The moment the last golf club, piece of apparel and vacation reservation were sold at last year’s Haggin Oaks Golf Expo, Ken Morton Jr. and his staff dove right into planning for this year’s 37th edition in Sacramento, Calif. And by the sound of things, this show is gonna be bigger and better than ever.
That’s saying something after 36 years of growth, capped off by 2011’s record attendance and sales. “We were a tad over 22,000 last year, a new record for the event,” says Morton, retail manager for Morton Golf, one of the game’s most respected and well-known golf operators. “And it was the best we’d ever done in retail. It’s pretty wild, the numbers we do over three days.”
The 2012 Haggin Oaks Golf Expo, which returns to Sacramento’s most popular municipal golf complex April 27-29, could be the most important gathering of golf-minded consumers, equipment companies and other entities connected to the sport — from travel to instruction to apparel — in America.
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, it’s the largest “demo days” event on the West Coast, and the only one that attracts virtually all of the retail heavy hitters, including Adams, Cleveland, Cobra, Mizuno, Ping, TaylorMade-adidas, Titleist, Tour Edge and Wilson. All of them, and dozens of smaller makers of clubs, balls, training aids and accessories, will have their latest lines of drivers, irons, hybrids, wedges, putters and other gear available for testing on Haggin Oaks’ massive range and ready for purchase in the Super Shop next door — easily the most well-stocked green-grass golf retail outlet anywhere.
There’s never an admission fee, and with plenty of parking and easy access from Interstate 80, it’s the epitome of no-hassle shopping, swinging, testing and dreaming.
But big-name companies are just the start of what stacks up as full-immersion fun for golf geeks of all stripes. The show sells out its display space every year, and Morton says this time should be no exception. “We’re ahead of where we were from a booth standpoint this year. Last year, we had 145 booths representing 185 vendors. We’ll have at least that many this year for sure.”
The booths set up along the range, around a big practice putting green as part of “Lifestyle Village” — where Fairways + Greens will be on hand to give out magazines and other goodies — and along “Golf Course Alley,” where local and nationally positioned courses, resorts and various West Coast destinations will offer special deals on green fees, stay-and-play packages and more.
Every year Morton adds a new wrinkle to the weekend. Last year it was a “Game Improvement Stage” featuring brief presentations by local teachers and the likes of well-known Tour pro and announcer Peter Jacobsen, along with the very popular Sacramento Putting contest.
This year brings a “major” attraction.
“The new twist this year is our Major Championship Pavilion — a small tent with logo’d apparel from the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and Ryder Cup available for purchase,” Morton says. “We will have a representative from PGA Travel there — you’ll be able to buy exclusive travel packages to both the PGA and the Ryder Cup. It’s very likely that we’ll have the Wanamaker Trophy there, so you’ll be able to take a photo with it and immediately post it to your Facebook account. It’s the closest most of us will ever get to it.”
Add in state-of-the-art clubfitting services in Haggin Oaks’ Golf Performance Center and PGA Tour vans parked on the back side of the range; an equipment trade-in center that offers top-dollar value for your clubs, bags and training aids; and great burgers, sandwiches and salads served at the show itself or in Haggin’s popular MacKenzie’s Bar and Grille, and you’ve got the makings of a long weekend under perfect, sunny springtime skies.
And, of course, if you’re really fired up to test out your new weapons, you can make a tee time on either the MacKenzie or Arcade Creek course for an unforgettable round.
Why not turn your trip to the Haggin Oaks Golf Expo into a vacation?
Here are a few ideas on how to make it memorable:
WHERE TO STAY
Located just off Interstate 80 about 10 miles from downtown Sacramento and 15 minutes from the airport, Haggin Oaks is as accessible as golf courses get, and it’s surrounded by plenty of lodging options, from major chain hotels like Holiday Inn and Hilton — the Arden West is an excellent choice, and only five minutes away — while the Le Rivage Hotel (pictured), which often partners with Haggin Oaks for special deals during the show, is also a great spot right along the American River. There’s also a good selection of hotels a few miles east in both Rocklin and Roseville (just across the freeway from that town’s popular mega-mall complex).
WHERE TO PLAY
You’ve got as a fine municipal golf course as there is just about 50 paces from the heart of the Golf Expo, so start there. Haggin Oaks’ MacKenzie Course is named after the guy who designed it — yeah, that MacKenzie — way back when, and over the past decade the Mortons have put some bucks and know-how into bringing it back to what Alister originally intended, with fine conditioning to match.
The adjacent Arcade Creek Course is good for a quick nine, too. Widen the lens a bit and a slew of worthwhile courses come into view, especially along the I-80 corridor, such as Morgan Creek, Turkey Creek and, up in the Sierra foothills near Auburn, The Ridge and DarkHorse. And, by the way, Morton Golf also runs several other area munis, including Bing Maloney and Bartley Cavanaugh. The latter is a solid, fun layout right next to Interstate 5 south of town.
WHERE TO DINE
Again, Haggin Oaks itself excels with golfer-friendly fare, from big breakfast burritos to generous burgers, sandwiches and daily special entrees, at its own MacKenzie’s Bar and Grille (which is peppered with a treasure trove of historical items). But as a major metro area, Sacramento has its share of outstanding eateries across the price and cuisine spectrum. A fine little Mexican spot just down Fulton Avenue is La Rosa Blanca, while down in Old Sacramento is a collection of solid seafood and steak joints with views of the river and the flavor of history. And if you’d rather stick with the tried-and-true chain operations like Old Spaghetti Factory, Morton’s (no relation) or Il Fornaio, they’re here, too.