In the first few years after leaving Robert Trent Jones Jr’s design company to start out on his own in 1997, Kyle Phillips continued working on European projects such as Kingsbarns in Scotland, Eichenheim in Austria and Lage Vuursche in The Netherlands.
Nonetheless, he was still active back in the United States and the course at Morgan Creek Golf Club, located less than a 20-minute drive from his Granite Bay office, became his first solo design in his home country when it opened without fuss or fanfare in 2003.
Routed around a large housing development, the 18-hole layout is, according to Daniel Wexler in The American Private Golf Club Guide, “occasionally rather heavily-shaped” while still managing to “succeed in capturing something of a classic feel.”
The author liked the “muscular standouts” at the 2nd, 9th and 11th holes, while also remarking: “a pair of watery par 3s (the 210-yard 7th and 177-yard 16th) are also worth noting, as is the finisher, a 420-yard two-shotter with [its] green fronted by a small bunker and flanked left by a pond.”
Since the publication of The American Private Golf Club Guide in 2010, Morgan Creek has become a public golf facility.
I have written this previously about the quality golf options that exist in the immediate Sacramento area. Del Paso and Winchester are clearly top tier and joining them is Morgan Creek. For those who are fans of Kyle Phillips you can play one of his designs without having to take out a second mortgage as is the case with a few of his high-profile courses globally like Kingsbarns and Yas Links.
Inexplicably, so much of the California golf scene has find itself talking about the Bay Area, the LA area, the Coachella Valley and the greater San Diego area. No question those locations deserve attention but for those who take the time and effort and head to the Capital City area you will find clear high-quality golf options.
Morgan Creek is blessed with good land and a superior routing. Phillips maxed out all the key attributes and there's enough teeth for the course to test the best of players.
Amazingly, the layout is framed with housing but the routing works superbly because of the imagination Phillips shows throughout the round. Holes are bolstered by moving away from straight-razor cut fairways and include fairways that move in more than one direction. Players have to adjust accordingly.
There is a good amount of earth moving but the blending is done well so that you don't get the hideous results as done by other architects. Phillips also include an array of quality green locations -- those with sufficient movement without resorting to the silly putt-putt creations that have become the rage with a number of architects.
Place Morgan Creek in a major metro area in CA where the overall exposure would be greater and its overall standing would clearly benefit.
M. James Ward