Jason Ballog – Director of Golf, Palmilla Golf Course
Jason Ballog is the Director of Golf for One&Only Pamilla’s golf course. Palmilla Golf Course is known as the Grand Dame of golf courses in Los Cabos, as it is the original Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course built in Latin America, now 26 years strong. It is a golf course that Jason Ballog knows intimately.
Ballog has made Mexico his home for quite a while. He is originally from Westerville, Ohio, which he says he still, “… loves to visit once and a while because he always knows he is coming home to Los Cabos.” He is a graduate of Ohio Dominican University with a degree in business administration. He is a PGA member who started off as an instructor, then in 2001 joined Troon Golf, in Colorado. Troon Golf is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona and manages golf properties around the world.
When Cabo Dream Homes asked who his favorite golf pros were, he was hard-pressed to choose. Here is what he shared:
“Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples and of course, Tiger Woods, who really revolutionized the game. Before Tiger came, the money and the status just weren’t there. The offers were not as big. Tiger is the one who brought a lot of sponsorships to the golf arena.”
Ballog’s favorite Latin America pros are both Mexican. The first is PGA Tour and Mexican World Cup player, Esteban Toledo, who is from Mexicali, and has homes in California and Los Cabos. His other favorite is Lorena Ochoa, from Guadalajara. He greatly admires Ochoa who played the LPGA tour between 2003 and 2010, proclaiming her one of Mexico’s treasures.
Cabo Dream Homes is also her fan, and co-hosted the Cabo Celebrity Invitational, a charitable three-day event, with Lorena Ochoa onsite, raising funds for the Lorena Ochoa Foundation and LIGA Mac, a local charitable organization.
Where does Jason Ballog, golf professional, like to golf?
Aside from Palmilla Golf Course, Ballog likes to golf in Ireland. He shared he has been to Scotland, the home of golf, but found Ireland to be,
“… something different. I mean the countryside, and the way the holes are placed into the countryside is amazing. The people are so hospitable and welcome everyone with open arms.”
His dream game?
Jason Ballog loves to play golf with his father, who inspired his love for golf. In fact, Jason had played baseball in his youth. It was his father Patrick Ballog, who gently pushed him into golf, and says Jason, contributed to who he is and what he does today. Ballog experienced his first taste of Los Cabos with Troon Golf when it was managing Cabo del Sol and brought him down for the winter. In fact, that is where he met Paul Geisler, founder of Cabo Dream Homes. Since then, shares Ballog,
“I haven’t left, except for a couple of years when the company sent me up to Texas to open up a facility for them, and then I came back.”
Ballog’s career has largely been at Palmilla Golf Course. He not only knows the facility inside and out, he has chosen to settle his family in Los Cabos. His wife Caroline Elizabeth, originally from Texas, teaches at a Los Cabos private school and their daughter is in kindergarten. Ballog says, living in Los Cabos is a great adventure. What he most likes aboutLos Cabos is foremost, the people and their culture.
The next,” he proclaims, “is obviously the climate and the weather, which drew me here. 360 days of sunshine. It’s always great. Literally, at Palmilla Golf Course, if you look outside there is desert and ocean. You look up, it’s Scottsdale Arizona almost, and you turn around and it’s the Sea of Cortez, Los Cabos.” As GolfDirector, every detail at the Palmilla Golf Course goes through him. He loves what he does. He explains it this way:
“I am membership director, a food and beverage director, a golf pro, a teacher, customer service representative, accountant, ops manager, you name it. A lot of people don’t realize what a golf pro does. We don’t just teach or play golf, we wear a lot of different hats and that’s what we love to do. We love to meet and greet the guests, and make sure their day goes well but we also do all the work behind the scenes. So I don’t get to golf too much, but it’s great. You get to meet a lot of people, many from the US and Canada but also from Australia as well as mainland Mexico.”
Cabo Dream Homes asked Ballog, what makes Palmilla unique?
Here is what he had to say.
“It’s Jack Nicklaus’ first Signature golf course in Latin America. We say we kicked off the golf boom in Los Cabos. We have 27 holes, and they each have a signature hole, so it’s not just one per course, it’s one per nine holes. We are truly a golf club. We have a small golf shop. We have yardage books still, though no GPS at the moment, it might be coming down the road, but strictly adhere to that golf club status. In addition, you get amazing ocean views from all 27 holes which are usually in impeccable tournament conditions throughout the year, with the majority of maintenance being done in August and September. However, even then, we simply close down one course of nine holes at a time and always offer 18 holes year round. We can’t complain too much there.” The Signature holes at Palmilla are Ocean Course, number 3, Arroyo Course, number 7 and Mountain Course number 5. Five Mountain is one of Ballog’s favorite holes.
He says it is very unique:
“It’s kind of like an island green, except where the hole would be placed between water, this is more like an island fairway, where it has two canyons on either side of it, so you have to place your tee shot on the fairway, then hit it back to another green which is tucked away on the hillside. It can make or break your game. If you par 4 on it, you feel on top of the world, but you can also easily get an 8 or 9. It all depends on the wind as well, that hole, but it’s a fun hole to play.”
“The course itself, offers a challenge to any level, in terms of expert to novice,” declares Ballog, “five sets of tees give that, but the trade winds can vary here and when they do, it can make a difficult golf course.”
“Women are especially well-treated at Palmilla Golf Course,” he shared, explaining it this way: “Nicklaus doesn’t have a lot of force-carries for women on the course. He put ladies’ tee boxes on certain areas so it’s very easy for ladies to play here and we do get a lot of ladies playing here, either with
their husbands or in groups. Typically in the golf industry we see a lot less ladies playing in certain areas, but here, with One&Only Palmilla being a couple’s resort, we do get a lot of women playing. It’s about 60/40 but Nicklaus understood that on the resort side, and with the terrain we have, he made sure they would have a great time, instead of beating them up out there, he incorporated the tee boxes to make sure the holes play easy for them in certain areas.”
Ballog and Jaron Higgens are the two full-time instructors at Palmilla Golf Course, where they utilize, one of the unique offerings of Troon Golf, which is the revolutionary Robo Golf Pro®, a teaching robot. It is a mechanical swing tool that helps golfers stay in position for their swing in order to optimize it. “One of the greatest distinctions at Palmilla Golf Course, is that all club members are treated equally,” states Ballog, “is whether you own real estate in Palmilla or not, you can still join the club as a nonresident member. Palmilla Golf Course’s core philosophy is, “We aim to make sure everyone has an enjoyable time. Palmilla was the first here and hopes to be the last. We continue to strive for being great and number one in the market, making sure our conditions are great, our customer service is great and that everyone feels at home.” Palmilla Golf Club has just begun a new five-year capital plan. Starting with a complete bunker renovation, they will be adding a comfort station and renovating their practice facility, as well as adding a Golf Academy. They will also be executing a full renovation of each of the holes, which includes greens, irrigation, re-grassing and revamping the whole property, including building a new clubhouse. “The plan is approved,” shared Ballog, then smiles and says, “The next few years will see a lot of great changes at Palmilla.”