Best Golf Courses in Sacramento
Sacramento, the state capital of California, isn’t the state’s golf capital by any means. Without any ocean frontage, how could it even attempt to compete with San Diego or the Monterey Peninsula? While it may lack features of some of the more famous California golf destinations, that doesn’t mean the best golf courses in Sacramento does not offer great options for locals and politicians alike to tee it up.
The major shortcoming is the lack of a traditional golf resort where serious players can hang their hat for a weekend or longer. Golfers can stay at the Cache Creek Resort, an Indian casino run by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, but its isolated locale well west of downtown is too far removed to be a home base. The popular casino is in an expansion phase, which will eventually open up more rooms for stay-and-plays at one the best golf courses in Sacramento Yocha Dehe Golf Club (Golf Advisor’s top-rated course in 2015), a Brad Bell design hidden in bucolic valleys. The 160-foot drop off the first tee jump-starts the round in style.
Back to civilization surrounded by highways is Haggin Oaks, one of golf’s most unique facilities. Haggin Oaks’ MacKenzie Course—designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie—is the draw. However, there are so many other reasons to stay longer than just one round; these include a 15,000-square-foot superstore, mini-golf, a driving range that tees the ball up for you, a friendly clubhouse restaurant loaded with memorabilia and one of the most progressive FootGolf operations in the country. Golfers can even test drive a new club by hitting free golf balls on the lighted range at night.
Haggin Oaks is run by Morton Golf, which also takes good care of the city’s other municipal courses: Bing Maloney Golf Complex and Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course. The 6,158-yard Bartley plays tight with lots of target golf over ponds and around mounding. The more traditional Bing feels like an easy walk with its flat parkland setting.
Another company, Empire Golf, manages two fine courses that celebrated major milestones in 2015. Ancil Hoffman Golf Course, a William Francis Bell classic in Carmichael owned by Sacramento County, turned 50 that year. Cherry Island Golf Course, a Robert Muir Graves course in Elverta, turned 25. And don’t forget the Teal Bend Golf Club, another Brad Bell design that runs right along the Sacramento River 15 miles north of downtown.
Heading east on Interstate 80 toward Lake Tahoe brings an entirely different kind of golf into play. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains can feel like extreme golf at times due to all the elevation change. The Apple Mountain Golf Resort in Camino rides up and down wild, mountainous ridges. Golfers won’t be disappointed stopping at the Timber Creek Golf Club in Roseville (24 miles from downtown), Whitney Oaks Golf Club in Rocklin (28 miles), Turkey Creek Golf Club in Lincoln (32 miles) or Darkhorse Golf Club in Auburn (48 miles). Former LPGA Tour starlet Natalie Gulbis, who grew up in Sacramento, singled out Whitney Oaks as her favorite place to play in a 2011 “My Town” feature in Golf Digest and is now considered one of the best golf courses in Sacramento (especially for budget minded golfers).