Golf in Palm Springs, California

by Country Inns & Suites
Thursday, September 9, 2010

We’ve asked our golf writer to share his insights into the world-class course in Palm Springs, California. This year, while the pros compete elsewhere, grab your clubs and head to one of the world’s best courses to play an unforgettable round of your own.  ByLarry Olmsted

“Take Bob Hope to Gerald Ford, then turn onto Dinah Shore”—only in Palm Springs can you get directions like these. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, along with U.S. presidents, comedians and movie stars, have helped make Palm Springs the golf choice of the celebrity jet set. They come for the same reasons you should: great weather, endless dining options and a ton of good golf courses. Of these, the highlight is the Greg Norman course at PGA West. It’s one of the few public courses in the cart-crazed region that offer the opportunity to walk and take caddies. Visitors might be surprised to find most area courses here quite lush, with ample water turning everything bright green, but the Norman course reflects Palm Springs’ desert climate, with just 65 acres of turf, a third of what most courses boast. In between you will find vast waste areas flanking the fairways and 120 bunkers filled with decomposed granite, a gleaming white sand so bright, powdery and expensive it is also called desert gold. Artfully planted desert flora—65,000 plants in all—completes the beautiful picture.

While the scant fairways and large expanses of sand can be fear-inducing, it is Norman’s style to make his courses playable for all abilities, and he does this by making it tough to lose a ball, using the desert to contain errant shots that might find the woods on other courses. Minimal rough, especially around the greens, makes this a great choice for players with a deft putting and chipping touch. But you still need some power, especially on the par-5 eighth, which for most players will stretch 600 yards (it’s even longer from the tips) and is flanked with a lake down the right side, in play on every shot. By comparison, the par-4 11th is quite short, just 308 yards, taunting big hitters to go for it over a minefield of pot bunkers.

As a golf destination, the greater Palm Springs region actually includes several towns, such as Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells and La Quinta, each with a distinct personality and many choices for golf, shopping and dining. Palm Springs itself is the most urban, with an old downtown pedestrian zone overflowing with dining and nightlife options, such as Las Casuelas Terrazas, a 31-year-old, family-owned Mexican restaurant featuring excellent food, a menu of gourmet tequilas and live music. The area’s pricey tee times can be booked for much less at the last minute by visiting Stand-By Golf.

Author Bio: Golf writer Larry Olmsted is the author of Golf Travel By Design and has appeared as a golf expert on NBC television, ESPN and CBS radio, and MSN.com.