Course Review: Bing Maloney Golf Course
SACRAMENTO, CA -- As an avid golfer, Harry O'Leary will play other courses in the Sacramento area, sampling their nuances and testing his skills. Yet this is also a man who remains loyal. And loyalty to O'Leary means regularly walking down the tree-lined fairways at Bing Maloney Golf Course.
Excuse O'Leary for the prejudice, but it is tough not feeling a certain bond with this aging course. Still a high school kid at the time, O'Leary was hired to work Bing Maloney when the course was unveiled in 1952. He made the move with Land Park Head Professional Bus Pendleton, who opened Bing Maloney.
"I cut my teeth on this course," O'Leary said.
Many people who grew up in Sacramento over the past five decades can utter the same line. When Bing Maloney entered the scene, the only regulation 18-hole public course in the area was Haggin Oaks. Other than the nine-hole facility at Land Park, there was nothing else for the weekend hacker.
Sacramento needed another golf course and the city decided to build one on the cow pasture, located near the tiny Sacramento Executive Airport. Although the course's Freeport Boulevard location and the surrounding area are now bursting at the seams, that was hardly the case 49 years ago.
"This was the edge of the earth back then, there was nothing between here and Galt," O'Leary said. "It was all grazing land back then."
Even when the course went in, trees were nonexistent, making for some unique golfing experiences. Long-time Haggin Oaks golf pro Ken Morton Sr. recalls aiming for the green off the first tee.
"There were no trees and the ground was really hard, you could drive it down to the first tee when the course was first built," Morton said.
Named after a Sacramento war hero by the same name, Bing Maloney hit some bad luck that first winter. "We had a big flood, one of those once-in-50-years kind, and the course flooded," Morton recalls. "They had to put pumps in. It's built on kind of a flood plain."
Nearly a half century later, Bing Maloney rarely has problems when it rains and the large number of oak trees have matured, making this a classic design. There is nothing fancy about this track or the facility. Stay out of the trees and it can be a pleasurable experience with a number of birdie putts.
This is not a golf course that should intimidate even the beginner. Yes, the trees can be bothersome. The key is hitting the ball straight on the mostly wide fairways. The distance goes 6,558 yards from the back tees and measures 5,889 yards from the only other set of tees.
"This is really a fun golf course," said Bing Maloney head pro Tom Morton, Ken's grandson. "It's an old course with a classic design. It has beautiful fairways and the greens roll pretty well. All levels of golfers can play here."
Bing Maloney expanded in the 1980s, adding a nine-hole executive course to the grounds. It has become quite the all-encompassing facility. Besides the two courses, there is a driving range, chipping green, sand bunker and putting area.
Although many golfers might consider the executive course a waste of time, they might want to reconsider. "It's a hidden secret in the area," Tom Morton said. "It's a fun, little course. The greens can be a real challenge."
So can the back nine of the 18-hole course. While the front side lacks some imagination, that certainly does not hold true over the final nine holes. There are some definite choices to be made and most of the holes have a unique quality.
The most talked-about hole arrives at the 12th. This once was a par-4 that looked straight at the hole. No longer. By moving the tee boxes to the left, an immense oak tree plays a major role in navigating this par-4 that rests a sizable 440 yards away.
For anyone interested in getting on in regulation, the tee shot must travel through a small gap between the oak and the fence, which borders the out-of-bounds area. Make the safe play right of the tree and the trip home from there can be around 250 yards.
Even a good drive can leave a golfer 200 yards out. That second shot better be accurate because two bunkers guard the green, which is long and a bit narrow. No guess work here. This is easily the toughest par on the course.
The intrigue on the backside starts at the 10th. This par-4 (386 yards) doglegs to the left. A driver can be too much for many golfers. A well-hit 3-wood can do the trick, aimed at the sand trap located straight down the middle. Go too far left and the trees make it impossible to get home in two. A well-placed shot off the tee leaves 150 yards.
Up next is the par-5 11th, which goes 515 yards. What makes this hole tougher than some is that the trees narrow the fairway considerably for the second shot. Accuracy becomes an issue. The hole is much more difficult with the pin in the back, allowing an oak tree near the green to gain more prominence.
Another entertaining hole is the 13th. Although this is a short par-3 (123 yards), it is also a fun one. Club selection is crucial, especially when the wind kicks up. There are trees in the back, plus an imposing bunker on the right.
There are other things to enjoy about Bing Maloney. One is the price. The cost is $20 to walk ($32 with cart) between Monday and Thursday. The price goes to $28 and $40 Friday through Sunday. A bargain can be had after the noon hour for $19.95, which includes cart.
Another pleasant fact about this course is the amount of rounds. They once ran over 100,000 and now go about 60,000 per year. Getting a tee time or a fast midweek round is a strong possibility.
January 1, 2003