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.