There’s a fun, private country club tucked away in Bellbrook, Ohio that golfers in the area should know about. The course is challenging, and the staff is kind, considerate, and willing to help at a moment’s notice. It’s a course I would consider joining if I lived in the area.
When it was founded in 1968, Sugar Valley Golf Club was a semi-private golf course. The Club was built by Carl M. Foreman and a group of investors. The group hired Geoffrey S. Cornish, a course architect who was better known for courses he had designed in the New England states as well as layouts he had remodeled throughout North America and Europe.
In the 1980s, the golf course underwent a major renovation at the hands of legendary Ohio golf course architect Jack Kidwell and his partner and protégé, Mike Hurdzan.
Although Mr. Foreman brought in various business partners during the first few years to help keep the club afloat, in 1977, he and Jim Keyes, the current owner, became business partners and buy out the original investors. Foreman and his family remained the primary owners until 2010. Later that year, the entire property was sold to Jim Keyes, James Powell, and Gary L. Wright who formed Sugar Valley Partners, LLC, and the name was changed to Sugar Valley Golf Club. The three new partners made significant investments in both the golf course and facility. In 2012, a set of senior tees were installed and they were well on their way to taking the club to the next level.
In July 2014, tragedy struck as fire destroyed the clubhouse. This followed an earlier fire in May that destroyed the cart barn and all its contents including members’ golf clubs and an entire fleet of golf carts. With two fires 9 weeks apart, no one could have faulted ownership if they wanted to get out of the business. After all, golf courses aren’t as profitable as they once were!
Jim Keyes didn’t wait until the embers stopped smoldering before announcing plans to rebuild. The next day he had 50 carts at the course and ready to go. In 2018, Sugar Valley Golf Club opened a brand new two-story, 17,000 square-foot Clubhouse that is home to the Pro Shop, two simulator bays, a fitness room, member dining room and bar, a huge banquet, and special events area that can serve 300+ people.
The simulators have proven to be a big hit, especially in the winter months. Members can buy monthly memberships or rent a bay by the hour and practice or play rounds of golf on some of the world’s most popular courses no matter what the weather is like outside.
Since the sale of the course in 2010, membership at Sugar Valley has grown significantly, yet they still hold to their original mission of being available one day a week for corporate and charitable golf outings. They are also one of the Dayton area’s premier event locations.
The club has hosted many fantastic events over the years including the American Junior Golf Association, the SOPGA Section Senior Championship, and the Miami Valley Golf Association MET, Senior Metropolitan & Mid-Amateur Championships. In keeping up with its mission statement they are also home to many charitable golf outings and events.
For many, the main attraction at Sugar Valley is the golf course. At 6,467 yards from the back (Black) tees and a course rating of 70.5 and a slope of 126, the length and difficulty at Sugar Valley are certainly not going to overwhelm many golfers. Players that are new to the sport will find the course manageable with wide open fairways and large, receptive greens. Well-establish players will find that hazards such as sand bunkers have been strategically placed and ready to snag errant shots. Four sets of tees provide suitable yardage for any level of golfer. Choose the tees that best suit your game and you’re sure to have an enjoyable round.
At Sugar Valley Golf Club it’s more a case of knowing where to hit the ball on any given shot to avoid trouble and leave yourself the best angle into the green. Brains over brawn. One of the biggest things Sugar Valley has going for it is the elevation changes you’ll encounter as you make your way around, starting on the first hole with an approach shot to the par-5 green that plays totally uphill. Your round ends with a tee shot from one of the highest points on the course down to a wide fairway. It’s definitely a Kodak moment! The first three holes (par 5, par 4, and par 3) give you a good sense of what you’re in for as far as elevation changes. Even with the variations in height, many players choose to walk the course.
Several of the five par 3 holes are long: three measure near or over 200 yards from the Black tees. All of the par 3 greens are fronted by at least one bunker and are best approached through the air. The 174-yard, 17th hole is the only hole where water comes into play, and it really shouldn’t because it’s hardly visible from the Gold Tees.
If I were naming holes, the par 5, 7th hole would be called “Choose Wisely.” From the Gold Tees, the hole is dead straight and plays 563 yards. There is a giant tree in the middle of the fairway off the tee, so you need to decide if you are going to play left or right of it. Trees line both sides of the fairway and it’s about 275 yards to the big tree. Once you maneuver your way past the tree it’s clear sailing with no hazards – other than trees on either side – between you and the green. Hit it straight, make a putt and you too can tame this monster hole!
Number 11 is one of the more interesting holes on the layout. It’s a 505-yard par 5, with a sharp dogleg left. Longball hitters will have a chance to cut the dogleg and possibly get on in two. The rest of us should plan on playing a layup shot right of the fairway bunker which will leave a short pitch shot into a green fronted by bunkers on either side.
For me, Number 18 is the signature hole on the golf course. It’s a par 4 that plays 433 yards from the Gold Tees (I’ve played shorter par 5s). You play your tee shot from a very elevated tee box, downhill with a fairway bunker on the right side. A good drive is still going to leave a long iron or hybrid into a large green with a bunker front right and trees on the left. Par is a great way to end your round.
Across the street from the clubhouse is a full-length driving range where you can warm up before your round or hit balls all day trying to get rid of some bad habits. If you’re having trouble fixing those bad habits on your own, PGA Head Golf Professional Doug Wade is an accomplished teacher of the game and has logged countless hours of teaching over his career. Whether you’re new to the game or are looking to take your play to a whole new level, Doug can help you maximize your potential. The Sugar Valley website has some of Doug’s video pointers under the Lessons Tab.
As mentioned in its Mission Statement, Sugar Valley is big on hosting events. Their friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you plan your next outing and will take care of everything, from helping you with the organization and planning to handing out trophies after the event. Their large patio makes for a great outdoor venue, and they can handle events with up to 300 people. The club also offers a full catering menu to meet all your dining needs.
The Club has several options for hosting events, whether it’s an intimate gathering in the Pavilion or large wedding reception in the new Banquet Room. Sugar Valley’s new clubhouse offers both indoor and outdoor settings and its culinary staff can customize just about any menu. Their thoughtful attention to detail will make for a memorable event.
If you’re new to the area or just love golf and are looking to get some good exercise and meet some new friends, be sure to check out Spring Valley Golf Club. For more information, visit their website at www.sugarvalleygc.com.