Sanford Golf Club – A Perfect Course for a Brick Capital Classic
By Jon Hockaday
Jon Hockaday is a staff reporter for WFJA Sports. He has played in, managed, or reported for 42 of the previous 44 Brick Capital Classic Golf Tournaments.
I should preface this article with a few facts. I grew up at Sanford Golf Club. I played my first round of golf there at age 9. It is where I broke 80 & 70 for the first time and had my 1st hole-in-one (#6). I received my first trophy (Sanford Jaycee 12-under Pee Wee Division with an 82) and had my first job there (picking up trash on the course for free ice cream). I started my 32 years as a PGA Club Professional as an Assistant at SGC. It has always been one of my favorite places to play – one where maybe I feel more at ease than many others.
Sanford Golf Club was first built in the depression era as a 9-hole course and later changed to 18 holes in the mid-60s. Sanford GC was somewhat landlocked when it went to 18 holes and the course would always be somewhat limited in course length (yardage). SGC played near 6,000 yards in the 70s and early 80s and had gradually increased over the years with a new tee here and there. A major renovation in 2002 changed the routing and increased the yardage to 6304 but maintained the look of the course and consistency in green sizes. Fairway irrigation was added during the renovation and greens re-done. The course has continually improved and conditions at SGC rival many private clubs in the area. Recent changes to the 18th hole will be noticed by those playing this weekend – especially if they have not played SGC in the last few months.
While the limited yardage may be viewed as a negative by some, I feel it makes Sanford Golf Club the perfect course for a tournament like the Brick Capital Classic. While there are holes/shots that challenge players to have some length, those that are most successful are the ones that know when to challenge a pin and when to play smart. There are 9 holes where length is a benefit – holes 2, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, & 18. The other 9 holes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14, & 15 are all holes of strategy with short irons to the greens.
Many of these shorter holes have their own idiosyncrasies – none more so than the short Par 4, 329-yard 8th – my favorite hole on the course. Championship players will go with anything from a 4-iron to a driver, with some even of thinking of the green if the wind is behind the players. The 2nd shot here is the key – to a raised green that is wider than deep and 20-25 feet in which to land the ball and keep it on the green. The green is guarded on the front left by a bunker and a steep slope on the front right – requiring that the ball carry on the green. Experience has told me over the years that I play the hole best when I leave a yardage to the flag where I have a full swing from between 85-120 yards. I have several wedge options in that range and know that from that yardage I can spin the ball and be more aggressive at the small target. I have also learned to check the pin placement at #8 when I get to the 4th tee. A left back pin placement will make me want to hug the right side off the tee – with a right pin requiring a longer tee shot for a better angle back to the pin. After watching drives for many years go around the corner on #8 only to have a downhill lie from 50 yards – and promptly watch the pitch roll over the green – I learned that I have more good looks for birdie from the fairway short of the road in MY YARDAGE than anywhere else. Every player has “that yardage” where they can control a short iron with spin – and that is the shot required into the green at #8. Competitors that have played here many times know this and you will see the smart ones play to a spot in the fairway on a hole like #8.
Hitting the golf ball a long way will always be a benefit. It will always be an advantage to hit less club into the small greens at SGC. Sanford Golf Club gives us plenty of holes with multiple strategy options. It gives us plenty of holes where thought must include where you want your approach from and which pins to avoid. Which is why shorter hitters have competed well in the Brick Capital Classic in previous years. When looking down the list of Brick Champions there are certainly some long hitters included – especially in recent years – but it is mostly full of experienced and talented players that have learned to navigate the nuances of the shorter par 4s. It is full of players that understand which of the small greens accept a shot better from 120 yards rather than from 50 yards and can play accordingly. The winner will make the fewest mistakes and use the space between the ears better than others over the weekend. It’s required at Sanford Golf Club…It’s required to win a Brick.