Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (18th Hole)

3/28/2010 2 comments

18th Hole - Par 4, 463 Yards
After the roller coaster ride through the dunes on 15-17, Doak brings you back into the open for this majestic par 4 finisher. When it comes to finishing holes, you can't go wrong with a demanding long par 4 with a well-protected green. And that's exactly what you find here.

The preferred line off the tee is a drive down the left center of the fairway, either carrying or flirting with the large bunker complex at the corner of the dogleg. There is plenty of room to miss right, but anything leaking right of center will bounce further right and leave a longer approach into the green.

The key to the approach is obvious: avoid the two deep bunkers at the front of the green at all costs. To top it off, there's a large swale protecting the left half of the green, rejecting any weak shots but open enough to allow for a run-up shot. For the faint of heart, there is room to bail out short and right or long and left, but an up-and-down is no bargain on this green that is severely sloped from back-to-front.

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Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (17th Hole)

3/22/2010 1 comments

17th Hole - Par 4, 481 Yards
Next to the 6th hole, the 17th hole is probably the toughest hole on the course. Into the wind, it's an absolute beast. Similar to how the 7th and 8th holes run in opposite directions, you may be downwind on 16 and into the wind on 17, or vice versa. The line between par 4 and 5 can be blurred between these two holes.

Aside from being a difficult, long par 4, the 17th is a great golf hole with strong strategic merit. The fairway is one long roller-coaster ride to the green, dominated by a large ridge the bisects the fairway lengthwise in the landing zone. The perfect drive should straddle the ridge line and get a turbo boost around the corner of the dogleg. Anything short of that and you want to be down the left/upper side of the fairway, leaving a longer approach shot but a view of the green and a more level lie.

I always have great difficulty with this tee shot because I can picture the green in the corner of my eye and always question why I'm aiming away from the green on a 480-yard hole. The natural tendency is to take it down the right side and shorten the hole, but this leaves a blind shot at best, or a drive in the bunker or yucca at worst. On a course which has seen some of my worst golf shots, a disproportionate share have come on the 17th hole. Undoubtedly, it stems from the internal conflict manifested by Doak right from the tee box (and by the fact that I'm simply not that good).

The greensite for the 17th is one of the best on the course, and is a continuation of the broad rolling nature found on the fairway. There are a number of interesting hole locations, some of which have ridges that help you get the ball close to the hole. Of course, the ground game is an appropriately open option for a hole of this length. In general, the key is to run one up from the front left of the green.

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A Swing of Beauty is a Joy Forever (or so I hear)

3/18/2010 6 comments
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Things have gotten so low that today I decided to solicit swing advice from my best friend and nemesis Jefe. If you've seen Jefe's swing and/or know anything about our competitive relationship, you know this idea is doomed from the start.

But maybe there's hope. Check out the swing below and tell me what I should be doing. I'm willing to try just about anything. My plan is to spend a lot of time at the range this summer in order to build a fundamentally sound swing that works even if I only play sporadically. Please help. Otherwise I'll get stuck in a similar situation to the one I faced today: asking my so-called guru if my clubface was square at the top, getting a 'I couldn't tell', which is really just Jefe-speak for 'I was too busy looking at my Blackberry to notice.'


Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (16th Hole)

3/17/2010 1 comments

16th Hole - Par 5, 546 Yards
Standing on the 16th tee for the first time, you may not have any idea where the green is or what direction you should be headed. It's a unique par 5 that takes a sharp 90 degree turn at a very narrow spot between the dunes. The hole plays dramatically different depending on the tee you select and the direction of the wind. From the tips or into the wind, it's probably a three-shot hole. Downwind, or from one of the forward tees, it's go time with an aggressive drive down the left side of the fairway.

As mentioned, the neck is everything on this hole. Big drives may end up finding the 'bowl of achievement', with a bonus kick to less than 175 yards in and a clear view of the green through the neck. Poor drives may force the golfer to lay-up into the bowl because there is a bit of carry required to clear the neck on the other side. Most playing it as a three shot hole will hit to the right-center of the fairway past the neck, leaving no more than 100 yards to the green.

Strong drives down the left side but short of the bowl will leave about 200-210 yards to the pin in a green light situation. Going for it in two requires a confident stroke as it likely means a long carry over the large dune down the left side. Doak put quite a bit of room to miss long and left, but that will likely leave a dicey chip back to a green sloping away from you. Most second shots will funnel towards the deep front greenside bunker. The right greenside bunkers are not a bad place to be in two.

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Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (15th Hole)

3/15/2010 1 comments

15th Hole - Par 3, 237 Yards
The 15th is affectionately known as the "Dell Hole", even though it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the famous blind par 3 at Lahinch. My buddy Ben made the mistake of comparing the 15th to the Dell, and both he and the hole are stuck with the moniker for eternity.

The 15th is the longest par 3 on the course, but it doesn't play nearly as long as the scorecard suggests. I've seen 6- and 7-irons reach this green from the back tee box. The key is the ridge that masks the front third of this very large green. The ridge is closer than it appears, actually about 40 yards short of the green. Anything that lands on the other side of the ridge will collect towards the green, generally funneling towards the back-left of the green. You can miss left or right and likely still end up on the green.

The punchbowl green provides a cushion to the golfer by funneling wayward shots towards the green, but the downside is the green is one of the biggest and wildest on the course. Three-putts are a common occurrence on the 15th.

Ballyneal: A Golf Addict's Guide (14th Hole)

3/08/2010 0 comments

14th Hole - 362 Yards, Par 4
The 14th hole at Ballyneal is a shortish, dogleg par 4 to a bunkerless green. The hole is a relatively straightforward and easy par for those playing safe and conservative, but complex and risky for the aggressive player. It's also the site of the 'Chip-In Heard 'Round the World' -- Jefe's chip-in to swing the anchor match of the inaugural Ballynizzle Cup.

You'll notice in the picture below that the green is tucked between the dunes and behind the large bunker complex at the corner of the dogleg. The tee shot is dominated by that large waste area and the single centerline bunker that just happens to be right where you want your tee shot to be. That center bunker really gets in your head and forces a decision -- do you want to go left, right (lots more room than it looks), stay short or blast over it, or go right at it and hope you get lucky. Plus, the hole is just short enough that cutting the corner will even enter the equation, although the penalty for not making it is severe.

On your second shot (hopefully), you'll be faced with an approach to the smallest green on the course. The green sits on a plateau with a large run-off area if you miss right. The right, middle pin position is a sucker's pin. The back of the green provides a nice backstop (or sideboard if you're Jefe) to get it close. Find the surface and you're rewarded with one of the flattest surfaces on the course (although flat is a relative term).

I had to borrow the following picture from the Ballyneal website because it's just too good to pass up.

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