Project near Roanoke Features Extraordinary Site

By: Mark Leslie

The same team that created Kinloch Golf Club, which soared to ninth on the Best Modern Golf Course in America ratings after opening in 2001, is planning another high-end club. The team is preparing for a late-July groundbreaking on a golf facility in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside Roanoke, Va.

The Kinloch principals - golf course architect Lester George, sports agent and amateur great Vinny Giles of Richmond, and Landscapes Unlimited of Lincoln, Neb. - have added name power with the participation of Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer and financial backing and development expertise from Roanoke architectural and engineering firm Balzer & Associates.

Situated on 370 acres and boasting 50-mile views down the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ballyhack Golf Club will not be the typical private club, according to Landscapes Unlimited CEO Bill Kubly.

Kubly, a partner in Sand Hills Golf Club, the No. 1-ranked Modern Golf Course in America in remote Mullen, Neb., also built and developed 16th-ranked Sutton Bay Golf Club in Agar, S.D. He said Ballyhack will have the best of both worlds. "People are tired of having to buy a residential lot at a remote destination, with a real estate-driven golf course; but they do want to belong to a getaway club," Kubly said. "The Ballyhack model - a very low-key club - will have only 60 local and 200 national members."

The members, he said, "won't have the headaches of keeping a second home and all that entails, but will still be able to get away to a wonderful golf retreat. Housing on the property will include 10 four-bedroom, four-bath cottages, with living rooms, wet bars and outdoor patios. Why add the expenses, concerns and headaches involved in owning a second home when you can simply arrive through the gates of Ballyhack and leave all the meal-preparation, housekeeping, scheduling and other work to the expert staff of the club?"

Ballyhack Director of Golf Operations Jonathan Ireland notes that the property is only 4 miles from downtown Roanoke and a 15-minute drive to undeveloped farmland. The federal designation "view-preserved" - due to Blue Ridge Parkway's proximity - prevents abutting land from ever being developed.

Ireland, who worked at Kinloch under director of operations Phil Owenby, at McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., and Roanoke Country Club, added that a national membership should be easy to find since Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, Richmond, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore are all within a 250-mile radius of Ballyhack.

"The Sutton Bay-type concept was exactly what we were looking for," said George. "Once there, you never leave campus if you are there to golf, and yet you can hunt and fish nearby. When you get to Sutton Bay or Sand Hills you never leave the property. It's a one-of-a-kind golf experience because there is absolutely no disturbance, no reason to leave as everything is offered for members of this private retreat."

Ballyhack, Ireland said, "Will have ties to a local preserve for deer and turkey hunting. We will have our own fishing vessel and boat captain at Smith Mountain Lake, which has some of the best fresh-water striper fishing in the world. And 2,000 miles of trout streams are in the area."

The Golf Course

George said the golf course will be "magnificent." Laid over 190 acres, it will boast 50- to 70-foot elevation changes over a Scottish highland-type design, with many old-style, gouged-out, rough-edged bunkers, and fairways as wide as 150 yards.

Two holes will share a double-green and the greens will average 8,000 square feet, allowing golfers to play a variety of different approach shots. Five sets of tees will allow the course to play as long as 7,250 yards or as short as 4,900 yards.

"There are very few trees and we will move minimal dirt," George said. "The vistas are stunning, and the holes we have planned will enhance the property by fitting in naturally."

Construction of the clubhouse and cottages will take place next summer, and the club is expected to open in the fall of 2008 or spring of 2009. "Word is getting out and there is a buzz," Ireland said.

"Ballyhack is going to be a special, low-key place for members to take their family, friends and clients for a special golfing and sporting experience, where 50 players a day is a 'busy day,' " added Kubly. "A place without tee times, or corporate outings that crowd the golf course. Simply an experience like no other. We truly believe Ballyhack will be one of the most unique golf retreats in America."

For more information, call 540/525-2077.