Sanford and I have been trying to get a game together at CCJ for over a month so when I told him I was coming to Jackson this past weekend he made it happen. The Country Club of Jackson has hosted the Sanderson Farms Championship for the last 4 years after it moved from Annandale Golf Club in Madison, MS in 2014. The club most recently underwent a 2008 renovation by John Fought Design when they renovated the Azalea and Dogwood nines. These two nines make up the composite Championship Course that the pro’s play. With the tournament being right at a month from now, the course is in phenomenal shape and recency bias aside, probably one of my favorite courses I’ve played in a long time. Some parts of the course feel like you are in the south,as part of the back nine is lined with a cypress swamp formed by the Pearl River, and then other parts that play back toward the clubhouse fell like California. Another thing I like is the tree lined fairways have been thinned enough that you have great site lines of the property. You can see 5 or more holes form most every green or tee. The greens are some of the best rolling Bermuda greens I have played on this year. They were fast and firm but would reward a good shot when it was played. The distinct first and primary cuts of rough posed tough lies in both, with the primary cut being penial in most cases. This helped protect the course better than hazards and sweeping doglegs. Overall my ranking of the course is a 8.9/10 but let’s get to the action.
We hit the range for a quick warm up when the third member of our group rolls up. Doc, who Sanford told me was a 21-year-old in a 50-year old’s body, comes up and introduces himself to me. He and Sanford immediately start cracking jokes so I knew it was going to be fun. Doc informed me before the round even started that I better write about how an old man beat the brains out of Becker. It starts to sprinkle a little bit but by the time we get to the 1st tee it has stopped. The last two members of the group, Becker and Bradley. Beck is the reigning Club Champ and Bradley to put it in Sanford’s word is a “stud” in his own right. Needless to say, it was going to be a competitive game of Flip Wolf. Most people are familiar with the popular betting game Wolf. This variation utilizes a coin flip by every player on each tee to determine the teams for that hole. If three players flip heads and two tails, the heads play with heads and tails play with tails. Teams can double and redouble the unit wagered. If everyone flips and one person has the only head or tail, they become the “Lone Wolf” and are forced to go up against a four-man team. Somehow if everyone flips the same thing, everyone reflips until someone holds a different side. Simple enough? There were also some side games between Brad and Sandman as well as Doc and Beck. Now for the good stuff.
We get our teams for the 1st hole and tee it up on the straight away, 411-yard Par 4. Doc and I both need 2 off the first tee to get one in play. The only real trouble on this hole is if you hit one hard and left, you can run into some tall fescue that guards a pond. Beck, Sanford and Bradley all hit good tee shots setting them up nicely. After a knucklely, low cut that found the rough, I still have 160 yards into the green. My 8 iron flies the green, I muff my chip and two-putt for my double. Great way to start off the day. Luckily my teammate, Brad, made a nice Par to make “no blood” on the hole. You would hear that phrase a lot throughout this round. Doc made a 5, while Beck and Sanford made pars as well. The 2nd moves left to right off the tee and then turns back to a lima-bean shaped green, that is guarded by a pond short left. I’m the only player to hit the fairway after Sanford missed the fairway left and Doc, Brad, and Beck missed right. I hit the green in regulation while my partner Beck has to punch out short of the green. Doc found a root under one of the many pine trees that line the right side of the fairway, and takes relief leading to a bogey on the hole for him. Sanford, after clipping the tree on his approach plays his third up short of the green, and has to settle for a double bogey 6. Brad finished the hole with a bogey, giving Beck and I the first win of day. We move to the 591-yard Par-5 3rd, which can play over 600 yards during the tournament with the new back tee.
The dog legged left features a pesky bunker right inside the curve on the left side of the fairway. A poor tee shot can put you in it easily. Doc does just that leaving him a very tough lie in the sand. Sanford, Beck, and myself all hit the fairway and “Pizza Pizza” is called, meaning the hole has been redoubled taking the unit bet from 2 to 4 to now 8. Brad pushes his drive a touch right and starts a trend of finding the thick stuff. After punching back out into the fairway, Doc stiffs one to about a foot with his third, putting the heat on us after the hole has been doubled and re-doubled. Beck and Bradley both leave their approaches short, leading to a bogey by my teammate Beck and a six by Brad. After flying the green with a 6 iron from 190, I hit a pitch that finishes inside the leather and my birdie is conceded. Sanford gets up and down from off the green left. Birdies covered up birdies meaning there was no blood again. Doc really wanted to be the lone wolf on the Par-5 fifth but it came one hole early on the Par 3, 4th where I would make the ugliest par in the history of golf. After drawing the lone wolf, the good Dr. hits the green about 30 feet away, putting a little pressure on the 3 of us. It passed quickly when my three teammates all hit the green, and Sanford stuck his approach to about 4 feet. Bringing up the rear, I skulled an 8-iron that never got more than 5 feet off the ground, hit the front of the green, killed every worm poking it’s head out of the ground, and settled down in the rough behind the green. After my woes on the first hole, I found some magic and pitched it to a foot and was given my par. Doc and Beck both made par, keeping their match even after 4. Bradley made a nice 15-footer for his birdie and Sanford followed suit by knocking his putt in as well. The 5th definitely is one of my favorite holes on the front 9. The 612-yard hole snakes its way back toward the club house. There is a bunker on the right side of the fairway that is your aimpoint and what you need to carry to be in good position for your second shot. Everyone hits good drives, either being in the fairway or barely in the rough. Everyone lays up except for Beck, who hits into the side of the hill between the lake and the green.
The rest of us lay up and have less than 125 yards into the green. Doc sticks his approach, Brad and myself find the green and Sanford misses. After a great chip by Becker and putt by Doc, they walk away with birdies on the third hardest hole on the course. Bradley and I settle for pars and Sandford drops another shot. *Side note, not having the Wolf score card in front of me is making this difficult, so bear with me if I do not get every hole correct.*
The 6th is the #1 handicap hole on the composite 18. Sanford, Becker and myself were up against Doc and Brad. The long par 4 moves right to left and requires a nice draw off the tee to put you in position to really go at the pin. There is a sprinkler controller thru the fairway that Bradley told me was the perfect place to aim. I took his advice.
Coming off birdies on the previous hole, Doc and Beck really started goading each other from here on out. They each missed the fairway with Beck going into the right trees and Doc finding the right rough. Bradley goes a little right as well but is able to find the green with his second shot, sticking the approach to about 25 feet. Becker hits a great punch shot that runs up to about 10 yards shy of the front hole location. Doc finds the front greenside bunker with his 2nd, putting bogey into play. Sanford and I both get ahold of our drives, shaping them right to left with the hole, leaving us about 140 yards into the green. Becker duffs his first chip, which Doc doesn’t let go without a few words, but nearly holes out his 2nd attempt, settling for his bogey. Karma came back to bite Doc as he misses his par attempt down the hill, causing another push in their “friendly” match. Bradley runs his birdie putt by, but makes par for he and Doc’s team. I saw the line very well, stepped up and sunk my birdie to secure the win for my team. Sanford two putted for his par, pushing the hole with Brad in their side action. The Par 3 7th provided little to no fire works with everyone making par except Bradley, who dropped a shot on the 214 yard hole. The 8th hole, which plays 409 yards, has a boggish pond that turns into a creek following the hole down the left side and cuts across the fairway about 265 yards from the tee. This forces you to take less than driver and think about bailing out to the right. Dock, Beck and Sanford all hit the fairway, while Bradley misses left and I miss right. Brad has a tough lie, with the ball buried in the rough and sitting above his feet. This forces him to hack out and advance it across the creek leaving him about 60 yards for his third shot, which he would hit to about 10 feet. My 4 iron settles amongst some short oak trees that were planted in the last few years. I have to hit a low, running, helicopter finished 7 iron and chase it up to the green. Surprisingly, I execute the shot and come up a few paces short of the green. Unfortunately, this would not be the last time I would have to use it. As we pull over to Sanford’s ball, he asks Brad something a little louder than Doc would have liked mid backswing. This causes him to hit his approach a little thin and just off the back of the green. Sanford and Becker both hit the green and have looks at birdie. Once again, I’m able to keep the putter in the bag, after my pitch over the corner of the green side bunker takes one hop and stops about a foot from the cup. Both Brad and Doc end up making bogey after a couple bad breaks. Becker is first to putt and just misses his Birdie putt from about 18 feet. It settles to about a foot and a half but there is no call from Doc whether it is good or not. Doc and Brad are immersed in a conversation about 10 paces off the green and are un aware of what’s going on. Beck helps Sanford read his birdie putt as they are teamed up on the hole, but they get the read wrong and Sanford catches the lip on the wrong side of the hole, forcing him to settle for par. Still waiting for Doc to give him a the “that’s good call”, Beck lines up his putt and knocks in the gimme putt. As he walks off the green he jaws with Doc a little for making him putt that, and rest assured Beck wasn’t going to let that go. Becker proclaimed “I haven’t missed one that short since I was 2” and that wasn’t the last time we’d hear that. The closing hole on the outward nine is a downhill, straight away, Par 4 that plays 421 yards. The green is protected by three thin bunkers that run away from the green and toward the fairway. You really get the first look of how massive the club house is perched atop the hill looking down on the golf course. I hit a poor drive out to the right and into the tall pine trees, luckily I had some practice with a low running hook and repeat my result from the 7th hole.
I’m able to get up and down again for my par and in the words of Sanford, “you are scrambling your ass off!”. I concur. Sanford and Beck make nice birdies while the Doc and Brad both finish up with Pars. As Sanford’s birdie drops he waves like he is playing in the Sanderson Farms but looks down the fairway instead of the grandstands being built behind the green. We all die laughing at his failed tour sauce attempt. There were 9 birdies carded on the front nine, with very little blood all things considered. The scores are as follows; Sanford 37, Becker 38, Bradley, 37, Doc 38, and myself 36. Becker and Doc’s match is even currently, Sanford and Brad tied the front but Sanford won the front press on 7, 8 and 9. Everyone has been playing well and it would only get better on the back nine.
We make the turn and grab a few more Miller Lites and a protein bar for Doc. The 10th is a 223 yard Par 3 that today, was playing more like 180 with the tee up. Sanford and I both missed the green short, leading to a nice up and down for “Sandman” and a bogey for me. I was due for a dropped shot after all the crazy up and downs on the front. Bradley made a nice par, while Beck and Doc also dropped a shot. We have all been following along with Tiger on our phones throughout the round and at this point, Tiger is making his way to the 18th tee with a 2-shot lead. Between shots we are getting back to the cart as quick as possible to catch as much of the coverage as we can. The reachable Par-5 11th is a nice hole, very straight forward, with the only trouble being a long lake that starts about 125 yards shy of the green and runs all the way up to the right side of the green.
I blocked my drive, richochet it off an oak tree and have over 250-yards left inito the green from the rough. This forces me to hit a mid-iron and lay back short of the water. Doc hits a great tee shot down the left side which puts him in position to go for it in two. Sanford hit his drive way right and has to punch out. Bradley, Becker and myself all hit the green in regulation and all make our two putt pars. I had my phone with me laying on the green so I could watch the madness ensue on 18 at East Lake. Sanford pitched up, but missed his par put giving him the lone bogey putt. Doc hit a nice lag putt for his eagle attempt, and had about 2 feet left for birdie, he looks at Becker for a “its good” call but never got it. You can see the smirk on his face as Doc pops in his Birdie to win the hole for our team and pick up a shot on Becker. From here on in, are the best holes on the entire course in my opinion. It starts with the 449 yard Par 4 12th. The hole moves slightly right to left until it gets to a small pond on the left and turns back hard to the left up to an elevated green. Over the green is dead and obviously short is in the hazard. Everyone is in good shape and hits the green in 2. A good tee shot will leave you nothing more than a short iron or wedge into the green. Doc sticks his approach which leads to the 2nd of his 4 birdies on the back nine. I hit a nice approach but can not convert my birdie putt and the same happens to Sanford and Beck. Brad has an unfortunate three putt after hammering his birdie attempt well past the hole.
The 13th is a pretty Par 3, with tough bunkers surround the green. It was playing about 152 yards with the front pin making it a green light for us all. Doc caught a bad break and was plugged in the grass lip making bogey almost inevitable. Sanford caught the fringe about 25 feet from the hole. Beck and I both found the surface about 20 feet from the hole but have tricky down hill putts. Brad hit the best shot out of the group, leaving himself a short putt for birdie from the front of the green. Sanford’s putt broke about 4 feet and down the hill to the right and somehow snuck in the side door. This putt the heat on Brad to make his putt for he and Beck to get away unscathed. He did so nicely, while Beck and myself clean up for Par. Once again Doc was giving Beck hell and made him putt out again for the par. The long Par 4 5th provided 3 birdies from the group with the most impressive coming from Doc, who blocked his tee shot, punched out sideways, hit a hybrid out of a terrible lie in the rough and sunk his birdie putt. Brad and myself also made our birdies after good tee shots and approach shots.
From 15-18 the back waters of the Pearl River line the left side of the holes. It makes for some beautiful views down the home stretch. Sanford lone wolfs it on the drivable Par 4, that is guarded by bunkers and has one of the toughest greens on the course.
This hole will play over par for the Pro’s in a couple of weeks and Doc made easy work of it, carding a birdie to everyone else’s par and my bogey. Sanford tells me that the 16th is the signature hole on the course and rightfully so. The hole works right to left with the cypress swamp on your left, that cuts across in front of the green which is perched 15 feet above the fairway. I’d love to play it again on a sunny afternoon to really get he full effect. Despite all of his Birdies, Doc is the “Biggest Loser” which means he tees off by himself and then picks one team mate to play the hole with.
I hit a great drive and get picked up by Doc. Sanford and Beck both go a little right but aren’t in any trouble. Brad tugs his a little and finds the hazard to the left. Doc, myself, Beck find the green while Sanford and Brad have a little work left to do just off the green. Doc and Beck both make good pars, to cover up mine and Sanford’s bogeys and Brad’s double. Nothing better than back to back bogeys to put me +2 on the round. Beck birdies the 17th to take more money out of mine and Doc’s pocket. The light is starting to fade quickly as the big band of storms moves in from the west. The 18th is a long 500 yard Par 4, with a big fairway bunker on the right and a tricky undulating green that falls off to the back right. We all hit good drives and our approaches all find the surface. It is getting so dark, we are getting some residual light from the club house above us. Sanford and I both finish with bogeys, while Beck, Brad and Doc wrap up with their Pars. We hustle into the 19th hole to settle the score before we get poured on.
The final damage is as follows; Sanford 76, Me 75, Becker 72, Bradley 73, and Doc 73. We all played well but still left some strokes out there. Sanford and I both bogeyed 3 of the last 4. In the Wolf game, Doc lost $30 bucks, myself and Sanford won $5 each, and Bradley and Becker won $10 each. With 17 birdies being made, the money was relatively mild. Usually you would see much more than $30 being lost. The most important thing to Doc was beating Becker, which he did by making 6 birdies on the day. He ended up in the black by taking $40 back of Beck. Like he asked me to say when we met on the range, Doc you beat the breaks off Becker (sorry Beck). As for Bradley and Sanford’s “5 Ways” game, the 3 straight bogeys to close the match out killed Sanford, giving a $10 win to Bradley. We enjoyed a nice cold Miller in the 19th hole and then headed on our way. Another great Sunday round, with some great new buddies. I hope the next time I’m down in Jackson we can get another game together. Once again I’m reminded how the game of golf draws people together, Sanford and I became buddies through mutual friends and then our passion for golf. So next time you are out on the course and someone wants to get a game with you, don’t hesitate to include them, because you never know who you are going to meet.