Photo 1/6
Alister MacKenzie's links-style 16th fairway.
Photo 2/6
The 14th green at Alister MacKenzie.
Photo 3/6
Looking down across the water on Darkhorse's fourth fairway.
Photo 4/6
The terraced sixth green at Darkhorse.
Photo 5/6
The opening hole at Darkhorse, with some non-paying customers.
Photo 6/6

“Golf,” said Mark Twain famously, “is a good walk spoiled.” But clearly the old curmudgeon never played Sacramento’s public golf courses, which are rich in history, challenges and unspoiled fun. Here are a few of the capital city’s courses that might have charmed even Twain.

Alister MacKenzie

One of the greatest golf course architects ever designed this 6,991-yard course, voted the top public course in Sacramento and one of the best in California. The designer was Alister MacKenzie, who also designed Augusta National, site of the Masters, and other choice courses. Opened in 1932, it adopted MacKenzie’s name as its own and it is now one of two 18-hole courses at the Haggin Golf Complex.

It features five par 5s, each over 500 yards, and five par 3s including the 16th, MacKenzie’s 192-yard links-style signature hole. The other course at Haggin is Arcade Creek, an easier layout for beginners and for those who just want to hit it around. Also on site: a lighted driving range, practice greens and bunkers, bar and grill, pro shop and other amenities. 3645 Fulton Ave., Sacramento. 916-481-4653. Guest rate for MacKenzie: $33.

Bing Maloney

An associate of MacKenzie’s, M.J. McDonaugh, designed Bing Maloney, a popular par-72, 18-hole course. (There is a 9-holer as well.) A highlight of the Championship 18 is the par-3 No. 3 hole in which you hit over water onto a green that looks like a bean and seems about as small. Resplendent valley oaks border the fairways, a grace point shared by the MacKenzie and other Sacramento links. 6801 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento. 916-808-2283. Guest 18-hole: $28.

William Land

Another course rich with local history, this 6,018-yard municipal favorite came about due to the largesse of William Land, a Sacramento hotelier who donated $250,000 to the city upon his death in 1911 to be used for the public good. And so it has. Golf is only one of the things you can do in William Land Park, a 200-acre public gathering place with children’s rides, pony rides, concerts, theatrical plays, sports fields, fishing lake, ample picnicking and more. This is a good place to spend a sunny afternoon. 1701 Sutterville Road, Sacramento. 916-277-1207. Green fees start at $28.50.

Outside Sacramento

If you have a hankering to test your game beyond the city limits, there are lots of choices. The 6,794-yard par-72 Ancil Hoffman Golf Course in suburban Carmichael derives its name from the former county supervisor who once trained and managed heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer. Thus the bar and grill there is called “The Main Event.” 6700 Tarshes Dr., Carmichael. 916-482-3813. Standard rate: $28.

And up in Auburn, about an hour’s drive east of Sacramento, the Darkhorse Golf Club is located on a former cattle ranch in the Sierra foothills. You will pull a lot of your clubs out of your bag as you swing around the rolling pine and oak terrain. 7,053 yards from the back tees. 24150 Darkhorse Dr., Auburn. 530-269-7900. Starts at $35.

The 2014 Amgen Tour of California will begin in Sacramento on May 11. Read more on the all-AXS guide to Amgen.

Photos courtesy of Haggin Oaks Golf Complex and Darkhouse Golf Club.