It’s winter. Sunday it rained all day. I knew playing golf was out of the question on Monday. I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for mud-walking. However, I determined that I could practice my game (not that I needed it!). Where should I go? Sacramento is lucky enough to have one of the most complete practice facilities in Northern California, so naturally I headed to the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, easy to see from Business 80, even under the lights at night.
Where to begin? Since I have developed a case of occasional “yips” in my senior years, I headed for the practice putting green or should I say putting greens. Haggin Oaks actually has three putting practice areas. The first two are huge greens, one in front of the clubhouse and one to the rear toward Arcade Creek, the two 9-hole courses on the property. I am working on using my shoulders to swing the putter, taking my hands (which have a mind of their own) completely out of the putting stroke. It’s a good idea, but it will never work unless I practice it, and the two greens gave me plenty of room to do just that. The third putting area is actually a 9-hole miniature golf-like track, the “McKenzie Putting Course”. It features a natural layout – no windmills or open-mouthed dragons. Although its “turf” is artificial, it offers a fun way to practice your putting stroke. The experience is free with the purchase of a bucket of range balls ($2 without purchase).
Since the miniature course was right next to the driving range, I made it my next stop. The range was busy even on a weekday at off hours. It is open from 7 AM to 8 PM during the winter, during the day or under the lights at night. It features new technology; some bays tee the ball up automatically so the player doesn’t even have to bend over. On this day I spotted only two women hitting balls; the rest were men – mostly with bad swings. Practice balls range in price from $6 for 50 balls to $18 for 175 balls. Sadly, the range desperately needs re-seeding. The yardages are well-marked but difficult to see due to the bare spots, and when the wind blows, the dust swirls.
During my practice marathon I was more interested in working on my short game. After all, we girls cannot rely on our lengthy drives all the time. I drove my car around to the little-known and less crowded world on the far side of the driving range. Here I found another set of practice bays facing away from the afternoon sun, pointed back toward the main range. Once I got over the fact that some of those long hitters on the opposite side were aiming directly at me, I realized this alternate reality right out of “Stranger Things” was a real find. I decided that I would definitely head back here in the future in spite of the porta-potty bathroom facilities.
Finally, continuing my focus on the short game, I moved to the nearby three “Academy Holes” that are located on the backside of the driving range. These holes offer a wealth of practice possibilities for every aspect of the game around the green. Large, deep teeing areas allow the player to use shorter and longer irons (or even hybrids) to work on a variety of approach shots. Well-groomed fairways and green surrounds afford an infinite variety of wedge and chipping practice. Best of all are the well-contoured greens surrounded by mounding, bunkers, and fairly gnarly rough. Use your imagination to practice flop shots, run-up shots, bank shots – any type of finesse approach shot to improve your game. To use one of these holes, you must make a reservation in advance with the Concierge Desk at (916) 808-2283. The price is a reasonable $15 an hour; bring your own practice balls.
Thanks to the facilities at Haggin Oaks, my enthusiasm for practicing has been renewed. I have no excuses – except maybe my busy schedule, general aches and pains, bad weather, etc. All I can say is that I need to get over it and get practicing!