At Haggin Oaks in Sacramento, old is new again following rehab of the Alister Mackenzie golf course

By Jeffrey Weidel, Contributor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- There is a new golf course in Sacramento. At least technically there is one. Think you know the venerable layout at Haggin Oaks, the Alister Mackenzie Course? Think again.

Haggin Oaks Golf Complex - MacKenzie Course - 14th
Haggin Oaks is California's only public 18-hole Alister MacKenzie-designed golf course.
Haggin Oaks Golf Complex - MacKenzie Course - 14thHaggin Oaks Golf Complex - MacKenzie Course - 4th
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Alister MacKenzie Course at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex

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Haggin Oaks boasts two championship golf courses, the Alister MacKenzie Course and the Arcade Creek Course. Designed by the legendary architect known most famously for Augusta National, the Alister MacKenzie Course has a classic but formidable design.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7030 yards | Book online | ... details »

In a well publicized redesign by Capital City Golf, the Mackenzie Course at Haggin Oaks now has 10 new holes, five on each side. This was no cheap undertaking, costing Capital City $6.9 million. The reconstruction required 18 months, culminating in a grand opening in late August, 2001.

There is no course in the Sacramento region with more history than Haggin Oaks, a golf complex that has two nine-hole courses, a driving range, and a comprehensive store for any golfing shopaholic. Concerning the history, Ben Hogan earned his first pro paycheck following a tournament at this venerable course. Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and even Babe Ruth once walked the fairways.

Obviously, this is a golf course with an historical past, starting with Mackenzie, the famed British designer. And judging by the recent changes, the Alister Mackenzie Golf Course should enjoy a nice run in the future as well.

Among the other new features are rebuilt tee boxes on every hole; 13 rebuilt greens, many of them with new slopes; tee-to-green cart path; automatic sprinkler system; plus a 50 by 100-foot concrete pad which houses a new pavilion behind the 18th green.

Anyone who frequented the course off Interstate 80 and Fulton Avenue over the past two years understands the amount of work that was done. It was hardly the ideal setting for golfers or Haggin Oaks personnel.

It was a major headache for everyone. The 18-hole course never closed, continuing to serve a clientele that had dwindled in recent years with the onset of many new area courses.

"The renovation was a real strain to everyone, customers, staff, anyone associated with the course,' said Ann Weaver, Capital City Golf manager.

Walter Hix III of nearby Roseville frequently played Haggin Oaks in his youth as a talented junior. Golf remained a staple in Hix's life. He is now the head professional at Wildhawk Golf Club in Sacramento. Hix was one of the guests at the grand opening and has some high praise for the new design.

"The changes are wonderful, there are some absolutely beautiful holes," Hix said. "I think it is definitely a course you will want to come back and play."

The costly renovation became necessary. The competition had surpassed this once-jewel of the Sacramento region. Despite its green fees remaining low, playing Haggin Oaks was way down on the priority list for many golfers.

With little money spent on keeping the course current by modern standards, Haggin Oaks suffered. It didn't help that since its opening in 1932, there were nearly five million rounds played.

"The old course just finally wore out after 70 years," said Ken Morton Jr., the Director of Golf at the Haggin Oaks complex. "The new design has a touch of the old and new. It is now ready for a new generation of golfers."

That includes the big hitter, who will welcome the new, extended yardage. The back tees now stretch to 6,991 yards with a 125 slope. Other yardage is 6,542, 6,057 and 5,452 for the ladies.

Course Architect Michael Asmundson headed the redesign, utilizing more of Mackenzie's original layout and incorporating many of the existing oak trees, making for a more scenic setting. There were also an additional 550 new trees planted.

Sacramento has put a nice facelift on a course that had gone downhill over the years. Add one more good option, especially for the average golfer, who should not struggle or lose many balls at this friendly layout.

"What you see out here is what you get, there are no tricks," Hix said. "They left it so the average player can shoot a good score."

The new layout features a lake on the redesigned fourth hole, a par 5 that goes 545 yards from the back tees. The hole starts with a wide fairway. Decisions need to be made on the second and third shot. Some may want to carry the lake, but the more prudent decision is a layup, which requires splitting two fairway bunkers.

Another nice hole arrives at No. 8, a par 4 that ranges from 396 to 314 yards, The hole used to be a dogleg right. Now it goes left and two mature oak trees can complicate the journey. Two bunkers guarding the green also up the degree of difficulty.

Another favorite for some might be the par 3 at No. 12. A high fade is the best way to enter the green, which is 214 yards away from the back tees. Stay clear of the bunker to the right-hand side and this hole can be conquered.

Traditionalists will be pleased to see the backside still features three par 5s and three par 3s. The round concludes the same way as in the past, with a couple of parallel par 5s at No. 17 and 18. The 18th is a definite birdie opportunity, going 537 yards from the back tees.

"We think the new course is challenging, intriguing and fun," Weaver said.

Jeffrey WeidelJeffrey Weidel, Contributor

Jeffrey Weidel has been working in the Sacramento area as a sportswriter since 1981. An avid golfer with a 10.6 index, he is currently the Assistant Sports Editor of The Press-Tribune, a three-day a week paper in Roseville.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • course conditions

    ken rollston wrote on: Feb 1, 2005