PGA players make their stop in November
By Rusty Hampton
There are some 18,000 golf courses in the United States but only about 40 of them will have the privilege this year of playing host to the world’s top golfers in a PGA Tour event.
And one is right here in Mississippi.
Annandale Golf Club in Madison is where the PGA Tour pros play.
From big names to rising stars, Annnandale has hosted Mississippi’s top professional sporting event annually since 1994. While the private course restricts play to members and their guests, golf fans can get an up-close look at the course — and some of golf’s top talent — during the $4 million Sanderson Farms Championship that is scheduled for Nov. 6-9.
Opened in 1981 and designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, Annandale is a relatively flat, finely manicured and challenging course. The fairways are fairly wide, but the Bermuda rough can be brutal if you don’t drive it straight. A switch from bent grass to Bermuda greens in 2006 allows the golf course staff to keep the greens in premier shape and at championship speed year-round.
Before the switch, the Tour pros would rave about Annandale’s lush Bermuda fairways but weren’t so happy with bent grass greens. Since the switch, the pros talk more about how good the greens are than they do about the fairways.
“There aren’t any weak holes on the golf course,” said Benji Nelson, an Annandale member who rates the 220-yard par-3 No. 2 hole as “one of the hardest par 3s in the state.”
Woody Austin won last year’s Sanderson Farms Championship, shooting 20-under par and then beating Daniel Summerhays and Cameron Beckman in a playoff, making birdie on the par-5 18th hole, a great finishing hole that has water in play off the tee and in front of the green.
Fans love to sit behind the 18th green during tournament week and watch the fireworks. Many of the pros can reach the green in two shots, setting up eagle putts. Those who aren’t in position off the tee to get home in two will lay up and then take aim at the pin with deadly wedge shots. Nothing gets the crowd fired up quite like a crisply struck 90-yard shot that lands 20 feet past the hole, hops forward and then zips backwards to nip at the cup. Occasionally, one finds the hole, bringing a roar from the crowd.
“The best players in the world are able to shoot 16-20 under par because the greens are perfect and the winner isn’t hitting it in the rough off the tee,” said Nelson.
For tickets, or sponsor information, for this year’s Sanderson Farms Classic, call 601-856-3882.
Annandale Golf Club
Year opened: 1981
Designer: Jack Nicklaus
Dues: Private club
Greens fees: Private club
Yardage: 7,177 yards