Ballyneal
CO, USA

Thirteenth hole, 420 yards; Ballyneal is an expansive course, effortlessly sprawling across 280 (!) acres of dunes land. Even though the golfer may have become accustomed to its scale, the 13th remains breathtaking, featuring both the widest fairway on the course at100yards and the largest green at 11,000 square feet. Withfour fairway bunkers (i.e. bunkers surrounded by fairway) randomly cut into the bold fairway contours, the golfer may come to think he has never seen a hole remotely like it anywhere in the world. Bruce Hepner, project manager for Renaissance at Ballyneal andfresh off great success at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, called the Ballyneal project the great ‘meltdown.’ By that, he meant the land was so rich with natural features but many were too abrupt for good golf.Renaissance had to ‘melt’ those features down through cut and fill all the while making it look like none of the landscape had been touched. As one can see in the photograph below, they succeeded brilliantly.

Even the elevated tee can't mask how undulating the wild 13th fairway is.

Fourteenth hole, 360 yards; A very interesting hole as it presents an endless riddle of how best to play it. The golfer can flirt with the dominant hillside bunker for the sake of gaining both the shortest approach shot as well as the most level stance. The rub is that the putting surface is blind from that angle. Conversely, the golfer can drive well right toward the outside of the dogleg, thus avoiding any of the bunkers as well as perhaps gaining a good look at the bunkerless green. The challenge though lies in the humps and bumps in the fairway where any stancemay result. Through trial and error, each member will determine which way yields the better results.

The sight of the flag lures the golfer left off the 14th tee but is that the best angle...

...to approach this bunkerless green? Maybe, maybe not.

Fifteenth hole, 235 yards; Thanks to the variety found within the four holes, the 15th completes the finest set of one shotters that Renaissance has designed in the United States. Similar with the bunker to the right of the 12th green, the bunkers cut from the dunes left and right of the 15th green are works of art as they evolve out of the dunes themselves – where nature ends and man’s hand begins is indiscernible, the very highest form of golf coursearchitecture. Nonetheless, this hole is really about the ground game with the opportunity to bounce tee balls in from the left or right into this green which sits in a hollow. As the green runs from front to back and as the slopes that feed onto the green are pronounced toward the front, front hole locations will take members quite a bit of time to figure out how best to get near. Indeed, somedays the golfer might be trying to figure out a club on the tee that will land the ball a good 50 (!) yards short of the middle of this gigantic green and let the land do the rest.

As seen at sunset, the long one shot 15th features a green in a natural bowl. The ridge in front of the green is actually 30 yards short of the front of the putting surface.

Sixteenth hole,540 yards; The golfer is now in the midstof the most dramatic dunes on the course and one consequence is that this hole has the ability to change the most in terms of difficulty of any on the course. On calm or days with a helping wind, the golfer has hopes of hitting to the crest of the far hill. From there, the golfer turns left and has a beautiful view of the fairway running through a ‘V’ between two large dunes to an elevated green some 240 yards away. Thoughts of birdie are entertained. However, with a less than helpful wind, the picture for one’s second shot changes drastically. One is now at the base of thefifty foot hill, facing a blind shot that might need to squeeze between the two aforementioned dunes. Rather than accept that challenge the golfer is free to lay up before the fairway narrows and is left with 140 yards to the uphill green.

The 16th fairway bends sharply toward the left around 400 yards from the tee and narrows as it squeezes between two dunes. If the golfer can get past this gap in two, a pleasant outcome may await.

Seventeenth hole, 460 yards; Not unlike the 9th, the 17th fairway required a good bit of work to make it play well for golf. In working withthe land, the design team at Renaissance came up with yet another varied fairway/ playing strategy. The golfer will ideally seek to stay on the upper level of the fairway, which happens to be on left side of the fairway on this hole which swings to the right. Should the tee ball catch the ridge in the fairway and be kicked right, the difficulty of the golfer’s task is compounded by the angle of the green and the front greenside bunker.

The relation of the caddies to one another speaks as to the severe left to right slope in the middle of the 17th fairway. Not only can the approach shot be blind from the lower right side because of the bunker in the photograph below...

...but the green also sets up best for approaches that come in from the left.

Eighteenth hole, 465/410 yards; The 17th and 18th holes head in the same general north/northwest direction and the golfer’s task is quite different based on the day’s wind direction. A very fine playing angle is created from the middle tee area. Downwind, the golfer glances well up the fairway, trying to figure just how much he can shorten the hole. As little as a wedge may see him home. Into the wind, this uphill hole becomes altogether sterner as the greenside bunkering is the deepest on the course, consistent with the steep bank leading up onto the green.

The line that one wishes to take from the middle tee varies wildly based on the wind. Though the two greenside bunkers are cavernous, there is plenty of room to come in from the right.

Looking back down the 18th from near where a porch will soon be, one is especially taken by the contours perserved within the fairway.

In a seven year period, Renaissance Design has worked onfive of the world’s most spectacular sites. First, there was Pacific Dunes, then came Barnbougle Dunes along the Tasmanian coastline andCape Kidnappers on the North Island of New Zealand, hereat Holyoke, and finally Sebonack in posh Southampton, Long Island. As to which is the better site, each has its own admirers but more than one person considers the site at Ballyneal to be the finest property with whichRenaissancehas ever worked. Of course, those who insist on water views will disagree but there is no arguing that 1) Jim O’Neal’s original vision was accurate that the sand hills in northeast Coloradolent themselves to exhilarating golf, 2) the O’Neal brothers hired the right design firm given the final product and especially since the dunes look completely undisturbed by the hand of man at the end of the project and, 3) Alister MacKenzie is the only other golf course architectto havebuilt five courses of such world class quality in such a short period of time.

As photographed from the 10th tee a little after 8:00pm one June evening, what golfer wouldn't grab his bag and head out for a few more holes after dinner?

The End