Sacramento’s first golf course was constructed by a board called Sacramento Country Club. It was nine holes and named “New Golf Links”. It opened in 1902 and closed in 1904. It had a clubhouse and was located in Oak Park. The course was vacated to be cut up in lots and sold for business purposes.
A second course was constructed on J Street and opened in 1905 and then closed in 1910.
The first municipal course, called the Arcade Golf Course, was opened in 1916. The fairways were non-irrigated but mowed and the greens were a type of asphalt covered sand that was very popular at that time. The Del Paso Country Club was opened that same year with the same type of fairways and greens but later changed to planted and irrigated fairways and greens. The Arcade Course was originally scheduled to be an 18-hole golf course; however, the Parks Department ran out of funds and only nine holes were built. Its first professional was hired in 1917. His name was Wm. Selkirk who later became the professional at the Del Paso Country Club. Rudy Malarin was then hired as the Head Professional. He transfered to Land Park Golf Course in 1932. The Arcade Course was closed by the city in 1933.
It was October of 1932 that the original course (now called the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex) was opened. It was originally called the Sacramento Municipal Golf Course and was designed by the world-renowned Alister MacKenzie, who was the architect of the famous Cypress Point Golf Course. MacKenzie also helped redesign the world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Course and was instrumental in the original design of the Augusta National Golf Course where the famous and one of golf’s major championships called “The Masters Tournament” is played each year. Today, there is even an Alister MacKenzie Society. MacKenzie is now recognized throughout the world as being one of the greatest golf architects of all time. Many of the original golf architecture principals he created in his book are still being used today. Another part of the story is about Irishman Mike “Mac” McDonough who was Alister MacKenzie’s head construction manager leading the construction of Cypress Point and several other courses. He elected to stay on at Haggin Oaks as the Greens Superintendent and remained until the 1960’s when he was hired by the Del Paso Country Club as their Superintendent. During his 30+ year tenure at Haggin Oaks, he also built the Arcade Golf Course at Haggin Oaks (opened in 1957) and the Bing Maloney Golf Course for the City of Sacramento (opened in 1962).
The original clubhouse located on Auburn Blvd. was closed down in 1958 when the Capital City Freeway was built. It was the money received from the freeway that provided the City of Sacramento the money to build the Arcade Golf Course. Both nines were built for under $250,000.
The original golf pro for what is now known as the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Tom LoPresti, began his career as a caddy in San Francisco and moved to Sacramento to become the caddy master at the Del Paso Country Club. His first head pro job was at the William Land Golf Course. From William Land, he moved to become the first golf professional at the new Sacramento Municipal Golf Course. He remained as the Head Professional for 62 years. I began working for Tom LoPresti in 1958, became his partner and Co-Head Professional in 1972 and he worked for me until he died at the age of 89. Tom LoPresti was voted the National PGA Club Professional of the Year in 1962 and I was voted the National PGA Professional of the Year in 1998. Haggin Oaks is the only course in the nation that has had two golf professionals receive that award. It was a very special day, when he and I were inducted into the National PGA Hall of Fame in 2004 together, even though he wasn’t alive at the time.
Haggin Oaks has held some National Championships on the old course. In 1936, 1937 and 1938, Haggin Oaks held a PGA Tour event called the Sacramento Open. In the first tournament, Wiffy Cox won in a playoff with a score of 2 under par, tying “Wild” Bill Melhorn. His winning check was $750. In that same tournament, Byron Nelson finished 3rd, Walter Hagen finished 7th and Jimmy Demaret finished just out of the money. The second event in 1937 was won by Ed Dudley (also receiving $750) by 10 strokes finishing 15 under par with a score of 273. Sam Snead played that same year finishing tied for 10th winning $66. In 1938, Johnny Revolta won with a score of 290 (four over par) and Ben Hogan finished 3rd. This was the first check that Ben Hogan received as a PGA Tour Professional. It is said that the final Sacramento Open event was held in February during some very bad weather. Because of the bad weather, the spectators didn’t show up, so the members of the Sacramento Golf Club had to take up a collection to pay off the purse promised to the golf pro’s. This was the last year of the Sacramento Open.
In 1941, a one day PGA event was played at Haggin Oaks. Sam Snead won the event with an even par 72, winning $200. In 1954, a second one day event was won by Doub Ford who finished the day with a 5 under par 67, winning $500 for the day. Over the years, Haggin Oaks has hosted many top professional and amateur championships. Two National Amateur Events were the 1963 National Public Links Men’s Championship, won by San Francisco native Bob Lunn, who went on to become a 3-time winner on the PGA Tour. Today, Bob Lunn is a club pro at Woodbridge Country Club. The second United States Golf Association’s National Championship called the Public Links Women’s Championship was held in 1992 and won by Amy Fruhwirth.
Other famous people who have played exhibitions at Haggin Oaks are Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Patty Berg and local world heavyweight boxer Max Baer, Sr. Haggin Oaks is still well known for bringing in PGA and LPGA Tour Professionals to give exhibitions to our customers.
Today, Haggin Oaks is seen as still being one of the leading municipal golf operations in the nation because of its popularity, retail business and player development programs. It has a weekend club called the Sacramento Golf Club that goes back to the early 9-hole Arcade Golf Sand Green Course and has three ladies clubs. One of the ladies clubs, the haggin Oaks Business Women’s Golf Club was the first business women’s club in the nation. Haggin Oaks is also proud of becoming one of the original First Tee Junior Programs in the nation.