Ballyneal Golf Club is a Tom Doak design and was just named the Number One golf course in Colorado. With 163 golf courses in Colorado that is a pretty outstanding accomplishment. Although to put that into perspective, California has over 900 golf courses, but I think we can all agree on the extreme difference in size and topography.
Let's get back to Colorado and their choice of Ballyneal as their Best Golf Course. Having played Ballyneal a few times, I can easily answer my own question. YES, IT IS WORTH THE HYPE! To this day it is one of my favorite golfing experiences. The place is truly a destination, meaning it's quite remote being located almost 3 hours northeast of Denver. You drive up on gravel road, through the cornfield and arrive at a golfing oasis.
The golf conditions are spectacular; firm, fast and tight fairways and greens, just as you would expect of the best links courses.
Ballyneal is one of those courses that was discovered, not built.
Expect your ball to roll, a lot. The course adapts to the environmental conditions, not your ego, which is how golf was first created and played.
My favorite hole would have to be 7. It's a driveable par 4, but with an ominous fairway bunker protecting the green, which is as narrow as a railroad track that slopes extremely left to right. This place really allows one to use their imagination as you can really play a variety of shots and strategies to each hole. The 7th, especially, epitomized this.
Needless to say the course is very challenging, but it is very playable and extremely fun. The raw beauty of the landscape and the minimalism behind the course design will take your breath away. You will have plenty of time to experience every aspect of this golf course as it is WALKING ONLY, but caddies are provided! It will be one of the most inspired walks you ever have. But do not fret, cold beer is waiting for you at the restaurant bar (or in the caddies cooler)
Once you finish your round of golf you can enjoy a local beer on the outside patio or put it in a carry ground stick and enjoy it while you indulge in the most epic putting course of your life. This putting green is where the real matches begin with a seemingly unmakeable 30 foot, 40% grade downhill right to left slider.
Along with top notch golf, the facility provides beautiful cabins and a delicious restaurant with a wonderful variety of food and drinks.
In summary, Ballyneal is one of the most fun courses I have ever played.
My playing partner and I vocalized that quite often during our round.