Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (1st Hole)


Treating Golf Addiction with an 18-Step Program...
What do golf addicts from Chicago do in the middle of winter? We think about golf, of course. Puxutawny Phil says there is still six weeks left of winter, so I need something to help pass the time. How about an 18-part series running every Monday-Wednesday-Friday for the next six weeks? Below is the first installment providing an inside look at Ballyneal Golf and Hunt Club, Tom Doak's masterpiece in Holyoke, CO. Essentially, it's just a way for me to get through the next couple of months (enablers!), but I hope you enjoy the pictures and commentary of each hole as well. I'll add some playing tips, but you probably want to take those with a grain of salt since I still haven't broken 80 out there (here's one tip...don't fucca with the yucca.) I'm hoping those familiar with the course will chime in and get a running commentary going in the comment section at the end of the post.

[Note: Special thanks to key enablers Tim Bert and Ed Oden for offering up many of the pictures in this series.]

Click on a hole:

1st Hole - 382 Yards, Par 4
The first hole is a shortish, uphill par 4 and a good introduction to what you'll see at Ballyneal.  The fairways are sufficiently wide at Ballyneal to accomodate the varied wind conditions.  And there's sufficient width to accomodate both the safe and risky play.

Here's the view from the back tee.  There's more room than it appears from the picture.  The fairway sits at an angle to the tee and dares the golfer to bite off as much room as possible.  The left bunker is a 210-220 yard carry from the tee.  There is a ton of room to miss right -- even a weak fade (for you righties) will likely still find fairway but will be left with a blind second shot.  The preferred line is probably just to the left of that far right bunker.  The aggressive line over the left bunker will shorten the hole, but we'll see in a second why it's not a great play.

[Insider tip: if you're running low on golf balls, just take the straight-line route to the fairway through the native vegetation.  Your ankles will probably get knicked up by the yucca plants, but the bevy of once-hit Pro V1's you'll find will be worth it.  On second thought...don't do this so there are some left for me next time I'm there.]

This is essentially the view from the middle and forward tees, which sit adjacent to the Turtle Bar so you might get heckled if you dribble one off the tee.  I like this picture as it really shows off the ripples in the fairway and the width that you don't see from the back tee.  Like I said, there's a lot of room right. It's a better hole with the forced carry from the back tee, but when you've just finished 36 holes and are about to head off for round three, the direct route to the up tees is awfully inviting.  Just don't dribble one off the tee.

Here's the view further up the fairway.  Find the middle of the fairway and you're probably staring at a good birdie opportunity with wedge in your hand (or punch 6-iron; the possibilities are only limited to your creativity out here).  It's just not that easy to find the right line to get that clear, green-light view.  As I mentioned, right leaves a blind shot.  Miss too far left and you're left with a blind shot as well.  See the slope on the left side of the picture below?  That feeds shots that are too far left down in to a bowl...

...basically giving you the following view of the first of the many beautiful but deadly bunkers.

The green is protected by a couple more gnarly bunkers, one short and left and one left of the green.  It's easy to bail out long and/or right of this green, especially if you had a blind approach.

A couple of views of the green, one from the second tee and another from behind the green.  You'll see that there is room to miss here.  The only issue is the green is tilted from back right to front left, so bailing out may leave one with a high-touch shot coming down the slope. You see a lot of three-putts here from golfers underestimating the run-out on the firm greens at the start of the round.  And yes, I've seen putts roll into the front left bunker.

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  1. Wego Family said...:

    A perfect hole to start your round. Intimidating carry off the tee, but finding the fairway is not overly difficult. The reward of hitting wedge vs 7i or 8i is not worth the risk of bringing the left bunker in to play for me. Lots of fairway to the right gave me the perfect target to start the round.

    Confirmed on lots of 3 putts...

  1. Jimbo said...:

    Ah, the 1st at Ballyneal. Seems like it should be an easy hole, but in the 12 or so rounds I've got on BN, I've only birdied the 1st one time. (perhaps it has something to do with my sub-average golf game) Unfortunately, I think I've made an 8 here and maybe even a nine. Even thought # 1 hates me, I still have love for it. GREAT opener; cool back box location, inviting fairway, sets up for a draw, cool elevated green.

  1. tetherball said...:

    Unless your name is Jon Spaulding, don't attempt to flirt with the left side unless the hole is playing downwind. Any front hole location means play for par. I would argue that the best angle of approach is actually from the right side of the fairway (which is blind). It all but takes long and right out of the equation, which is good unless you have an affinity for doubles.

  1. Matt said...:

    Why do I have the feeling I'm going to hit your website ten times a day looking for the next installment?

    I have the feeling that a PDF compilation of all 18 holes will make great reading material on my June flight to Denver ;)

  1. Fiveclubwind said...:

    Excellent opener to a world class golf course. I love the option to start with either the diagonal chew off as much as you can carry tee or to start with the aim it straight up the fairway tee.

    If only the club offered boxed sets of "The Wire" in the rooms, but I guess you can't have everything.

  1. Jefe said...:

    The opener at Ballyneal is a quality golf hole because while not overall long you can get out of position, especially if you hit it too far left and catch the slope down into the bowl left from where you're blind.

    However, I really like it because it's a good prelude for what's to come. It just seems like it's a good fit without being overly difficult and an appropriate introduction to the course. The course is about angles, position, creativity, and fun which are all on display at the first. Similarly the hole also shows the golfer what to expect in terms of the character of the bunkers and the greens as well.

  1. Anonymous said...:

    BN is an excellent opening hole. You can take it as easy or aggressive as you want. And Jefe is right on, if you over cook your drive to the left, you have a short blind shot.

    The green is also a great introduction. It sits high on the property and is very exposed to the wind. Any two putt on that green is a well-earned prize.

    It serves as a great introduction to the course and fits very well with the long 2nd hole.

    Cheers, Hickory Player

  1. Melissa M. said...:

    Those are gorgeous shots. Wish I was playing golf rather than at work. Maybe I need a 18 step program. LOL

    Golf Enthusiast
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