Wildhawk Golf Club in Sacramento: Digging and shaping 18 holes of pleasure
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -– One thing to consider in playing golf courses is their state of becoming.
They are living, evolving entities. Early in a course's life, one may not find it appealing, but a visit a decade later, when the trees are larger and the greens mature, can bring quite a different reaction.
Wildhawk Golf Club in southeast Sacramento is a course you can see developing into a fair, fun public layout. Now 15 years old, course designer Michael Poellot took what was essentially a flat alfalfa field and turned it into 18 holes of pleasure.
Owned an operated by the Southgate Recreation & Park District, Wildhawk is a standout example of what cities and counties can do to create public recreation. But there were challenges to overcome.
As you drive to the course, the surrounding reveals the challenges, for this was flat and open land. It took a lot of work with a Caterpillar bulldozer and some imagination. Poellot dug here, raised mounds over there and created doglegs for a good variety of holes, which is what keeps up the interest and what creates the challenge.
To the district's credit, it planted hundreds of redwood and fir trees on top of the mounds that help define the borders of the holes. The trees aren't big enough to create a corridor effect, but they are getting there. At the same time, the proximity of holes means errant tee shots can carry past the mounds and land in adjoining fairways.
Wildhawk Golf Club: Full service
"It's a fun course to play in part because it is kind of wide open," said Rich Folse, of Citrus Heights. "You can hit it off line and still find it, even if it is on another hole. But the course isn't too tough, and it isn't as crowded as other courses in the area."
Stepping back, Wildhawk succeeds because of proportion. The clubhouse is sufficiently sized, and the golf shop is well stocked and roomy but hardly ostentatious.
The facility offers everything from a grill to a full practice range. It's a course that from the back tees is 6,718 yards but slope rated at 125 -- a testament to the fact there are very few crossing hazards for golfers to overcome.
That characteristic means it's a good course on which to bring juniors or those new to the game. It's also an easy walk. But this is also California's Central Valley where the summer heat can be oppressive.
"But that's good," said Folse, who plays Wildhawk regularly, "because no one comes out, and you can always get on."
Wildhawk Golf Club: The verdict
If it was possible to get an aerial view of the Wildhawk Golf Club property, you'd see that Poellot had to use just about every square yard. Four holes -- No. 10, No. 11, No. 13 and No. 14 -- run along the north and east borders of the property. When holes are laid out along the lines of a rectangle parcel, you can usually find them to be straight and sometimes uninteresting.
But Poellot's mounding and bunkering make those holes more than that. The par-5 14th is a good example. Bunkers on the left of the hole say stay away from the out-of-bounds stakes on the left. After a good tee shot, a strong fairway wood can carry to sloping fairway that propels the ball forward towards the green. Poellot is rewarding good play.
One thing that stood out is that Poellot dug down on some holes so that the fairways sloped, with bunkers designating desired landing areas. The par-5 third, for example, is a double-right dogleg, and from the tee, the fairway bunkers indicate a desired line of flight is to their left.
Long hitters can indeed carry the bunkers on the right, but that leaves the ball in hollowed-out ground. In this spot, the golfer has less yardage to the hole, but it is a much more difficult shot to reach the green in two, and it's even difficult to see the target line for a good layup.
The par-3 fourth is another example of what landscaping can do. This 150-yard par 3 is adorned by growing redwoods and a creek meanders on the left, creating a little danger. Right now, it may not look like much, but in 10 or 15 years, there's a good chance golfers will come to recognize its beauty, which will be said for the overall course as well.
Stay and play in Sacramento
Wildhawk is about 20 minutes south and east of central Sacramento, with Florin Road being a major artery to the course. For a good variety of restaurants and hotels, central Sac is the best place to start.
June 5, 2012