SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- From Hagen to Hogan and MacKenzie to Snead, few California courses have a history as glorious as the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.
Haggin Oaks has expanded exponentially since its heydays in the 1930s, when Dr. Alister MacKenzie designed the original course that hosted the PGA Tour's Sacramento Open four times that decade. Ben Hogan won his first professional check -- $350.00 for third place -- in the 1938 Sacramento Open. Other legends have played this rare public MacKenzie course as well, names such as Byron Nelson, Ken Venturi, Jimmy Demaret and Tony Penna.
Over the years, Haggin Oaks morphed into a fairy tale land for golfers of all skill sets and ages. Morton Golf Management, founded by PGA of America Hall-of-Famer Ken Morton Sr., oversees the many dimensions of Haggin Oaks -- a lighted, automated driving range that stays open 24 hours in the summer, a nine-hole putt-putt course, an indoor/outdoor Player Performance Studio for club-fitting and lessons, a Super Store stocked with fashions and gear and 36 holes of municipal golf, including the Arcade Creek Nine, home to both regular rounds and footgolf. Even non-golfers regularly stop in for lunch at MacKenzie's Sports Bar & Grille, a local hangout decorated with golf memorabilia, photos, articles and flat screen TVs.
"People come and spend all day," Haggin Oaks Director of Golf Mike Woods said. "There's a lot to do."
Golf courses at Haggin Oaks
Unfortunately, the one thing missing at Haggin Oaks is MacKenzie's magical bunkering and cool greens. They were removed from the MacKenzie Course early on because they were too wild, according to Woods. The city of Sacramento -- which owns the courses -- did MacKenzie a solid by spending $6.5 million in 2001 to improve irrigation and rebuild 11 of the 18 greens to fit the original design. Three major highways surround the 7,030-yard routing, but the renovation helped preserve a quiet green space within the community.
The MacKenzie is easily walkable and forgiving. There's only one fairway bunker, so players can whale away on their driver all day. Golfers encounter a few nervous moments against hazards. A pond runs up the left side of the par-5 fourth hole. Arcade Creek flows in front of the fifth and 14th greens. The day ends on back-to-back par 5s.
The Arcade Creek Nines, geared more for beginners and speedy rounds, play pretty simple with the exception of the final three holes on the second nine. They're as strong as anything on the MacKenzie.
Woods calls Arcade Creek the "home of footgolf," the new game where players kick a soccer ball into a large hole cut on makeshift greens. He wrote a manual that courses around the country use to implement footgolf at their clubs. "We are into it big-time," Woods said, noting Arcade Creek did more than 9,000 footgolf rounds in 2014. "We even have a footgolf manager."
Haggin Oaks: Everything else
Just a short walk across the parking lot reveals the diversity of Haggin Oaks. The 15,000-square-foot Super Store, reopened in 2007, and lighted driving range work in tandem to sell golf equipment by the boatload.
Customers can test any new club free of charge on the range, which is equipped with Power Tee machines that tee the ball up automatically shot after shot. If golfers want to take their club-fitting experience a step further, they can have their club-head and ball speed, launch angle, carry distance and more analyzed on a Trackman at the Player Performance Studio. I used the Trackman to readjust my settings to a power draw on my new TaylorMade R15 driver.
The MacKenzie Putting Course, a cute nine-hole mini-golf course, was added last year. There's also three practice holes available for rent. The Haggin Oaks Golf Expo, "America's Largest Demo Days," will celebrate its 40th anniversary by attracting thousands of golfers at the end of April. Day after day, year after year, the golf party never seems to stop at Haggin Oaks.