When Lester George first began to design a new golf course just outside Roanoke in 2005, he knew it would bring a new concept to the average country club.
Ballyhack golf club and retreat, opened for play June 26, offers something very few courses in American can match: a private golf club with no proximity requirements, as well as countless activities besides golf to make it a highly desirable getaway.
Not only is it unique for all it offers, but Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer is a partial owner.
Jonathan Ireland, the General Manager of Ballyhack, could see exactly why coach Beamer would want a part of this great investment.
“It is such a great place for people to travel to,” Ireland said. “The beautiful weather all four seasons, and our proximity to Blacksburg, he fell in love with it.”
Ballyhack is part of a growing nation wide concept called “Destination Golf.” It consists of a private course built in a remote location, with several other outdoor experiences on site for the whole family to enjoy. Unlike most regular country clubs, you do not have to live in any specific place to be a member; it is designed to be a vacation spot.
“We will ultimately have 300 members, and most of them will come from elsewhere,” said Mark Leslie, the media consultant for Ballyhack. “Guest cottages we have mean a great number of people can stay here, play, eat, enjoy their time, and go home happy.”
Why is it called Ballyhack?
“The property was named 100 years ago by the man who bought the property,” Leslie said. “It had nothing to do with golf, despite how much it sounds like an old Scottish course.”
The ownership is still working on establishing connections with many of the outdoor amenities in the area to create a great vacation experience.
“We are 25 minutes from Smith Mountain Lake, where we would like to tie in fishing there with us,” Ireland said. “There is a shooting club close by with trap shooting and skeet shooting. We also feel it is great to have the downtown Roanoke market close by, with the Art Museum and much more that makes our retreat such an attractive place to stay.”
The membership fees are hefty, as expected, but for what it offers, it makes for an amazing experience. Initiation fees are $15,000, with $2,500 dues each year. Included in those fees are lodging and five-star cooking.
George, the architect for Ballyhack course, is based out of Richmond and is very well known across the state and nation for his abilities. He designed Kinloch Golf Course in Richmond, now ranked as the ninth-best modern course in America.
The course itself is a links-style course different from others in this area.
“It plays differently than any other course around,” Ireland said.
The greens at Ballyhack feature a new type of grass, called Tyee grass, that many people familiar with it feel could change the way greens are designed in the future.
“It is brand new in the world of grass. It is difficult to keep in this part of the world, but it is much sturdier and more disease-resistant than other bent grasses,” Ireland said. “Many people have commented that the greens, for their age, are the best they’ve ever seen.”
The course pro is Aaron Dooley, son of legendary golf coach Joe Dooley of Nicholas County High School in Summersville, Md.
The Class-A pro Dooley is very highly regarded amongst his peers.
Even though it has only been around for one short month, the brass at Ballyhack has its eye on the future.
“We would absolutely love to host tournaments at some point. I want to be clear that we are not in the market for PGA events,” Ireland said.
They are looking at events like the Virginia State Amateur Open, and the Walker Cup.
“It wold be great to host those tournaments at some point,” Ireland said.