Thursday, October 11, 2012

Round #48: Colorado - Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club

It has been a few weeks since we returned from our last road trip. Plan A for our next venture was to fly to a family wedding in Oregon the first week of September, followed by a return flight through Denver where we planned to jump off for a week of golf in Colorado and New Mexico. Plan B kicked in after Julie was diagnosed with a broken bone in her foot that required surgery. Although her cast was removed within  2-weeks of the surgery, she remained under doctor orders to remain non-weight bearing on the foot for an additional 4-weeks. Luckily, riding shot-gun in a car met the restriction. We returned to the road to pick up two more states - - - along with a little more gear in the car this time out!
 There was plenty of help decorating the cast from the grandkids and one of our nieces

Extra gear: scooter, shower chair, walking boot, crutches
The first destination was the Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club in Holyoke, Colorado. As it’s name implies this was a destination golf course similar to my experience at Sutton Bay in South Dakota. They both were located in remote regions of their states. The road to Holyoke (population: 2,290) took us south 30-miles on Highway 385 from I-76. The highway had snow gates used to close the road in severe weather with signs posted along the road warning travelers that snow plows did not operate at night. This location had all of the makings of a great place to be stranded during a winter storm!

This is what "desolate" looks like!
Our car’s GPS did not have the “One Ballyneal Lane” street address for the club. We traveled into Holyoke thinking that there might be a sign indicating the direction. With no such luck, I called for directions. I was provided with very basic nstructions: travel south to CR 10, turn left and drive to CR 43, turn right and drive to the entrance to Ballyneal. I was told to look for a sign on the right-hand side of the road marking the entrance to Ballyneal. Most engineers seek more specific instructions (drive south 4 miles to CR10, turn left and drive east 2 miles, etc.).  Such instructions were not forthcoming from the young female on the opposite end of the phone call. We unknowingly drove past the Ballyneal sign and stopped to call for more specific directions after we reached a T-intersection at the end of CR 43. On the second call we were told to look for for 5-large grain storage bins across the road from the Ballyneal entrance. It was much easier to find our destination given such an easy landmark to spot.
 Look closely or you will miss the sign for Ballyneal

Five large grain bins are a little easier to spot along the road!
Designed by Tom Doak, the Ballyneal golf course is the #3 ranked course in Colorado and is ranked at #95 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. The remote, walking-only course has encountered financial difficulties for it’s founder Rupert O’Neal since it opened in 2006. The private club sold only 100 memberships, fewer than half of its projected 250. The club went into foreclosure and was sold at auction in March for $2.5M to John Curlander, brother-in-law to Rupert O’Neal. In addition to the change in ownership, Ballyneal will no longer include a hunt club.

Round: #48
Location: Holyoke, CO
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #3
Date: 24 Sep, tee off at 8:15 AM
Conditions: overcast skies, 12 MPH wind, 54 degrees
Yardage: 5,210 - 7,147
Lost balls: 0
Score: 85 on a par 71 

This was the first course I have played that did not have designated tee boxes. The areas to tee off existed, but did not have any markers indicating the specified playing distance for various levels of play. I was playing by myself again but was accompanied by Jay, my caddy for the round. After informing Jay that I usually play 6,500 yards he estimated where I should tee off from on each hole. 

 The guest lodging at Ballyneal (golf pro shop on the right)

With roughs constructed of native grasses, keeping the ball in the fairway was quite important. 

 441-yard par 4 hole #2

 516-yard par 5 hole #4

 180-yard par 3 hole #11

433-yard par 4 hole #17

The waste bunkers were also to be avoided at all costs, as I can attest to after landing in one. A double bogey was a certainty after the ball landed in a place that was hard to swing at; it took 2-strokes to get the ball out onto the green. 

 Green side bunker on hole #2

 Fairway bunker on hole #4

 Fairway bunker on hole #6

 Fairway bunker on hole #7 (as viewed from the green looking back toward the tee box)

Fairway bunker on hole #8

Scoring well at Ballyneal did not get any easier after your ball landed on the green. Rolling terrain and a fast surface made putting very difficult. 

 Hole #6 green

 Hole #7 green

Hole #12 green

The cool, early morning provided a pleasant walk around the course. At the completion of the round, Jay was planning on playing 9-holes of golf at the public course in Holyoke before he picked up his two sons, aged 2-1/2 and 6-months, from the babysitter. Jay and his wife moved to Colorado from South Dakota after his wife accepted a position as a nurse practitioner in a Holyoke clinic.

Caddie Jay

Quilt shopping was the next item on the agenda after we departed from Ballyneal. We encountered a slight roadblock after arriving at the Little Wool Shoppe in Windsor, CO. A sign posted on the door informed potential customers that the business had closed on September 15, a short 9-days before we arrived. This was the 2nd time we have visited a quilt shop that closed it’s doors just a few days before our arrival.

The day ended with a visit with our niece, Emily Koeppel and her boy friend, Jeff Ulrich. They live in Fort Collins where Emily is pursuing a graduate degree at Colorado State University in family counseling. Jeff commutes to Greeley where he is pursuing a degree in nursing at the University of Northern Colorado. Emily & Jeff are both native Iowans who are quickly falling in love with Colorado. I have the feeling that my sister Barb and her husband Tom will become very familiar with the stretch on I-80 leading from Iowa to Colorado!

Jeff & Emily

Jeff & Emily's condo 

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