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  • Matt Colville

Country Club of Jackson – Sanderson Farms Championship



Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Country Club of Jackson

345 St Andrews Dr

Jackson, MS 39211



Year Opened: 2013

 

The Magnolia State's only PGA Tour Stop

Every October the eyes of the PGA Tour have stopped in Central Mississippi for the annual Sanderson Farms Championship. As Mississippi's only PGA Tour stop, the tournament takes place about 10 miles northeast of the State Capitol, at the beautiful Country Club of Jackson.


The tournament has gone by many names, and played at many courses, since its first year in 1968, but since 2013 has been named after the Laurel, MS-based chicken plant Sanderson Farms, the third largest poultry producer in the United States. The tournament benefits many charities, including its primary beneficiary Children's Hospital of Mississippi, which is the state's only children's hospital, located in downtown Jackson.



From 1968 to 1993 the tournament was played at Hattiesburg Country Club; from 1994 to 2012 the tournament was played at Annandale Plantation in nearby Madison, MS, before moving to Country Club of Jackson. For years it was always seen as a secondary tournament, generally taking place the same weekend as another PGA Tour event, but since 2019 the Sanderson Farms Championship has been a standalone event, being the only PGA tournament taking place during that weekend. The 2023 event took place one weekend after the 44th Ryder Cup, and a few of the players made the trip over from Rome to play in this tournament.

 

Food & Beverage   3

There are plenty of concessions available throughout the grounds, to make sure you have plenty to eat and drink throughout the day. The main concessions area is located near the grandstands at the 18th green, with four other concession stands scattered throughout the course. One interesting thing I noticed was the concession stands benefitted Jackson State University's various athletics programs, with members of the school's different sports teams operating the stands. Nothing stood out on the menu, as you could find the usual fare of hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, and pulled pork sandwiches.


Like at The Masters, sandwiches are a staple here, as you can get various sandwiches (ham, turkey, club, egg, pimento, etc.), although not as cheaply as The Masters’ prices. Also, when the tournament sponsor is the country's third largest chicken and poultry processing plant expect plenty of chicken dishes available at the concession stands – Sanderson Farms has their stand available providing a variety of options including chicken salad, grilled and fried chicken sandwiches, BBQ chicken nachos, and wings.


Military and first responders and their families can enjoy the tournament for free at the Trustmark Bank "Outpost Club" located on the 10th green – the makeshift overlook also provides a free lunch every day to servicemen and women. The clubhouse is also open during the tournament for those who want fine dining while watching the tournament.


Coca-Cola is the official soft drink provider of the Sanderson Farms Championship. There is plenty of alcohol available as well; you can get a 16 oz. Michelob Ultra and Bud Light for $10, a 25 oz. cup for $14, or start your morning off right with a bloody Mary for $7.


Southern Beverage Company, based in Ridgeland, MS, is the main distributor for Michelob Ultra and the official alcohol sponsor for the tournament – on the 13th green, you can enjoy free access to the Michelob Ultra Club and get samples of different Southern Beverage Company beers. In addition, a popular promotion returning for 2023 is if any golfer hits their tee shot within 96 inches of the hole, fans can get $1 beer until that player finishes the hole (because Michelob Ultra is 96 calories).   

 

Atmosphere   4

The Dogwood Azalea course at Country Club of Jackson plays host to the Sanderson Farms Championship, with the other course being the Cypress Course. Both courses were re-designed in 2008 at Mississippi's second-oldest private country club, which opened in 1914. The entire neighborhood of rich flashy homes was built on the banks of the swamps of the Pearl River, with the golf course located on the lowest area of land, on the back side of the neighborhood closest to the swamps.


The scene here doesn't exactly invoke most people's thoughts of Jackson, Mississippi – as you are shuttled in on the buses down St. Andrews Drive, you drive through the elusive neighborhoods and past the million-dollar homes towards the back of the golf course. Once dropped off you walk down a pathway past the driving range to get to the main area in front of the clubhouse; the pathway is lined with well-manicured bushes and trees, with banners and photos of past champions.



The pathway takes you to the main gathering area around the clubhouse. At the main entrance you can find a pretty large merchandise building that they build just for tournament week – inside you can find plenty of Sanderson Farms Championship and PGA Tour gear available; you can even buy custom-fitted golf clubs as well. Also, on the grounds at the main entrance, you'll find a beautiful PGA Tour and Sanderson Farms sign that makes for a great photo op. The Sanderson Farms Championship trophy is a gold-plated rooster and is on display at the main entrance, as well as a local artist drawing a PGA Tour mural with chalk.


The Golf Course sits in the lowest-lying area in the neighborhood, located on a run-off from the Ross Barnett Reservoir. It is laid out differently than most courses with the holes crisscrossing side by side with each other, so the front 9 intermingles with the back 9. It is also a small and very open course, as you can see the whole course from the clubhouse at the main gathering area. Patrons can walk the cart paths, with the pathways and holes closer to the clubhouse tending to be a lot more open, while the cart paths towards the back (near holes 14, 15, and 16) take you through the Mississippi wetlands.


In between holes 15 and 16, you cross a wooden bridge through mangrove and cypress trees over the swamp – be on the lookout for wildlife as you cross over the bridge. I spotted about 5 alligators during my walk along the back three holes, with several in the water and a few sunning themselves on land. There are about 10-15 alligators who live in the various ponds on the golf course, including the resident 10-foot gator Fuzzy who lives in the pond at hole 6. Fuzzy is the oldest gator on the course and has made the course his home for the past 10 years.


There are many public and private grandstand seating areas scattered about the course; the 18th hole has a stadium-seating grandstand around the green which is open to the public. The grandstand can be accessed from the main gathering area near the clubhouse.


There are also the private 18th hole enclosed skyboxes overlooking the green with a full buffet and bar, and along the 18th fairway is an outdoor bar called the fan zone – this bar is especially popular during the Saturday and Sunday rounds, with many people set up at the picnic tables watching football games on the big screens, while the golfers hit their fairway shots in front of them.


There is another fan pavilion on the 12th green with a tiered viewing deck that overlooks the 13th hole, which is accessible to patrons with upgraded tickets; this deck offers premium concessions, a bar, and big-screen TVs. The 15th hole also has a small grandstand seating area around the green that is open to the public and has great views of the swamps that run through the back of the course.


 

Neighborhood   3

Country Club of Jackson is located about a 10 to 15-minute drive north of downtown Jackson. The neighborhood is on low-lying land right off Ross Barnett Reservoir, a man-made 33,000-acre lake in Central Mississippi. The course is still located within the Jackson city limits but is directly on the City of Ridgeland line.


Ridgeland is a large suburb of Jackson that is home to plenty of restaurants, hotels, shops, parks, and recreational opportunities – the population has soared in recent years to almost 30,000 people. The country club and surrounding neighborhood are located off County Line Road, one of the main roads through Ridgeland.


You will find plenty of chain stores, shopping centers, and restaurants on this road, and directly across the street from the country club, you will find Doe's Eat Place, a popular blues bar and restaurant that is based in the Delta, and considered the birthplace of blues music.


Another place worth checking out nearby is the Dogmund Tavern; the dimly lit tavern is famous for having over 250 board games to play while you have some of their local beers and world-famous pizza. Closer to the reservoir you will find several more restaurants overlooking the large lake – Cock of the Walk, Shucker's Oyster Bar, and Crab's Seafood Shack are some of my favorites. Shucker's even hosts the Sanderson Farms Championship afterparty every night. The 'Rez' also has plenty of recreational opportunities for fishing, boating, and swimming.


You can find plenty of shopping in Ridgeland; just down County Line Road is the enclosed Northpark Mall, and about another 10 miles north is the upscale Galleria Renaissance at Colony Park shopping center. You can find over 100 more stores and restaurants at this shopping center, while for those interested in the outdoors you can bike or drive the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway that runs right through Ridgeland. A popular stop to get onto the Trace would be at Old Trace Park, near the country club and overlooking the reservoir.

 

Fans   4

As Mississippi's only PGA Tour event, the Sanderson Farms Championship becomes a state-wide event attracting people from all over the Magnolia State. Golf crowds are a lot different than most sporting events – with no official team playing, many patrons don't have a favorite golfer per se, so most people are just here to watch and cheer on the good shots.


With this tournament, there are many public and private grandstands and skyboxes surrounding the course, but I noticed most patrons were just walking the course watching a few shots, and then moving on to the next hole. In contrast, the private skyboxes and grandstands were filled with sponsors of the tournament.



The 1st and 2nd rounds are quieter than the weekend rounds, so if you want to watch the action in a little more peaceful setting the Thursday and Friday morning rounds are for you. The fan zone along the 18th fairway is extremely popular during the weekend, with many people sitting at the picnic tables on the fairway, watching football on the big screen. By the final round on Sunday, you can barely walk through the main gathering area at the front entrance; the public grandstand on the 18th green is also packed out, and if you don’t get there early you won't get a good view of the green.

 

Access   4

Getting to Country Club of Jackson is fairly easy – as with most PGA Tour stops, because of limited parking on-site you have to park off-site and get shuttled in. That is the case here, as the official parking area is about 3 miles west on County Line Road at Northpark Mall. There is plenty of parking on the east side of the mall where the buses depart; the best way to get to Northpark is to take Exit 103 off Interstate 55, and the mall is 3 blocks east along County Line Road.


Once the buses drop you off at the entrance you still have to walk a good way past the driving range to reach the clubhouse and the first hole, but if you don't want to walk they have these electric jeeps that shuttle people from the main entrance to the clubhouse.


Once on the ground, everything is smooth, and you should have no problem walking from hole to hole. The golf course is not very big, so it is possible to do a full 18-hole walkthrough several times while here as well.

 

Return on Investment   3

Tickets are fairly cheap to attend the Sanderson Farms Championship; you can purchase day-specific tickets for $30, or you can purchase a weekly ticket for $80 that grants you a general admission ticket for all four rounds of the tournament. Kids 17 years and under get in free, and military personnel and first responders can bring up to three guests in for free. There is one private fan zone that requires an upgraded ticket for $50, as well as the skybox suites overlooking the 18th green (starting at $100).



Parking is free at Northpark Mall, and the mall has plenty of parking available. A lot of PGA Tour events are known for cheap concessions, but I didn’t think the concessions were all that cheap here. Nevertheless, I consider it a good return on investment – being able to see the top golfers in the world is a plus, but it's also a special event being the only PGA Tour stop in Mississippi.

 

Extras   5

Some of the past winners of the tournament include Craig Stadler, Payne Stewart, Fred Funk, Heath Slocum, Bill Haas, Cameron Champ, and Sergio Garcia. The 2023 tournament featured winners of 149 different PGA Tour events.


One extra for this being Mississippi's only PGA Tour stop as of the 2023 season. The Gulf Coast has hosted the Rapiscan Systems Classic, a PGA Champions Tour event every year since 2010, but that is the official Senior Tour of the PGA Tour. The Magnolia State also does have some history of hosting PGA Tour events, including the 1944 and 1945 Gulfport Open – Sam Snead beat Byron Nelson by one stroke in a sudden death playoff hole to win the 1944 Gulfport Open. The LPGA has also hosted several tournaments in Mississippi, most notably the 1999 Women's U.S. Open in West Point.


If you are interested in more of the history of golf in the Magnolia State, then I suggest making a 10-minute drive south of the country club to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. This large state-of-the-art museum has an entire exhibit dedicated to the history of the Sanderson Farms Championship, and some of the other golf tournaments that have taken place in the state. You will find old plaques, trophies, and other old gear on display from past tournaments; it is a neat museum that I recommend checking out if in town for tournament week.


Also, every December the Country Club of Jackson hosts the annual Conerly Trophy Ceremony – equivalent to Mississippi's Heisman Trophy, the award is given out to the best college football player in the state. One player from each of the ten Mississippi college football schools (FBS, FCS, D2, D3) is chosen to represent their university for their chance to become the best football player in the state. Since the first year of the award in 1996, past winners include Dak Prescott, A.J. Brown, Eli Manning, Patrick Willis, Evan Engram, and Deuce McAllister.

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