Operating a government-owned facility but contractually able to make big improvements without undue risk, Morton Golf continues its good to-great effort in Sacramento
BY: JOHN TORSIELLO
The new MacKenzie Putting Course at Haggin Oaks Golf Club in Sacramento, Calif. is much more than a place to smooth out your stroke before or after playing 18 with your friends. As Ken Morton, Jr., describes it, the synthetic-surface amenity is “just one more differentiation that makes Haggin Oaks unique.” As a second-generation manager of Morton Golf, he speaks from a long perspective. “Because the Golf 2.0 initiative is so important to Morton Golf overall,” says Ken, Jr., “this new putting course has added value. It gives us a vehicle to bring new beginning golfers and junior golfers onto a small-size course and talk through how to actually play the game in an unintimidating environment.”
Then there is the pure pleasure that golf’s evermore-numerous putting parks engender. “This is a golf amenity but really it’s a little paradise of sorts,” asserts Morton, Jr. He is referring to decorative touches like palm trees, bird-of-paradise flowers and a bubbling brook, along with playability factors such as sand bunkers and sneaky breaks, plus variety— holes on the course range from 25 to 65 feet in length. Local artist John Holland was commissioned to paint a 100-foot long section of adjacent wall to match the tropical golf theme, and local artist Sue Johnson created a caricature of a young Alister MacKenzie, namesake of the championship golf course at Haggin Oaks, as the logo for the putting course. California’s TruTurf and the father-son team of Mike and David Schy undertook the construction project. The cost of the artificial turfputting course was roughly $150,000 and, following a permitting process that took the better part of a year; the job was finished in a little under 100 days. The course opened for business on April 25 of this year.
“The reception has been great,” Morton, Jr., reports. “Our range is open 24 hours, so the putting course works on the same schedule and it’s being played at all hours of the day. We’ve found that families and kids seem to fall in love with it the most, but we have a little bit of everyone out there.” That includes fundraiser groups, which have booked the course for certain time windows and done very well in both turnout and proceeds.
It is still somewhat early to declare whether or not the putting course will significantly impact the club’s bottom line, but ownership is confident that it will recover its investment in a timely manner. For golf facility managers thinking of going this route, take a look around for a spot that makes sense in terms of traffic flow. Look also for any corner of your property that drags things down, aesthetically. The Mackenzie course at Haggin Oaks, according to Morton, Jr., “dressed up an area that really needed it.”
The brain trust at Haggin Oaks had discussed building a putting course for a number of years, but the group finally green-lighted it when a change in its contract with the city of Sacramento gave Morton Golf more latitude to make capital investments, both in terms of freedom and length of contract to receive a return on the investment. Said Morton, Jr., “We had seen the one that Disney has at Disney World and that, plus the contract terms, became the catalyst for us to move forward on ours.”
These golf entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to innovate, and they aren’t shy about promoting golf or their facilities. Haggin Oaks also features a 24-hour driving range, a Player Performance Studio fitting center, a three-hole learning academy, a 15,000- square-foot Golf Super Shop, two 18-hole courses, and yes, a FootGolf course. Patrons have enough to do that they don’t even have to decide exactly why they are headed to the facility, only that they’re certain to find something that makes them happy when they arrive. Any golf company could roll along smoothly, with a formula for success like that.