Wildhawk Golf Club: A Touch of Scotland in Sacramento

By Jeffrey Weidel, Contributor

This has become an area where new homes seem to be outnumbering older, established ones. Once a city with a definite country feel, Sacramento is rapidly losing its open spaces as growth continues to escalate.

Despite the population expansion, there are still places with a quiet surrounding. One of those locations is the Wildhawk Golf Club, situated in a country setting that reminds some of a visit to a high desert course. The scenery is peaceful and friendly. So are the golf course and the people who run it.

Head professional Walter Hix III greets customers like they are old friends. They might be, considering Hix was raised in Sacramento and has worked at five other area courses. Customer service is not something discussed only in weekly staff meetings. In a golf market that has also seen tremendous growth the past five years, that extra effort can make the difference.

Although a public course located in south Sacramento, Wildhawk has some of the qualities traditionally found at country clubs. The greens are fairly quick and can frustrate even good putters. Most of the greens have at least slight undulations. So pay attention or the dreaded three-putt might be the result.

The fairways are cut nice and short, typically providing extra yardage on tee shots and irons heading into the green. There are three cuts to the fairway, one more than most public courses. The courtesy cut lies between the fairway and rough. There are also clumps of native grass on the course, providing an old-time links feel. "We have a little Scottish tinge, just like the old courses," Hix said. "You don't see that much these days. We think it gives the course real definition."

There's no sense of impending doom at Wildhawk. Put up a poor score and don't blame course architect J. Michael Poellot. The fairways are wide, the yardage isn't overwhelming, and the greens don't require extra study time to read. It's the type of course where the average golfer can experience a career-low round.

Of course, that same golfer can also struggle. There are several water holes and traps reside all over the course, which measures 6,695 yards from the tips, 6,260 yards(blues), 5,840 yards(whites), and measures 4,847 yards from the lady's tees.

"I like this course, it's a lot of fun," Bill Cummings of Sacramento said. "It's in good shape and I like how they cut the fairways. You get a good roll here and that sure helps."

Rosemary Simrak of Sacramento played the course for the first time in early September and plans on returning. A senior woman who has played golf for over 40 years, she believes other women should enjoy the layout. "It's a good course for the gals," Simrak said. "It's fairly easy and you don't get into too much trouble."

The cost is agreeable as well. Green fees go $30 walking Monday through Friday ($36 with cart). Weekends, which don't include Fridays in that category like many courses these days, hikes to $43 walking and $49 to ride. Parents will enjoy this unique feature of Wildhawk. Juniors play for free with a paying adult Sunday through Thursday after 12:30 p.m.

Wildhawk is also a suitable place to work on the game. There is a top-flight driving range, an area to work on the short game and bunker shots, plus a practice putting green.

Hoping to get golfers off to a nice start, a short, straightaway par-4 awaits on the first hole. It goes 320 yards (all quoted yardage is from the blue tees). A good drive leaves a wedge into a long green.

Avoid the three fairway traps on the right-hand side and the second hole (379 yards) can leave a birdie attempt as well. The dogleg right third hole (515 yards) also has its share of bunkers. Second-shot locations may tempt some golfers to head for the green. Consider the trouble. Getting there on the third shot is probably the wise choice.

The first par-3 arrives at No.4, a pretty 143-yard hole that can claim its share of errant shots. A creek guards the left side, but there is plenty of bailout area to the right. Club selection, especially on windy days, is crucial.

A decision awaits at No. 5, where fairway traps seem to be everywhere. A 3-wood or less is the way to go, unless of course you have a 300-yard drive in your repertoire. It's back to driver again at No. 6, which goes 377 yards. A good drive leaves a slightly downhill approach.

Up next are two of the course's toughest holes. The par-3 seventh runs 207 yards and is the No. 3 handicap hole. The tee shot runs uphill and is easy to misjudge. Go too far left or right and welcome to beachfront property.

A long par-4 comes next at No. 8 (391 yards), the course's most difficult hole. It's possible to cut the corner off the tee. The brave or misdirected may venture in that area. Best bet is playing it safe and hoping a sizable long iron will result in a birdie putt.

An agreeable par-5 closes out the front side. The hole goes 474 yards and will tempt the big hitters, who have visions of an eagle putt.

Much like the first hole, the 10th is a wide-open par-4 (341 yards) with birdie possibilities. Chose the right portion of the green or a three-putt could be the result. An uphill hole at No. 11 (349) also should leave a wedge into the green.

Although this par-3 is a bit long (181 yards), the 12th hole is rather harmless with only one bunker to the right. Club selection can be tricky and so can the pin placements. Take a moment to check out the distant mountain view.

Hopefully the previous three holes were kind because No. 13 is tough for most, a par-4 going 433 yards with a fairway that slopes right to left. The No. 2 handicap on the card means taking a bogey here is no shame. For folks who experienced trouble at the previous hole, forget about it quickly. Hook the ball on the par-5 14th and watch it roll down Maybell Lane, a quiet dirt road with homes along it.

A good tee shot should have many golfers heading for a par on this 501-yard hole. Don't relax at the 15th, a par-4 that can leave people muttering to themselves. There are no major problems, this is simply a long hole (410 yards). In a rarity for this course, the No. 15 has no traps.

The 16th is a nice hole because it requires some thought. Anywhere from a 3-wood to 5-iron might be the way to go. The par-4 hole goes 290 yards with water running along the right side. Shots that land short right will be wet. An agreeable par-3 (162 yards) rests at No. 17. There are traps on either side of the green, which slopes from back to front.

Don't ease up on the finishing hole. It's a good one, the sixth toughest on the course, a par-5 going 507 yards. The fairway is open, but the second shot has water along the right side and makes a decent landing area appear smaller. Assuming you stay dry, it's typically a nice way to finish.

"We think "The Hawk" is a course people are going to come back and play," Hix said. "Once they play it, we think they will want to return".

Wildhawk Golf Club
7713 Vineyard Road
Sacramento, CA. 95829
(916) 688-4653

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.

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