William Watson is a relatively unheralded Golden Age golf architect who designed numerous golf courses (primarily in California) including the Olympic Club and Harding Park. One of his best courses is the Hacienda Golf Club nestled among the trees and streams of La Habra Heights.
Hacienda opened with nine holes in 1920 and quickly moved to a full eighteen in 1923. The clubhouse takes a visitor through its substantial history including Gene Sarazen initially holding the course record and Tiger Woods shooting a 62 during his amateur days.
The course has a wonderfully quirky parkland routing that takes advantage of the hilly terrain as well as a valley floor that features a meandering stream. The conditioning of the course is top-notch and the club is notorious for its fast greens. A golfer would do well to stay below the hole.
The standout holes at Hacienda are the par threes which feature forced carries and deviously placed bunkers making them the most thought-provoking shots of the day. The par fours and par fives challenge the golfer with doglegs and elevated greens with streams and ponds presenting additional challenges.
The late John Harbottle III renovated Hacienda in 2006 after studying old aerial photographs. The architect added extra length and altered bunkers to maintain modern-day shot values. Hacienda is a true gem of Golden Age design and will continue challenging its members and guests for years to come.
Article by Pete Flanigan.
Hacienda is undoubtedly a hidden gem. I’m lucky enough to have played the course twice while visiting from NJ. The conditioning, the bunkering, the greens, the rolling terrain, the use of the terrain on a limited sized property as well as the clubhouse were all amazing. If given the opportunity, you should absolutely not pass up playing this wonderful course.
My wife and I played Hacienda Golf Club on a beautiful Spring afternoon. Two days earlier So Cal had received over an inch of rain. The course had drained well. The fairways were soft but not spongy. Greens were firm enough and running at about 11.
The key design feature to Hacienda is the small greens that always fit the surrounding terrain. That terrain is also a canyon with an overall slope in the direction of LAX. Green reading must take into account the direction of the canyon with most of the holes following the east/west line of the canyon. Down hill putts can easily get away from you if you don't get the slope of the canyon right.
The second feature that makes Hacienda stand out is the bunkering. Both eye catching and challenging there size and shape is a good fit for most of the greens. That said, for me the bunkering is at times redundant and has caused me to confuse one hole from another.
Most of the Hacienda Golf Club course is in the the valley floor. On either end of the valley the course layout angles out of the canyon. The result is a course shaped like a long C or U.
The six holes that make up the “legs” of the C or U are for me the weakest holes of the eighteen. Two are OK par threes. Two are medium to long par fours with greens squeezed too close to the property boundaries. The final two are short par fours that are again squeezed onto too small a piece of land. These to short par fours are my least liked holes on the course.
On the positive side, hole fifteen is a 380 yard par four featuring the best elevation change of any hole on the course. The drive landing area is guarded by a large bunker on the left. A good drive should result in a short iron down the hill to the trademark small green. Miss the green in any direction and you are faced with a shot that must be hit high and soft. If that wasn't enough, a stream guards the left side for most of the hole and will grab any big miss.
Hacienda Golf Club is ranked 59th in California. My personal ranking of CA courses has it in the mid-sixties. By that I mean, I place courses like Pauma Valley and La Purisima ahead of Hacienda and courses like La Costa Champions and Indian Wells Players behind it. I also have about ten courses on my Personal Best in CA list that are not on The Top 100 in CA list.
A final positive note. Hacienda Golf Club is the type of course that serious golfers want to be a member of. The course gets more interesting the closer you get to the hole. The greens are firm and fast. For a fan of golf courses and serious golfer such as myself, it seldom gets better than that.
A terrific course that plays long because it is so hilly and, well, because it is almost 7000 at the tips (too long for me). I found the Hacienda was a fun track in part because it subscribes to the old school design of a surprise and quirk at every turn. It is also "old school" in that the the greens tend to be small to postage-stamp size, and that because of the variety of the layout, the course requires you hit almost every shot imaginable. The conditioning is near perfect, with perfect tees and fairways. The day I played, the greens were rolling at an 11 with a firmness not usually encountered at a club outside of a big tourney. The members and pro staff are wonderful and welcoming. When you play, there is an eerie feeling you are at Riviera CC on some holes. Some people comment on the par 3's, which I think are fine, but average. It's the brutal par fours on Hacienda that got my attention. The are hard to play, and they come in all shapes and sizes.
My pick for the best holes (not surprisingly, all par fours):
#3 I generally hate uphill holes. This one, I like...a lot. It is short with a semi-hidden green and trouble everywhere around the green, and even on the green as it is so steep from side-to-side (yes, side-to-side, not front to back), proving some of the best par fours are the shortest ones. Even though it is a wedge in, pull it just a little, and you are bogey at best.
#5 The converse of hole #3 and why the course is just so surprising at every turn. This is a huge slightly downhill par four, but into the wind 450yd par four that is relentless from tee to green. No room for error on the drive which must be a draw to avoid a giant barranca with rattlesnakes. Even with a well hit drive, you are left with a super tough and long approach to a rather smallish green with almost no bailout. It's a round-wrecker for sure if you lose it.
#8. It is here that I felt like I was at Riviera, with a drive to a platform landing area, and then a 200 yd poke to a downhill waiting green. Super cool hole.
#13/14. I put these hole together because they are back-to-back. Alone they are fine holes; together, they are formidable and also truly beautiful to behold. The 13th is another big ol' downhill 450 yd Par 4 dogleg left that just seems to be perfectly laid out and lovely to the eye, with a big swale in front of the green and then bunkers surrounding the green. Par feels like a birdie on this hole. Just when you think you have played the toughest hole on the course, along comes #14. Hit a smoking long drive over a country road and down a pipe, and you have a chance to get it on the green, but bunkers are everywhere near thee green.
Hacienda Golf Club is a 1920 William Watson design that is set amongst the hills of La Habra Heights and hidden away in the secluded southeast corner of Los Angeles County. Built on an old sheep ranch the course has both an outstanding topography and a challenging layout. In 2006 John Harbottle redesigned the greens, bunkers, added tees and took out trees to bring the course up to modern standards. A natural creek that runs throughout the course that had been covered up in earlier redesigns was brought back into play on many holes.
The course is well known by all Southern California tournament golfers who have very high praise for the layout and consider it one of the best courses in Southern California.
The conditioning of the course is excellent throughout the year. The greens are surfaced with bent grass with little to no invasion of Poa throughout the year. They are subtle but usually quick and true.
The course features distinctive bunkering and small greens in keeping with its original design. No two holes on the course are alike and the variety of shots needed usually require playing every club in your bag. The par 3s are quite different from each other and vary from a short 150 yard 12th hole to the 235 yard 6th hole. Two of the par 4s are also notable:
• 8 is a dogleg right that features a creek throughout its 445 yard length. First on the right in the driving area and then on the left on the downhill approach to the green .
• 15 is a 380 yard dog leg left that features the same creek on the left throughout the entire hole. The green is well protected by both bunkers and the creek.
Hacienda always presents the player with interesting and enjoyable challenges. One never gets tired of playing the course.
Hacienda may be hemmed in by history and geography but what is contained inside is a charming and challenging course that every golfer who enjoys Golden Age architecture should play. The greens are lightening quick the conditioning is top notch and the clubhouse has a tremendous patina to it.
The course is unfortunately too compressed for its own good but that aside, you will see shades of Riviera, LACC and many other classic courses in its DNA.