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Sandy Ridge: More Than You Bargain For
By Mike Duff

Back in the early 1960s, when golf was a weekend sport, courses were nondescript and golfers were satisfied with banging away at whatever the terrain presented. Not so anymore. Golfers have become more sophisticated, critical and certainly more demanding of what they pay for. But the difference is: What do you want in a golf course? One that challenges your style of golf and is held in high esteem by thousands of golfers throughout the state and costs an arm and a leg to play? Or one that challenges your style of play, and is in a price range that suits your budget? Well, for most of us, our preferences fluctuate between the two. Very few of us, day in and day out, can afford to play the top courses around our state that demand the big dollars. So what is left?

Well, back in the early ’60s, Bruce Matthews put his design touch to a course that many of this magazine’s readers probably never heard of. It is called Sandy Ridge and it is located in Bay County, about five miles east of Midland and seven miles west of I-75. Its inaugural year was1964. Thirty years later, things began to change for Sandy Ridge. Ed Clark bought the property in 1994 and for the past six years has continued to upgrade and improve Sandy Ridge. But, what is Clark’s main focus? He says it is, “to provide the golfer with the best golf value in the Tri-cities.” Clark and his son Gregg, who is vice president of operations, would like to attract people who “enjoy golf, walk away saying they had a great time and can’t remember what they spent.”

Does it compare to Treetops, St. Ives or any of the other resort gems around the state? Of course not. But what it does do is give golfers the satisfaction of playing a course that offers a fair amount of selective shot making, excellent bent grass greens, and challenging par-5s, not to mention the unobtrusive yet always present water hazards. The course is relatively flat but don’t let that fool you. The Clarks have gone to great lengths to make sure the course plays to its 132-slope rating. Constant attention to the fairway cut and rough make this 6,400-yard course, from the tips, much more difficult than you would think.

Cut out of the farmlands of central Michigan, Sandy Ridge doesn’t fit the typical out and back, up and down track you commonly find with other courses of this nature. Instead, it makes you work for every shot yet it is forgiving in the sense that it offers generous bail-out areas in case you get wild. Two of the holes you should pay special attention to is their signature hole, No. 7, a 153-yard par-3. Hitting from an elevated tee over a large pond to a large green guarded by a bunker makes this one of the prettiest and most challenging holes on the course. The 18th, a 318-yard test, is a beautiful finishing hole and one that makes you stop and take note. The green is guarded on two sides by water. Your drive requires accuracy and distance. Like most holes on the course, your second shot becomes the most important shot you have to make. Being long off the tee isn’t always the answer. And, by the way, you won’t find better greens anywhere. They are true, fast and well maintained. Dwayne Zienert, the course superintendent, prides himself on keeping Sandy Ridge a course people will tell their friends about.

A driving range, bar and grill and one of the nicest outdoor patios, overlooking the seventh, ninth and 18th greens, are among some of quality features Sandy Ridge has to offer. You can reach Sandy Ridge by taking exit 168 off I-75. Go west seven miles to Flajole Rd. Turn left and follow it to the entrance of the course. Greens fees: Weekdays - $32 w/cart, weekend - $36 w/cart, seniors (60 +) - $22 and $27. Call (517) 631-6010 for tee times.

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