Day 6 Haggin Oaks Mackenzie Course www.hagginoaks.com
As is often the case when you plan and go on a golf review junket Mother Nature says ” Hope you brought your rain gear” and as we didn’t and we wouldn’t Day 6 in San Diego was a wash out and we decided to start our 1600 mile journey homeward to Vancouver Island a day early.
Within the rash of Pacific storms that El Niño was bringing to the west coast a day of sunshine awaited us on the drive home. Enroute from Escondido we called Haggin Oaks in Sacramento to offer them the opportunity to have the course reviewed. The ensuing conversation with Mr.Ken Morton, Jr. VP Retail and Marketing of Morton Golf, the management group in charge of running the course and many other civic golfing properties in Sacramento couldn’t have been more buoyant and accommodating. He offered us a tee time with a power cart for the following day and we headed up the I -5 hoping the forecast held up its end of the bargain.
We stayed overnight in a hotel in Sacramento 5 minutes from the course and we were some of the first golfers to arrive, as we had an early 8:40 am tee off. From a quick bit of research on the Internet the night before we knew we were coming to play a popular 36 hole facility and the fact one of them was designed by arguably the greatest designer in history, Dr. Alister MacKenzie had me very excited. Take some time to look at the website posted above to read the amazing pedigree of golfers that graced this layout. Hogan, Snead, Sarazen to name a few have teed it up here as well as a list of celebrities almost as impressive.
Before we even hit one ball, I told Myra we were in for a very unique and special day. Located between the 2-18 hole courses at Haggin Oaks, The MacKenzie and The Arcade was a dedicated shoe store pro shop where you paid your fees and drooled over literally hundreds of pairs of shoes on offer. It also housed a very complete repair shop which I utilized to have a new over sized Dallas Cowboys grip installed on my Callaway putter. They never saved the old grip too for me. Well done work.
Off I went to say hello to Mr. Morton who was over in the golf super store and after picking my jaw up off the floor at the site of the mother of all retail golf stores. I rendezvoused with Myra over on the driving range which itself was as impressive. With our two buckets of balls at the ready Myra bent down to tee up a ball on the mat which by the look on her face had no tees. I introduced her to the Rolls Royce of driving range features, The Pop Up Tee. Eliminating the need to bend over by simply pushing one of 4 pre selected tee heights with the butt end of the grip of your club, the ball rises ready to be launched onward.
A 3 hole practice academy at the far end of the floodlit 24 hour practice range and a really cute looking fun mini golf course are also added features you just don’t come across usually anywhere in the golf world. Giddy with glee and warmed up we set off to the first tee. One of the many volunteers who help with on course roles like marshalling, picking the range and and in this case working as a starter was Bob, who gave us an interesting overview of the course as well as reminded us that “golf balls are not bought they are just rented”. It was a cool but bearable 10C when we teed off as we moved around this gem of a course with ease. By the time we finished within minutes of the ever sought after 4 hour round it was a sunny and warm 17C and the single ” rented” golf balls we had teed off with were the ones we putted out with on the 18th.
Although the time of the year limited the growth on the multitude of huge oaks trees that line the fairways it did not minimize the simple but breathtaking quality of this MacKenzie masterpiece. Golf courses are supposed to a combination of challenge and enjoyment. What other sport allows its playing fields to be modified in a way that makes its patrons express anything but joy. Soccer fields don’t have little moguls on them to set the ball off course when being kicked or passed, hockey rinks don’t have any inclines for the team to deal with when skating and tennis doesn’t place random obstacles on the court for the players to trip over in attempting a return. Modern designers need to check their egos and take a page from Alexander MacKenzies book and make golf playable and enjoyable just like he did at Haggin Oaks.
It was obvious why this facility is such an incredible mecca for the golfer on and off the course. The score card states ” Want to have MORE FUN, shoot BETTER SCORES and play in LESS TIME” It goes on to suggest your recommended tees based on your driver distance. Brilliant! As I was in the 240-279 yard range I played from the Four Oaks tees 6,561 total yards where as Myra a shorter driver played from the 159 or less 1 Oak tees , 4552 total yards. The 1 Oak tees were not a couple of tee blocks just tossed out way up the fairway either, they were positioned on properly defined and manicured tee boxes complete with distance markers. We had our fastest and most enjoyable of all the rounds on our trip and Myra shot a respectable 118, which included a 34 foot bomb for bogey on the simple but sensational Par 5 fifth hole. She topped it off on the back nine with a sand save for a 6 with another long distance keeper, a 40 foot downhill beauty. Haggin Oaks with its Par 5 , Par 5 “Wentworth East’ finish is undoubtably one of the worlds best public courses and the main reason we are heading back to Sacramento in mid March for 6 more days of golfing. “Old school” golf is what I call it, level fairways, beautiful greens, shallow bunkers and no tricks or gimmicks. It would be an easy choice if I was a local and Superintendent Stacy Baker and his crew can be very proud of the work they do there.
With a short one hour drive northward ahead to Redding before we rested up for the night we were in no rush to get away and as I owed Myra a reward for her 40 foot sand save it was firstly off to do some shoe shopping and then over to the Super Pro Shop to add to our shopping cart. Once again we were greeted by Tom in the shoe store as we had been when checking in for our tee time earlier and this time we were attended to by Michael, a fellow in our age bracket who had career outside of the golf business for many years and who was now one of the many very capable and very friendly staff we encountered on this great day in Sacramento. Possessing more than just the ability to be warm and welcoming, Michael informed me that the brand of shoe I was grabbing and heading to the counter with fit slightly smaller than usual and I may want to move up a half size. Further to that he produced the 11 and half he thought I needed and I tried it on to discover a perfect fit. As I proudly strutted around the store with both shoes on he helped Myra with numerous pairs, after all she is a woman and we settled on 3 pairs, 2 for her and my babies and headed over to the “big” store. Now it isn’t the reason we are coming back to Haggin Oaks in March but is a reason to go there even if you aren’t teeing it up. It is the most impressive, well laid out and complete golf store I have ever been in anywhere. Without delay I searched Mr Morton, Jr. and spent a good 15 minutes with him, introducing him to Myra and then sharing with him our impressions of this golfing nirvana. He was in no hurry to end our chat and he shared many aspects of the Haggin Oaks and business founded by his amazing father Ken Sr. who himself has received the highest plaudits, awards and honors bestowed by The PGA of America for over 50 years of service and dedication. We hope to meet him upon our return and apparently it won’t be that difficult as he still puts in shifts at one of the courses Morton Golf runs, On this day he was simply at one of the other courses they run.
I let Ken get back to his work and then we spent the next 2 hours trying on clothes, looking at souvenirs, chatting with staff and as it was 2 days from Xmas we fully expected Santa to come in and get himself a new putter or outfit! We didn’t want to leave to be honest but we had to get back to our side of the 49th and we still had 1100 miles to go. We weren’t 500 yards away from our new playground when we both commented we have to come back and before we got on the freeway towards Redding we had already figured out some dates when that might be and March 12th it is. If your travel plans include California Dreamin’ I would suggest strongly it begins with or ends with, as in our case, a stop at Haggin Oaks, to me the most comprehensive, impressive customer focused golf facility known to man, all at affordable prices and easy access.