Brothers Jim & Rupert O'Neal purchased 700 acres in the sand hills near Holyoke in 2002 with a vision to build a links golf course.
The area was called 'the chop hills' and resembled the dunesland in the U.K.
They employed Tom Doak to design the course, which opened in 2006.
Doak was busy.
After the success of Pacific Dunes (2001), Doak unveiled Cape Kidnappers, Barnbougle Dunes, St Andrews Beach, Tumble Creek, Stone Eagle & Ballyneal in the period 2004-2006.
During this hectic period I was a shareholder and Chairman at Barnbougle Dunes, where I first befriended Mr Doak
In my golfing travels, I increasingly made a point of seeking out the Doak creations around the world
In 2008 we undertook an extensive tour of Canada and the USA , and toward the end of our trip played Tom Doak's Ballyneal .
Perhaps it was the fact that we were more than a little weary, but my initial impressions were that the course was not quite to the standard Doak had set with Pacific Dunes , Barnbougle, Cape Kidnappers et al...
I was to return a few years later to play in The Renaissance Cup in Denver with Michael Robin as my partner
On this trip Michael, who is a member at Ballyneal, invited me out to spend a couple of days at Ballyneal with him prior to the playing of the Renaissance Cup in Denver
We had beautiful weather and the course to ourselves.
We played matchplay each day- and because there are so many teeing grounds, the winner each hole chose where to tee up for the next hole..
Michael hits 20 metres longer than I do, so when he won a hole we went back. Needless to say when I won a hole we went forward..
It was great fun!
The pins change each day, having a big impact on how the holes played
The course was in wonderful condition, so we could have happily played there for weeks...
The accommodation, restaurant, and bar are all very cosy and welcoming, and with so few people about it was very relaxing.
The course was much better than I had remembered and is a real sister course to Barnbougle and Pacific Dunes in both style and quality.
The greens are very natural with significant movement- at times you will have to be quite creative with your short game
And there are some really brilliant holes, such as the short par 4 seventh with it's unique green..
The bunkering is superb and fits hand in glove with the rolling topography
If you are lucky enough to score an invite to play at Ballyneal make sure you stay a few days to fully get to know the course
One day is not enough.
Not surprisingly wind is a big factor at Ballyneal, changing the character and difficulty of each hole from day to day.
Multiple plays should be mandatory!
And with superb facilities, the addition of the new Mulligan short course, night putting and Bocce activities on The Common after the main event- you may not want to leave too quickly.
Mr Doak and his team regard Ballyneal as one of their best 10 completed courses.
Despite the stiff competition I'd say Ballyneal is close to the top 5 in an impressive portfolio
The Travelling Golfer can tailor a golf trip to the USA to suit your group.
For suggested itineraries see Golf Tours: USA