An introduction to Sacramento
Not many people would know that Sacramento is actually the capital city of California!
Located approximately 90 miles to the east of San Francisco, you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for Sacramento. In itself it’s an enthralling city with loads of things to do. But it gets completely overlooked by other Californian cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara and the list goes on.
See also: What are the best golf courses in California?
Yet Sacramento is a beautiful city, rich with history and culture with some awesome spots to visit. One of those places which feels like it has stood still in time, is the Old Sacramento State Historic Park. It hasn’t changed from the Gold Rush era and is literally like taking a step back in time.
One of the most popular places to visit is the Crocker Art Museum. It houses a huge collection of Californian art as well as international ceramics. Along the same vein, the California Automobile Museum is fascinating. You’ll find one of the largest collections of Fords and other classic cars.
Sacramento is a superb city with some pretty decent golf courses which we’ll explore now.
The best golf courses in Sacramento California
Del Paso Country Club
This private members course is located in northeast Sacramento just off Marconi Avenue. It has been open for play since 1916 when John Black was originally brought in to design the layout.
Yet the course we have today is vastly different. Over the course of the century, there were a few renovations here and there. But it was in 2006 that the highly respected Kyle Phillips was commissioned to radically improve the layout.
After closing its doors for nearly a year and a half, the course reopened in 2007 to much acclaim. The changes just make the course feel longer and there is far more character to its predecessor. Overall Del Paso is a far improved experience.
The course hosted the 2015 U.S. Senior Open and received high praise from many of the competitors including Colin Montgomerie and Fred Funk. There are pristine rye grass fairways, the bunkers are beautifully contoured and the putting surfaces are out of this world.
Granite Bay Golf Club
Just a 30 minute drive from downtown Sacramento towards Folsom Lake, is the fantastic but private Granite Bay Golf Club. This is a great fun course to play.
The course was designed by Kyle Phillips in 1994, who at the time was working with Robert Trent Jones Jr.
The site isn’t overly hilly, yet there are a number of natural crevices which come into play. Many run across fairways, either just in front of greens or which need to be carried from the tee box.
Mature oaks line most fairways. Whilst in the central part of the course is a large lake which comes into play prominently on a number of the holes.
In 2021 the course received more investment. The objective was to replace all the greens, modernise the bunkers and improve all the tee boxes.
Without a doubt, Granite Bay continues to be one of the best golf courses in Sacramento.
Morgan Creek Golf Club
The superb Morgan Creek is one of the newer golf courses in Sacramento. Yet it could be accused as being one of the oldest for it looks so at one with its surroundings.
Following a bit of a theme, Morgan Creek was designed by one of today’s most gifted architects, Kyle Phillips. Phillips was clearly prolific in the Sacramento area.
His design philosophy is to work seamlessly with the natural environment ensuring there is minimal disruption. Pre-existing vegetation and features play part of the layout rather than make way for something fabricated.
This is at once evident when playing at Morgan Creek, which looks as though it has been discovered rather than built. As such, created landforms look indistinguishable from the original layout.
The heathland layout here pays homage to many of the classic English and Scottish pastoral courses. It has deep bunkers, wide rolling fairways and rippled greens.
Playing here requires as much intellect as ability and this is one awesome golf course, open to the public.
Teal Bend Golf Club
Just a stone’s throw away from the Sacramento International Airport, is Teal Bend Golf Club. This is a really fun public golf course near Sacramento, located right on the Sacramento River.
The layout is tucked into 250 acres of natural wetlands with meandering lush fairways. Those fairways are routed through dense pockets of native trees and other indigenous vegetation providing hideaways for local wildlife.
Depending on which tees you play from, the course can stretch from 5,000 to 7,000 yards. Subsequently, it makes for an enjoyable experience regardless of your ability. The fairways are relatively large but you still need to be hitting it straight. Dense woodland lining most holes will happily swallow stray shots.
There are a couple of holes where water comes into play. But by and large it is if you hit it well off the tee here, you should score well. One real positive is the greens. Large and undulating, they are smooth and consistent throughout and a real highlight.
Darkhorse Golf Club
Granted Darkhorse golf club is over an hour from central Sacramento, but it is worth the drive. Up the Alan S. Hart freeway northeast of Sacramento, turning off towards Meadow Vista until you get to Lake of the Pines. At this point you will find this sensational golf course.
Darkhorse is without doubt one of the finest public golf courses near Sacramento, and generally in the wider region. The Western Golf Alliance rates it as one of their traditional favorites in the Sacramento area.
From the back tee boxes Darkhorse stretches to just over 7,000 yards with a slope of 139. To be fair, the layout here does encourage you to pull out the big dog. The rough is wispy but not too dense allowing a little margin for error.
Bunkers have been used sparingly by the architect Keith Foster. And at no time do you feel particularly encumbered by other fairways. This might be due to the gently rolling hills which do a good job of hiding fairways from one another.
Get yourself to Darkhorse Golf Club.
Cordova Country Club
So he’s my caveat. Cordova is not the same level as many of the other golf courses on this list. I know I’ll get some pushback here.
But I added it for two reasons. Firstly, it is super affordable and welcomes the general public. And secondly, and more importantly, it always gets good reviews.
The course is located about 10 miles from downtown Sacramento just off the main Jackson Road. You’re just past the California State University of Sacramento, so really not far from anything. Another of the reasons it is popular.
The course is relatively flat and what you see on many tees is what you get. This is a course for the driver. Grab it and smack it. There are a couple of water hazards which come into play but generally this is going to be your main challenge.
Affordable and good value.
Winchester Country Club
Another golf course a good hour’s drive northeast of Sacramento, is the Winchester Country Club, perched atop the Sierra foothills.
This private course, part of a wider golf community, is in a wonderful location amongst miles of oak dotted hills. The course was a design collaboration between Robert Trent Jones Senior and Junior. It is one of only seven worldwide where the two architectural greats combined together.
The fairways are routed through the relatively hilly terrain, making great use of the streams, woods and meadows. This seamless combination of elements creates this fantastic but challenging course.
Over the years, Winchester Country Club has received much praise. Golfweek twice named it as one of America’s best residential golf courses.
Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course
To the south of Sacramento, on the Sacramento River, is the great fun public course of Bartley Cavanaugh. It was named after a popular former city manager.
The course is one of Sacramento’s newest layouts, and opened for play in 1995. It was designed by Perry Dye, the son of world-renowned Pete Dye. Along with his wife Alice, they’ve left their mark on hundreds of golf courses worldwide.
Here at Bartley Cavanaugh there are 96 acres within which the links-style championship course was designed. Fairways are flanked by young trees and have generous landing areas whilst the greens are moderately sized.
Short by today’s standard measuring just 6,200 yards from the back tees. The main challenge is dealing with many out of bounds and island greens. Wind can also be a factor coming from the west across the Sacramento River.
Great value and great fun, this is without doubt one of the better public golf courses in Sacramento.
What is the best golf course in Sacramento?
The best golf course in Sacramento is Dark Horse Golf Club, approximately an hour’s drive from central Sacramento. Opened in 2002 and designed by Keith Foster, it was voted one of the top public golf courses in America.