Into the Swing

Delight in luxurious golf clubs without ever setting foot on the greens



Couples find an inviting ambiance in front of a fire pit at the PGA West clubhouse in La Quinta.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK DAVIDSON

Cocktail camaraderie, restaurants with a view, big-game sports-viewing parties, free Wi-Fi, live music and theater, and even bingo put golf clubs on par with top-notch desert action. Best of all, you don’t have to know a birdie from an eagle — or even be a member — to partake of the posh pleasures and casual relaxation at Coachella Valley golf and country clubs. Here are a few suggestions: 

Escena Golf Club
1100 Clubhouse View Dr
Palm Springs, CA 92260
760-778-2737

Midcentury modern-inspired architecture (gigantic swizzle sticks sprout through circular skylights) and sweeping views of the San Jacinto Mountains make Escena Golf Club a hit with modernism fans. Get cozy in multiple seating areas throughout the glass-walled restaurant/bar, from sofas fronting the ultra-modern fireplace to bar-height tables; a lengthy, curving cocktail bar; and outside patio tables. Sunday brunch features unlimited champagne, creative fare such as eggs tenderloin, prime rib hash, and crab cakes Benedict. Breakfast and lunch are daily; dinner is served Thursday through Saturday.

For the best views, “ask for a table in the 50s, when you make meal reservations,” says Elise Arouh, director of food and beverage. “These are the patio tables with nearly 360-degree views.” Prix-fixe dinners and monthly wine-pairing dinners through October and “golf clinic dinner” packages through September (in case you want to learn to play) add to the sizzle. Free Wi-Fi, a private dining/meeting room for up to 25 people, and an event lawn for weddings and parties round out the scene.

Indian Canyons Golf Resort
1097 E Murray Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92264
760-327-6550

Martinis during happy hour (all day until 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday) are a perfect way to savor the old-school charm of 1960s Palm Springs at Indian Canyons’ North Course Clubhouse — designed in 1961 by midcentury modern star architect Donald Wexler. True believers thrill to the sight of the pointy, rocket ship-like porte cochere.

Inside, little has changed. The huge split-level dining room (home to Leon’s Bar & Grill) recalls the sophistication of a vintage supper club. Endless floor-to-ceiling windows bring the emerald fairways and San Jacinto Mountains right to your table or your seat at the airy bar. Patio dining is practically on the greens. Smaller seating areas include a lounge-like library, with black and white glossies of Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, and other celebrities who played here, and a private dining/board room for up to 50.

Enjoy lunch and dinner daily and Sunday brunch with all the classics. Breakfast and lunch also are served daily at Leon’s at the Canyon, across the street in the contemporary-style South Course Clubhouse. Afterward, work off the calories in the fully equipped gym (Nautilus equipment) or get a haircut (men only) at the barbershop, both at the North Course Clubhouse. For functions, the Wexler-designed clubhouse accommodates up to 300. 

Desert Princess Country Club
28555 Landau Blvd
Cathedral City, CA 92234
760-322-1655

Desert Princess Country Club offers live shows, theme parties, bingo, bridge games, a book club, tennis, a spa, and a gym. “We welcome the public to join in all our activities,” says John Beachnau, director of food and beverage. “Wednesday-night bingo is our most popular activity,” he enthuses. “Guests enjoy a $12.95 buffet dinner and 90 minutes of rip-roaring bingo, for prizes.” Because a couple hundred players crowd the casual, 1980s-style, glass-walled dining/event room, Beachnau is planning a second, Sunday-night bingo session this fall.
 
The annual season-opening party, with dancing to a live band and a magic show by Jeff Parmer, kicks off next season’s party agenda, which includes a casino night for prizes, country western night with a personality from the local country music radio station, and Halloween party with activities for kids. Weekly bridge games and the First Tuesday Book Club meet in the Master’s Lounge, which doubles as a casual venue for meetings and events for up to 60. The main room is available for weddings and functions for up to 250. Happy hour runs 3 to 6 p.m. daily in the casual bar overlooking the greens, and Wi-Fi is free all day. 
 
Tennis buffs can play on 10 courts ($15 an hour) and take lessons with tennis pro Charlie Moore. The athletic club gym ($10 day use) features Precor and Matrix machines, free weights, and more; and a recently redone spa includes an outdoor lap pool, Jacuzzi, and four treatment rooms, including a couple’s room. 

Desert Willow Golf Resort

38995 Desert Willow Drive
Palm Desert, CA 92260
760-346-0015 

If jazz with a view, fine art, and global affairs are your thing, head to Desert Willow Golf Resort. A large Dale Chihuly glass installation wows first-time visitors as they walk into the spacious, boldly contemporary lobby. Right behind it, the open terrace and endless windows of the airy bar and restaurant open onto an amazing view of the fairways, lakes, oasis-like clusters of Washingtonian palms, and Little San Bernardino Mountains. “It’s as if someone pulled down a movie-set backdrop of the desert,” says Euca Burrows White, director of catering.

Monthly music under the stars, including the Jazz Night Concert Series (and perhaps new country western and world music nights, according to Burrows White), will add to the glorious scene beginning January 2011. On a serious note, news junkies can get their fix on global affairs and economics at weekly Morris Beschloss luncheons.

The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch daily and Sunday brunch. “The corn chowder with jumbo prawns is a favorite,” says Burrows White. Patio seating is so popular that the terrace is being doubled in size to seat 250. Cocktails are poured daily until 7 p.m.
 
Several function rooms, an event lawn, and the terrace welcome weddings and events for up to 400. “Evening functions have the clubhouse to themselves, because we don’t serve dinner,” Burrows White notes.

Classic Club
75200 Classic Club Blvd.
Palm Desert, CA 92211
760-601-3600

Mediterranean-style grandeur of the Classic Club makes it a great spot to transform everyday meals and cocktails into special occasions — and get a free shoeshine in the process. Walk into the mansion-like lobby (valet parking is free) and you’ll feel the posh vibe of lofty ceilings and plush seating around a Euro-style fireplace. The fine-dining Bellatrix Restaurant, off the lobby, is equally grand, with French windows opening onto the terrace for outdoor dining overlooking the golf course. Or take a seat at the dark-wood bar.

Daily happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m., includes $3 wines by the glass, $4 meatball sliders, and $5 burgers and garlic fries. Lunch is served daily, and dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday. Wine-pairing dinners and special holiday menus add to the enjoyment.

Downstairs in the coffee shop, “Miguel’s famous breakfast burritos” top the menu of daily breakfast favorites, says Greg Rubino, general manager.
 
A free shoeshine for all guests is another perk (ask to be directed to the “Shoe Room”).

The club is also available for weddings and other events for up to 250 inside and 450 outside.   

IW Club
44500 Indian Wells Lane
Golf Resort at Indian Wells
Indian Wells, CA 92210
760-346-4653

The play’s the thing — along with shopping and schmoozing — at the IW Club at Indian Wells Golf Resort. This fall, the PlayHouse at Indian Wells (formerly La Quinta Playhouse) celebrates its second season of dinner theater here. Upcoming shows include Scenes from the Bard: Shakespeare on the Lawn, Nov. 19; For Lovers Only, featuring romantic music and entertainment, Feb. 14 and March 19, 2011; and Murder on the Back Nine, an original play by JoAnn Reeves, the company’s artistic director, who describes it as “a ridiculously funny spoof on interactive murder mysteries.”
 
High-end shopping is eclectically delightful at the IW shop, which sports an El Paseo-like collection of women’s, children’s, and men’s wear (in addition to golf items). Cocktail frocks, killer handbags, jeans, men’s shirts by Robert Graham, and women’s wear by Mac & Jac are among the retail finds. “I always check the shop for new items,” says Paula Klein, managing director of the PlayHouse at Indian Wells.

The clubhouse’s avant-garde architecture, designed in a two-story swirl of pale woods, marble floors, and expansive views of the golf course and Santa Rosa Mountains, provides a variety of gathering spots — from sleek sofas and plush cocktail and dining-room seating to sunny patio tables. Breakfast bites (egg sandwiches and pastries) and Starbucks coffee are available daily in the IW Café. Upstairs, California fresh cuisine is served in the fine dining IW Restaurant. The happening happy hour attracts a chic crowd from 3 to 6 p.m. at the upstairs IW Bar and patio.

For private events, the ballroom and several sumptuously decorated smaller rooms welcome up to 350 people.  

PGA West Golf Club and Resort
55955 PGA Boulevard
La Quinta, CA 92253
760-564-7123

Tommy Bahama merchandise, a most elegant sports bar, and championship views provide a delightful time for nongolfers at the PGA West Tournament Clubhouse. More than a golf shop, the sizable boutique is an upscale gift-buyer’s paradise. The Tommy Bahama collection includes men’s and women’s apparel, home décor, and whimsical You Can Toucan Lounge cocktail essentials. You’ll also find vineyard-themed wine glasses and pottery, cribbage boards, luggage, scented candle diffusers, greeting cards (golf-themed, but they’re cute), and stuffed toys and apparel for kids in what salesman Mark Ericks calls, “the “grandma and grandpa section.” The Market Café is a great source for gourmet olive oils, wines, and cheeses. 

The shop conveniently opens into the spacious refinement of Ernie’s Bar and Grill, which sports a classic dark-wood-and-brass interior and a large terrace overlooking the famous TPC Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses. Cocktailers begin gathering in sofas and chairs around outdoor fire pits by 3 p.m., the beginning of happy hour (which continues until 6 p.m.).  On Fridays, Primetime on The Plaza begins at 4 p.m. with the John Stanley King Band; the Smooth Brothers take over at 7 p.m. and play until 10 p.m.

Inside, low- and high-top tables, roomy booths, and “gastro-pub” fare offer sophisticated cheer. Large, flat-screen TVs keep sports hounds entertained and make the annual Super Bowl party a hit. The golf course-view ballroom accommodates parties up to 113, while the private dining room (with its own flat-screen TV) is perfect for up to 27. The entire facility can host private events for up to 419.

Indian Springs Golf & Country Club
79940 Westward Ho
Indio, CA 92201
760-200-8988

For sports-bar camaraderie, Turbo’s Tavern & Grille at Indian Springs Golf Club is a welcome spot. If televised sports are on, “we’ve got it,” says Tom “Turbo” Sullivan, who opened Turbo’s a year ago after 30 years of managing country clubs throughout the desert. Nine large, flat-screen TVs line the cheery clubhouse room, which is divided into a dining area and lounge, with a semicircular sunken bar and low and bar-height tables, all backed by glass walls overlooking the fairways. Dodger pennants fly from the ceiling; neon beer signs light up the walls; and autographed footballs, NBA balls, baseballs, golf caps, and photos of golf pros fill the space. Pool tables and air hockey table games add to the fun.
 
Entertainment includes Friday-night karaoke and, beginning in September, show tunes by Rodeo Drive. Lunch is served daily and dinner on Friday and Saturday. Both feature family favorites, including barbecue, Mexican dishes, pasta, fried chicken, and a children’s menu. Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. daily.
 
The clubhouse and event lawn are available for parties and weddings of up to 120 people.

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