2/15/2010 5 comments

7th Hole - 352 Yards, Par 4
How do I adequately describe the 7th hole at Ballyneal? How about this...I've played somewhere around 5,400 different holes in my life (some avid readers are probably shocked that I don't know the exact number), and this is my favorite. I even picked the 7th hole in a recent fantasy draft of golf holes on GolfClubAtlas (cut me some slack, it's been a long winter).

I hope you remembered to check out the hole location as you were coming down the 4th fairway, as it could play a role in your decision off the tee. You can see the top of the flag in between the large dunes in the distance. There are a number of different options off the tee: 1) let it rip and go right at the green, bringing all the vegetation left into play, 2) play away from the bunker down the right side but past it, using the slopes to feed back to a swale about 25 yards short of the green or 3) lay-up off the tee, usually short and/or right of the large bunker, leaving a longer but full swing into the green. Downwind, options 1 or 2 are probably your best bet. Into the wind, clearing the bunker (roughly a 240-yard carry from the back tee) is no bargain. Option 1 is likely out the window, so you have to decide between options 2 & 3.

Passing the bunker, you see the already famous 'E-shaped' bunker. Apparently, Doak stared at this area for over a year wonder what to do with this greensite before an 'A-ha' moment that led to building one of the great green complexes in the world. If Ballyneal is ever looking for an extra source of revenue, they could charge golfers $25/hour just to goof around on this green. I won't spoil it for you or offer any advice, other than to free your mind and be creative to the number of different options on your approach, recovery and lag putts.

The sign of a great short par 4 is one that brings a wide array of scores into play. The 7th is definitely a birdie hole, but big numbers lurk around every corner.

Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (6th Hole)

2/12/2010 4 comments

6th Hole - 480 Yards, Par 4
The key to scoring well on the 6th hole is to skip it altogether -- just write down a bogey 5 and move on to the 7th tee. But where's the fun in that? The sixth is the toughest hole at Ballyneal, a double-bogey waiting to happen.

The photo above shows the sixth from the dune adjacent to the back tee box. It's a lovely view, especially because you can see how the fairway ripples melt into surrounding landscape. Most architects would probably give you the elevated tee to see the fairway. But not Tommy Deez. He gives you a view of deathly bunkers and native vegetation with a hint of the fairway and the green in the distance. It adds some mental intimidation for us weak-minded fools. It does the trick as my tee-shot dispersion is even larger than normal on this hole.

[Insider tip: This is one hole where mixing up the tee boxes over the course of a weekend really makes a difference, not only in yardage but more importantly angles. Jefe and I discovered a 'tee box' about 20 yards in front of the 5th green, which makes the hole play as more of a dogleg. I like it from there for two reasons a) because I feel like Magellan for 'discovering' it and b) you get a slightly larger hint of the left bunker and the fairway. Check it out!]

The key, in theory, is to flirt with the two large bunkers down the left side of the hole, first off the tee then on the approach. Bailing out right on the tee will leave a very-long approach at best; yuccafication at worst. Bailing out right into the green brings a large collection area into play. In fact, anything leaking even a little bit right will probably end up there. Good luck getting up and down.

You'll see below that the green is small and severe, especially for a hole of this length. Your best bet if avoiding trouble and getting somewhere close to the green in two, then letting the short game take over. Jefe and I both parred this hole the first time we played it. Ignorance is bliss. It's been a steady stream of '6's,'7's and 'others' ever since.

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