Ballyhack makes top 15 of new courses

        Golfweek magazine has just published its list of the best new golf courses in America for 2009/10, and only four courses in the Southeast region made the top 25.  Ballyhack, the tough and visually arresting Lester

Golf may be in better shape than we are led to believe if Ballyhack is only the 15th best new course.

George layout just outside Roanoke, VA, landed the #15 spot.  Lodestone, a Hale Irwin design in McHenry, MD, was cited at #20 on the list, with Tim Cate’s Cape Fear National just outside Wilmington, NC, at #22 and the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club (Rees Jones) in Orlando at #23.  The West and Pacific Northwest areas far outstripped any other region in new course construction, but the Midwest contributed a half dozen of the top 25 courses.  As for the Northeast, just two courses made the top 40 and none in the top 25.  Tom Doak's Old Macdonald layout in Bandon, OR, blew away the competition for the number one overall spot.

        The work is being spread around the golf architecture industry, if the top 15 new courses are any indication.  Each was designed by a different architect or pair of architects, including Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Coore & Crenshaw, Faldo, Nicklaus, Rees Jones, Pete Dye, Arthur Hills and Greg Norman. 

        If there are 21 new courses better than Cape Fear National and 14 better than Ballyhack, the fortunes of designer

Would we guzzle 28-year old Scotch?  Then why force a round under four hours on a great golf course?

golf may not be as dire as reports indicate.  I played Cape Fear National (not to be confused with the nearby Cape Fear Country Club) this year and drove around every one of Ballyhack’s holes just before it opened last year, and both are impressive, although quite different.  The relatively flat Cape Fear is a Low Country golf course, featuring sandy soils, native grasses, sprawling bunkers and reedy pine trees that form the borders for many holes.  Ballyhack’s bunkers are gouged into the sides of hills, intimidating in their shapes and depths, and in play on virtually every shot of over 100 yards.  It is a tough and pleasantly exhausting challenge.  Neither of these courses panders to some imagined new crop of golfers whose lives are so complicated that they need to play a round in well under four hours, as some industry pundits would have us believe of most golfers.

        Who among us would guzzle a snifter of 28-year old Scotch?  Cape Fear, Ballyhack and all courses of such character are best appreciated, and best played, slowly and deliberately.

        Note:  Cape Fear National is open to the public.  Although Ballyhack is private, the club offers lodging, two days of unlimited golf (for up to 4 people in a group) and dinner for $399 per person.  It’s worth it.



Although vastly different high-quality golfing experiences, Ballyhack (top) and Cape Fear National both deservedly are among the best 25 new courses of the last two years, according to Golfweek.

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