Sage Valley: 3 key course questions facing the field
GRANITEVILLE, S.C. -- Our junior golf crew has made its way to the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley and spent time Tuesday night debating on how the course would play a factor in this week's tournament.
The field of 54 is in for a stiff test -- a test that includes a 235-yard par-3, a new green location on the 17th hole and greens that will challenge the best of putters.
Here are three key questions to consider before play begins on Friday just north of Augusta, Ga.:
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1. After studying Sage Valley's layout, which hole will be the toughest and why?
• Brentley Romine, Assistant editor: The 235-yard par-3 No. 7 hole is a monster. Sure, the green is a big one, but players must carry a valley in front of a raised green. For those coming in low, it will be tough to get out of this hole with par.
• Cassie Stein, Assistant editor: Coming down the stretch on Sunday afternoon, No. 17 could be a big factor, especially depending on where the hole location is. It’s the No. 1 handicap hole Sage Valley has to offer. They added length to 17 to incorporate the water on the right hand side of the green. If that hole location is over on the right hand side of the green, we could be in for some drama with so much on the line come Sunday.
• Julie Williams, Assistant editor: Now that water is so heavily in play near the green at No. 17, Sage Valley’s next-to-last hole has the potential to ruin some rounds. It would take some real nerve to play an aggressive approach at that lengthy par 4.
• Nick Masuda, Director, Golfweek.com: On Sunday, this could very well be the 18th hole if the pin is in the back left. But, the 17th hole will be the center of attention this week. The water right of the green will prove costly for many, especially if any wind kicks up at Sage Valley. There is no advantage for those that played in the tournament last year, as the water wasn't in play prior to the re-make of the hole. Much like a certain 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass that can ruin a round, expect some big numbers this week.
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2. What type of player will likely be more successful at Sage Valley: a masher, a short-iron stud or a brilliant putter?
• Brentley Romine, Assistant editor: I think that whoever can control their irons the best will have a good chance at winning. Sure having length off the tee will help, but on a course like this it is important to not only find the green, but find the right part of the green. If players miss greens here, they're going to need to have an incredible short game to have a lot of success.
• Cassie Stein, Assistant editor: A little bit of a masher and brilliant putter are needed to win the gold jacket. Long off the tee is going to be important, but the greens are going to pretty fast out there for Round 1 after they roll them. Putts are going to have to drop in order to win.
• Julie Williams, Assistant editor: I expect Sage Valley to test every aspect of a player’s game this week. In my experience covering junior golf, the best putter generally comes out on top.
• Nick Masuda, Director, Golfweek.com: After watching a handful of groups on Tuesday, these kids can already mash. And most can get by with their flatstick. I really believe those that can use their 8- and 9-irons and chip really well around the greens will win this tournament. Short-iron play is underrated at every level.
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3. After studying Sage, which hole must players take advantage of and why?
• Brentley Romine, Assistant editor: Par 5s are always holes that you want to take advantage of, so I'm going with the 525-yard No. 4 hole. As long as players can avoid fairway bunkers on both sides of the landing area, they will have a shot to reach the green in two.
• Cassie Stein, Assistant editor: The par 5s will be key in shooting a low number. All of them are over 500 yards. If players play them wisely, birdie will be a given every time. Taking par on the par 3s will also be crucial in winning the Junior Invitational.
• Julie Williams, Assistant editor: Just like at a Tour event, a player must score well on the par 5s to have any shot of winning. It will be the same story here at Sage Valley.
• Nick Masuda, Director, Golfweek.com: I believe the opening hole is crucial for each of the 54 players -- for confidence and the fact that it is fairly straightforward. The course gets tough immediately at No. 2 and doesn't really relent the rest of the way. A birdie at the opener will do wonders for ones confidence in taking on what will likely be the toughest test of the year for each of them.