The next time you’re flying over Greater Palm Springs, take a look out the window—left or right side, it doesn’t matter. There’s a whole lot of green in “arid” California, no? Well, upwards of 100 golf courses will do that to a desert. Daunting? Nah. We’ve taken the liberty of winnowing through it all for you.
Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert
Two stellar courses, a great restaurant, a practice facility about the size of Newfoundland and a cure-what-ails-you golf academy and club-fitting centre make this the most complete golf experience in the desert. The showstopper is Firecliff, which is a top-tier golf course dressed in enough greenery and flowers to disavow whatever thoughts you had about the desert and horticulture. And the Mountain View course would be the alpha male at most any other golf property—generous fairways, challenging par-3s and two reachable par-5s.
Notable: This is a public facility, as in city-owned—wow.
TPC Stadium Course, PGA West, La Quinta
Once famous for kicking around the world’s best, Stadium, nearly 30 years after opening, almost feels like an old high school chum. Sure, it will knock silly anyone having too many Macho Meals for breakfast and playing it too far back—or anyone with the crookeds. Yet designer Pete Dye put more room out here than he reveals from the tee. Keep that in mind when surveying all the water, 25-foot-deep bunkers and Himalayan mounds.
Notable: Lee Trevino aced the par-3 island 17th during the 1987 Skins Game, then scampered about before leaping into his caddie’s arms.
Resort Course, Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, Palm Springs
Tahquitz is what many hold up as quintessential “Palm Springs golf.” With views of Mt. San Jacinto, a carpet of green rolled out in every direction, the shock-white bunkers played off against waterfalls, babbling creeks and swaying palms, it is understandable. Geography gets some of the credit, but the bulk goes to the late Ted Robinson, the master designer of eye-candy golf. Being close to the airport only adds to the attraction.
Notable: Tahquitz is a nearby canyon sacred to the Cahuilla tribe, and the setting for the iconic Jane Wyatt-on-the-horse-above-the-waterfall-scene in Lost Horizon.
Classic Club, Palm Desert
Classic is different because it was designed to be different; a course that could accommodate tour play—for several years it was the host course to the Humana Challenge—and the rest of us the rest of the year. What makes it cool is how open and flowing the course is, with horizontal and vertical lines revealing bends and rises (and mountains beyond) instead of condos or urban distractions. Call it organic.
Notable: With nary a palm, this is not your typical desert golf.
Desert Dunes Golf Club, Desert Hot Springs
Desert Dunes is a sleeper in the sense that not enough people know about it, and it retains its solid bones from the day when Robert Trent Jones Jr. first sketched out its comely design. But, with a Canadian investment group—that includes Grant Fuhr—in place since 2009, the neglect and ennui of a succession of previous owners is long gone, so we get conditioning and service now, as well. The course is draped across a magical sandscape of rolls and hummocks, bracketed in mesquite thickets.
Notable: The nearby wind turbines give a hint to one of this course’s challenges.
Getting There: WestJet flies to Palm Springs 32 times a week from five Canadian cities.