Golf: A Spot of Tee in Palm Springs

The Club at PGA West in La Quinta features six championship golf courses

When golf vacationers say, "We're playing Palm Springs," what they really mean is they're teeing up in the Coachella Valley, which encompasses Palm Springs and other golf-crazy communities such as Palm Desert, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells and Indio.

With its rugged desert scenes and surprisingly lush, verdant fairways peppered with palm trees and framed by mountains, the Coachella Valley is home to more than 110 golf courses. A vacation destination for Hollywood A-listers since the 1920s, the area was later popularized to the dimple-ball set when golf lovers like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Dinah Shore moved to Palm Springs and played golf there regularly. Today, you might see Coachella Valley homeowners Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones roaming the fairways.

In recent years, marquee name golf designers like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg Norman and Pete Dye have fashioned a variety of exceptional resort, high-end daily fee and private golf courses that take full advantage of the intriguing terrain, 350 days of annual sunshine, low humidity and winter high temperatures that average in the 70s.

Before you plan a Palm Springs golf vacation, here are a few things you should consider:

-- High season is generally February through April, when the temperatures are cooler and the sun shines brightly.

-- Value season is June or July through September when temperatures rise and green fees go down (dates vary among courses). The absolute lowest fees are "Twilight Rates" during the summer months when discounts can be as much as 50 to 60 percent.

-- Green fees range from $75 to $200 for resort courses and $45 to $150 for public-access layouts.

-- The area is home to two outstanding professional tournaments for those who enjoy watching the best golfers in the world. The PGA Tour's Bob Hope Classic is played in January each year. In 2010, the courses included are PGA West, SilverRock Resort and La Quinta Country Club. The LPGA stages one of its "majors," the Kraft Nabisco Championship, in early April at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

Here's a menu of the some of the best golf courses in the Palm Springs area:


Recognized by several publications as one of the finest new public access golf courses in the United States, this Arnold Palmer design is one of the best deals in the Palm Springs area. An immaculate layout, maintained to near-Augusta National standards, the Classic Club golf course features excellent twilight rates (which vary per month). 75-200 Classic Club Blvd., Palm Desert. 760-601-3600.


Host site to the Bob Hope Classic, The Club at PGA West offers six private courses designed by some of the biggest names in golf, including Nicklaus, Palmer, Norman and Dye. The toughest and most menacing layout is the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, which plays host to the PGA Tour Qualifying School every other year. If you're a low handicapper, the Stadium course is a great test of skills. As a mid-handicapper, my favorite is the Norman course. I like the generous landing areas and the shaved collars, which allows you to putt even if you miss the green. Guests stay at the posh La Quinta Resort, part of the Waldorf-Astoria Collection. 55-955 PGA Blvd., La Quinta. 800-742-9378.


The Players Course at the classic Indian Wells Resort Hotel was founded in 1957 by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It's a personal favorite of mine because it provides a quintessential Palm Springs golf experience. As a "core golf" design, there are no roads, homes or intrusions into the course and each hole is configured in a way to create a feeling of isolation and escape. 76-661 Highway 111, Indian Wells. 760-345-6466.


Set against a backdrop of the snow-capped Santa Rosa Mountains, this under-publicized gem designed by Nick Faldo appeals on many levels. Lush fairways, spectacular mountain views, uniquely designed bunkers and subtle undulations in fairways and greens are at the heart of the golf experience. 9003 Shadow Ridge Road, Palm Desert. 760-674-2700.


With its carpet-like fairways, 20 acres of lakes and four waterfalls, this course is brimming with high-impact features. At first glance, it's intimidating. Luckily, it's easier than it looks. Designer Gary Player created generous landing areas for tee shots and the course is playable for mid-handicappers and weekend golfers. For those who want a step up in challenge, try the Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa's sister course designed by Pete Dye. 71333 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage. 760-328-3198.

Palm Springs Golf Vacation

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Vacation Travel - Golf: A Spot of Tee in Palm Springs