Alister MacKenzie Golf Course

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The Alister MacKenzie Design Promises an Incredible Test of Golf Skills

The MacKenzie Golf Course is, without a doubt, the player’s course at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. Designed by the mastermind behind Augusta National and measuring a respectable 6,991-yards from the back tees, this 73-year-old track, originally designed by world renowned architect, Alister MacKenzie, is a true test of golf for the low handicapper.

For those golfers out there who are more interested in a tamer test of their skills, the middle tees play to 6,542-yards and the forward tees offer a softer challenge at a mere 6,057-yards. Whatever tee you play from, you’ll be treated to a great escape from the heart of the city and the concrete jungle as you play among the stately heritage oaks along the plush bent grass greens and fairways of the MacKenzie Course.

In 2001, the city put $6.5 million into renovations at the MacKenzie course, improving irrigation and rebuilding the 18th and 9th greens to fit the original Alister MacKenzie design. In doing so, they created an island among the three freeways, I-80, Business 80 and Watt Avenue that encircle the complex. The escape is so complete that after you clear the first tee, your only reminder of the world outside is the occasional passing of a freight train just outside the northern border of the 350-acre layout.

Other than that, there are no houses, no buildings and no reminders of the outside world once you’re underway. Here, the stately oaks average over 100-years-old, the bent grass fairways and teeing areas are lush casting a brilliant green luster from tee to green.

The greens on the MacKenzie course are small by today’s standards and very very fast, running up to 11 and 12 on the stimp meter when tournaments come to town. With very little water (Arcade Creek comes into play on five holes) and no fairway bunkers, the small, heavily bunkered greens require shot-making and putting to be absolutely razor sharp to score.

Nowhere is this more evident than on the signature par 3, #16. Playing 192 yards from the back tees and overshadowed by a dominating old oak on the right side of the green and Arcade Creek looming along the left and wrapping along the back of the green, this par three provides a great test of iron precision. Once aboard, this rather large green has three distinct sections and if you’re on the wrong one, three putts are not out of the question.

From 16 it is a short trip to 17 tee and a great risk/reward par five. Measuring 561 from the back tees with the creek running along the right of the fairway, accuracy from the tee is key. While the fairway is large and open, the creek seems to beckon to the tee shots especially for the slice of fade player.

Proper placement from the tee, though, puts you in great shape to go for this green in two and avoid the huge oaks that create a tight field goal into the green which is framed well by ancient forest. A good second gives a legitimate shot at eagle. Birdie is an almost must for the low handicapper.

Bringing it home on 18 is like bringing it home on the PGA tour. This short par five is very reachable, but the crossing bunker in front of the green is classic MacKenzie design as it gives the illusion of being green-side, while in reality it is a good 50-yards short of the hole, lulling the unsuspecting player to take one less club than necessary.

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