I spent most of the last 10 days out in Palm Springs (official motto “sure it’s hot but at least it’s not humid!”) and had the opportunity to play a lot of golf and enjoy all that is the Palm Springs Area.
While the area’s “peak” season for golf is the November-April period I found playing golf in the end of May to be largely comfortable (no humidity was a welcome respite from our summertime heat and humidity).
We stayed at the La Quinta Resort, which has been around since the 1920’s and is now under the Waldorf-Astoria collection of Hilton. The resort has 5 golf courses, over 40 pools and plenty of restaurants and other trappings (including over a dozen tennis courts) for those so inclined.
While Palm Springs has an airport, we flew into Long Beach Airport on Jet Blue. It’s roughly a 2-hour drive (depending on traffic) to Palm Springs from there (or any of the Southern California airports). I’ve flown them several times with golf clubs and touch wood, have always found my clubs waiting for me sans any issues or damage.
My golf experience started on the La Quinta Resort Mountain Course (of the 5 golf courses, 2 are at the resort and the other 3 are approximately 5 miles away in the PGA West development); the Dunes Course is the other on-resort course and the easier of the two. Since my better half was doing a day-spa in Desert Hot Springs that day, I was left to surrender the car to her and take a shuttle over to the course. The pro shop at the resort was well-stocked and they were able to sell cold drinks before the restaurant/snack bar opened (important if, like me, you play early). I found my cart and went to the range to warm up (range balls and use of the practice facility is included…for $100 per round it’s the least they can do but nonetheless, it’s a nice touch). The starter at the Mountain Course is an example of the kind of person the golf industry needs more of. Funny, affable, and warned me about fire ants in the tall grass area (thanks for the heads-up). For a Pete Dye course, the Mountain Course was tough but fair and had numerous vistas. The course was in fantastic shape (my putting was horrible but that’s solely on me- the greens were in great shape and rolled true); a back-nine ride on the bogey train kept breaking 80 from happening but a solid par at 18 was a nice way to finish.
A couple suggestions for the resort- their website content about golf is very lacking. All carts have GPS (something that is good to know and they should publicize); they should also have scorecard pdf’s on the site as well. My only other beef is that it’s frustrating to walk into the pro shop with cash in hand and them not stock shirts in my size (as I’m not anorexic…I won’t even get into the folly of trying to wear the new “slim fit” shirts). I can’t be alone in this.
The next day left me with my big challenge of the trip- a visit to the TPC Stadium course at PGA West. I was going off first so I hoped to set a good pace…and then the trouble started. A young couple rolled up and I found out I’d be playing with them…right as I heard the phrase you never want to hear…the “we’re not any good and we don’t play much” comment.
Not only were they bad golfers, but they didn’t have a clue about pace of play nor did they understand how to use a golf cart (at one point, the cart was parked behind the both of them as they wondered about looking for their balls). I’m torn on this one- on the one hand, the game needs to welcome new golfers and not scare them away…on the other hand I’m not sure what playing what is one of the toughest courses in the world does to serve enjoyment of the game. They were perfectly happy to be oblivious of anything going on around them…as if there weren’t 2 groups waiting on us by the time we teed off on the 2nd hole (a mortal sin if you ask me). I hated to do this, but I had to bail on them and play as a single. At one point I asked them why they wanted to play such a hard course and they both looked at me like I was crazy…these were your bucket list types; never mind that they couldn’t have broken 150 in a best-ball and that they had no clue what they were doing…by all means be able to tell your friends that you played the Stadium Course (and had at least a dozen groups play through you). Again…I understand the “I paid my money just like you did” arguement…but you can’t have people out there who are holding everyone up and causing pace of play to grind to a halt (if I had seen a ranger/marshall I’d have said something but didn’t see one).
The course itself was pure Pete Dye; uneven lies abound and tough shots to tough greens. A decent run mid-round meant I came home with a serviceable 85 that could have easily been worse. The “signature hole” is 17, called Alcatraz and similar to 17 at Sawgrass (island green…this time with rocks surrounding the green and no alligators). Missed shots will find one of many large mounds and humps- assuring one of a an awkward stance for a second shot. The fifth hole is very similar to 16 at Sawgrass with water along the right side. If you go, bring your patience and your accuracy.
My third round was at the Nicklaus Tournament course…if you’re a fan of Nicklaus’ design work you’ll love it- generous fairways, elevated tees and greens and large greens with undulation are in abundance along with false fronts. Not my favorite of the bunch but in immaculate condition. However, there was a decent variety of length (I’m not a big fan playing what appears to be the same hole on four or five occasions in a round). If ever a course “looked” like Nicklaus work, this would be it. To be fair I wasn’t feeling at my best the day I played it, so perhaps a second round might lead one to think otherwise. Again…I cannot speak enough to how good the conditions were; among the best I’ve ever seen.
I didn’t get a chance to play the Norman Course; a repeat visit would find this at the top of my wish list.
Close by and en route from La Quinta to PGA West is Silver Rock resort; a couple locals I ran into spoke well of it; consider it added to my list for next time.