Tag: palm springs area

Giving Thanks in 2017

Being able to play in the desert is always worth giving thanks.

Being able to play in the desert is always worth giving thanks.

It’s been a few weeks since I updated my blog; after returning from the desert a few weeks ago, things have been less than ideal on several levels.  I’ll spare you the details, but it’s been the things that nobody should ever have to endure.  If you’d have told me on October 25th after getting up and down for a 79 that I wouldn’t touch a club at all in November I’d have thought you were crazy (I guess it’s for the best that the weather has been uncooperative).

So it’s from there that I wanted to pause for a moment and offer up some holiday thanks (since this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US; if you’re curious She Who Is Really In Charge and I will be having a quiet dinner) to some people in the golf world who deserve it.

To the LPGA, thanks for providing a blueprint on how to grow the game and engage fans.  It’s a travesty that all four rounds of their Tour Championship this past weekend weren’t being shown live on TV (bump it to USA Network or MSNBC if needed; surely a bunch of USA Network reruns of NCIS and whatever “Prison Lockup” show MSNBC is showing could be bumped to show live golf).

To the USGA and the R&A, thank you for making progress towards simplifying the rules.  I still argue that bifurcation is the way forward with the rules (and equipment) but you’re making an effort.

To all of the local maintenance staffs, superintendents, starters and people who work at golf courses, thank you.  Profusely.  While it’s all good and well to thank the local teaching professionals (and they do great work), if you didn’t have maintenance people doing what they do at zero dark hour things wouldn’t be that much fun for us.  They get next to no credit and blamed for pretty much anything and everything.  Yes, putting on punched greens isn’t fun but it’s punching them that keeps them in great shape.

To Golf Channel, thanks for ensuring I never go more than a week or so without a rerun of the Golf Movie Trinity (Caddyshack, Tin Cup, Bagger Vance).  Can you maybe air the unedited/non-condensed versions after 11pm?  Just a request (and while we’re at it, could you possibly acquire the rights to Dead Solid Perfect which remains the greatest golf movie nobody’s ever seen).

To Alan Shipnuck, thanks for writing a terribly-sourced piece of click-bait on the supposed impending dominance of the Americans in the Ryder Cup.  A US team that has exactly one win on European soil in 35 years (I distinctly remember reading about how the Americans were going to be dominant with Tiger as their anchor; didn’t quite work out that way) should probably avoid talk of a dynasty just yet.  I’m not saying the US doesn’t have what could potentially be a great core of the team, but things happen (Anthony Kim anyone?).  Call me old fashioned but i prefer to actually WIN before pounding my chest.  And while it’s all good and well to point out what a folly it was to have Tom Watson captain the 2014 side I remember reading dozens of pieces about how he’d be the steady hand on the tiller (didn’t quite work out that way).  I also read stories galore about US dominance before the 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012 matches.

Thanks to the PGA Tour for doing your dead-level best to ensure the DMV doesn’t have a tour stop anytime soon.  The level of support the events here get despite every attempt to let them fail is nothing short of amazing.  The weather issues this event has dealt with (going back to the old Kemper Open days) look like end-of-days stuff.  And yet, people come out in droves to volunteer, buy tickets, attend events, and watch with amazement.

Thanks to our local golf retailers for continuing to fail to stock my size in clothing and footwear and saving me from having to fight traffic in hopes of finding something.  When you wonder “why is retail dying?” see me quietly buying stuff online because I literally don’t have any other options.  When the inevitable fail happens, a lot of good and decent people will lose their jobs as a result.  Please start catering to a wider audience.  Or don’t.  I can literally update my blog and buy a pair of shoes at the same time while enjoying a couple scotches.

To my friend Real Name Redacted, thanks for putting up with my admitted insanity and more-than-occasional OCD behavior (I could write 500 words about tee colour, towel usage and why #2 balls are bad luck and that’s not even my top 5) as we trek all over the DMV to play golf (I may seem normal, but I’m most decidedly not).  It’s been fun seeing you go from curious enthusiast to full-blown addict and putting a unique spin on the Circle of Trust.

Photo from GNNstore.com

Somebody’s Christmas gift available at gnnstore.com

To my putters who’ve endured unspeakable insults and threats, thank you for not rising up in the middle of the night to attack me.  If having conversations with my putters and giving them rum and cigars is wrong, then maybe I don’t want to be right.  Worked for Cerrano in ‘Major League’ so why not, I say.

This may or may not be me before I tee off, trying to wake up my putter.

This may or may not be me before I tee off, trying to wake up my putter.

To all the people who are on Golfchat on Twitter on Tuesday nights, thanks for sharing your insights, opinions, and perspectives.  It’s interesting to hear from other people and learn from their experiences on this game we all love.  We may not agree on every issue but it from hearing each other, maybe we learn something we didn’t fully understand prior.

Best wishes for an enjoyable Thanksgiving if that’s your thing; otherwise thanks as always for reading.

SONG OF THE DAY

For a lot of reasons, this song always brings me back to a happier place.  I’ll pause from my current state of affairs to give thanks, and one small reason is this song which brings a lot of happy memories.

 

The Other “Other” Palm Springs (a travel review)

 

It's a school!  No, it's the clubhouse at the Gary Player Course!

It’s a school! No, it’s the clubhouse at the Gary Player Course!

When She Who Is Really In Charge (SWIRIC) and I booked an October vacation in Palm Springs, we (meaning me) didn’t know that October was prime Overseeding Season in the desert (hat tip to Larry Bohannon of the Desert Sun for this piece about it).  But, with plane tickets and hotel booked, we decided to go forward with our vacation and hopes for making the best of it.

It also posed a challenge; could a self-admitted golf junkie (me) find a decent variety of places to play while SWIRIC enjoyed non-golf activities (she has zero desire to take up the game but encourages my addiction)?  Could we do this and eat well (while holding to our vacation rule of “no chains, nothing we couldn’t get at home)?  The answer, I’m happy to say, was yes.  Very much yes.  With over 100 courses in the area and most, it seemed, were overseeding, it took some work but I was able to book a decent variety of courses over our stay that were all in good shape, and we ate and vacationed far better than expected.

There are multiple options if you’re flying in from out of the area like we did, but we found the option that worked best for us was flying into LAX Airport (San Diego, Ontario, Orange County, Long Beach and Palm Springs airports are also good options when looking for flights).   Other than flying into Palm Springs (off-season flight availability is VERY limited) you’ll definitely need a car (LAX, Orange County and San Diego are all a 2 hour drive (or more with traffic) to Palm Springs).

Day 1

In-N-Out lunch al fresco. Oh hell yes.

In-N-Out lunch al fresco. Oh hell yes.

The drive into Palm Springs left me a bit tired especially after being rather cramped during our flight from the east coast.  We stopped for lunch at In-N-Out (the only chain we’ll eat at because it’s not available on the East Coast) along the way.  We stayed at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in Indian Wells (they have one of the largest pools in the area and it’s right off highway 111).  After checking in we went to the pool to relax and take a dip (being Saturday it looked like a lot of Southern Californians had made the trek).  Dinner was at the Cork & Fork in La Quinta, a wine bar with a nice mix of small bites, a few pizzas, and some entrees.  I had their fennel sausage pizza (quite good and definitely rather filling), SWIRIC had their scallops in risotto, and we enjoyed a fantastic Spanish cava (until very recently I had never really been one for sparkling wine; then I got introduced to the good stuff and now I’ve come around).  Suffice to say, Cork & Fork is highly recommended.

Day 2

From the 2nd hole fairway at Desert Willow. I love this place.

From the 2nd hole fairway at Desert Willow. I love this place.

My first day of hitting the links meant a visit to Desert Willow Golf Resort; as I learned they had one course (the Mountain View) shut down for overseeding along with their range but the Firecliff course was open.  Playing early it was a bit brisk at first (the other members of my foursome were all in sweaters and jackets) before warming up very quickly and becoming hot.   The course was nothing short of outstanding and was in good shape; greens were definitely quick and fairways were pure.  I played with a couple from Vancouver and a local who seemed a bit displeased they had changed the colours of the tee boxes (they now have black, purple, lavender, tan and green tee boxes).  Like many courses, they’ve gone to a combo set which gives them an additional set of tees without doing anything.  The Firecliff course has a nice variety of holes; in addition they had ice water stations on the course in addition to a beverage cart which we saw once on each side.  All the carts have GPS which really helped a lot since I didn’t know the course at all (not that it helped my scorecard).

18th hole at Desert Willow. Fantastic finishing hole on a great course.

18th hole at Desert Willow. Fantastic finishing hole on a great course.

Lunch was at Guillermo’s; your basic Mexican fare done really well.  My tacos were exactly what I wanted and were flavorful.  After an afternoon at the pool where I got a Charley horse cramp in my calf (I did everything I could to not scream every profanity I know to the mountains at full volume which would have probably upset the large throng of people at the pool), we went to Eureka which was 5 minutes away (in Indian Wells).  If you’re looking for really good burgers, it’s definitely worth a stop.  The fried mac & cheese balls were delicious (highly recommended as a starter) as was their clear lemonade (honestly I’d go back for the mac & cheese balls and the clear lemonade).  If you want something with more of a bite, they have a great beer & whiskey selection (I was trying to hydrate myself so I had to decline that sweet delicious beer on offer).

Day 3

Monday left me hobbled (getting old sucks) so I had to cancel my round at Indian Wells; with the one course open only doing cart path only, I knew my calf wouldn’t hold up (I was still hobbling and having a fair bit of trouble with it), but using the GolfNow app on my phone I booked a round the next day at Cimarron Golf Resort in Cathedral City.  Lunch on Monday was at Elmer’s in Palm Springs.  Elmer’s is a chain based in the Pacific Northwest (as I found out later) but we didn’t know going in.  My omelet with peppers, onions and Tillamook cheese was perfect, while SWIRIC had the house specialty in the form of a German style pancake the size of a hubcap.  It was actually more crepe-like in thickness.  The place seemed to have a good mix of locals and tourists which typically bodes well.

Monday afternoon we did a bit of sightseeing.  I’ve a huge fan of the mid-century architecture that is very prevalent in the Palm Springs area.  While I did take a few photos, in the interest of privacy I’m not going to post them here out of respect to the people who live there.

Playing Fabulous Bingo at the Ace Hotel.  I did not win.  I hang head and feel shame.

Playing Fabulous Bingo at the Ace Hotel. I did not win. I hang head and feel shame.

Monday night’s dinner was at Kings Highway at the Ace Hotel, but in truth we were there for Fabulous Bingo, because who doesn’t want to play Bingo hosted by a drag queen?  This may not be your thing, but it was fun, and that’s the point.  It’s definitely a younger, more hip crowd but we had fun (they do a trivia night later on if Bingo isn’t your thing).

Day 4

Tuesday started with a trek out to Cathedral City to Cimarron Golf Resort (I played the Boulder course while the Pebble course was being over-seeded).  I’ll be honest- I booked the round last minute after canceling my Monday round due to my calf problem so I didn’t really know what to expect.  The course was in good shape (fairways and roughs were VERY green); the greens were slow but otherwise rolled true.  My only complaint was that the GPS system was down so the cart GPS was pointless.  To that point there’s no yardage markers, poles, sticks, or sprinkler-heads.  So if you play here, make sure you bring a rangefinder or a GPS device.  I did like that they had a cooler on the cart filled with ice (on a very hot day this helped quite a bit).

11th hole at Cimarron Golf Resort. Straight and long is good.

11th hole at Cimarron Golf Resort. Straight and long is good.  Overseeding is done.

Tuesday lunch was a real treat as we headed to Indio to TKB Bakery & Deli.  What if I told you the best damn sandwich you can eat in the area is at a place in an industrial park that’s not exactly easy to find?  It’s true.  I had the pastrami (it’s a great representation of what I’d call California style pastrami so New Yorkers may not like it (I’ll eat it if you don’t want it)), SWIRIC had the meatloaf sandwich.  Both came on a jalapeno/cheddar roll and both were beyond delicious (and huge).  Okay, so the dining room isn’t exactly the lap of luxury but who cares?  Forget about that and focus on that sandwich because it’s out of this damn world.  This place is most definitely on the ‘must have’ list when I return.

With Tuesday’s lunch being rather filling, we opted out of going to the Sagauro Hotel for Taco Tuesday (we went last time and it was outstanding) and instead went to Flor de Jalisco in Palm Desert (the link is to their Yelp page; they don’t have a website) for simple but well done Mexican.  My fajitas were exactly what I wanted, and SWIRIC’s chicken mole was good.

Day 4

2nd hole at the Gary Player Signature Course.

2nd hole at the Gary Player Signature Course.  The shadow to the right is me.

On our final full day in the desert, I started with a round at the Gary Player Signature Course at the Westin Mission Hills.  It was a bit longer of a drive than Google Maps said it would be (the course isn’t at the resort but a 5-10 minute drive from there), but it was worth the trip.  Very impressed with the layout; a nice mix of holes in a classic desert setting.  Fairways were fairly generous; greens rolled true.  Not quite as hard as the Pete Dye course that was being overseeded, but still a good challenge with plenty of places to get into trouble.  The older couple I played with weren’t exactly speed demons (the ranger/player assistant asked me to politely ask them to pick up the pace which I found odd, but necessary).  Luckily I played about as well as I could hope for and parred the last 4 holes to card a 79.

18th hole at the Gary Player Course. A great finishing hole (

18th hole at the Gary Player Course. A great finishing hole (helps to par it for a 79)

After a visit to Footloose Reflexology for a massage (after 3 rounds in 4 days the foot massage felt pretty good), our last night was dinner at The Tonga Hut in downtown Palm Springs.  It’s a tiny space devoted to the Tiki culture that abounded.  If you want to enjoy well-made cocktails (think Mai Tai, Zombie, Blue Hawaii, Rum Punch and a Scorpion) and a better-than-it-needed-to-be pu-pu platter, this is the place.  We caught a break in that it was slow (the place gets quite busy on the weekends), but had a good time.

One caution if you go to Footloose; their “medium” pressure is pretty intense; I think “firm” pressure is them using bricks or something.  Still a worthy visit and felt good afterwards.

A delicious and well deserved Mai-Tai at the Tonga Hut.  Better have a few more.

A delicious and well deserved Mai-Tai at the Tonga Hut. Better have a few more.

So after 4 1/2 days in the desert, we ate well, had fun, logged a fair bit of pool time.  You don’t have to be a senior citizen nor do you have to be a 20-something in for the weekend to have a good time.  You can, and should visit and not just during their peak season (winter for us in the DMV).

La Quinta Golf Review

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.