First Takes - Bird's Eye View

Bird’s-Eye View

Hot-as-summer golf course architect Tom Doak and visitors to Stone Eagle Golf Club in Palm Desert — his first course in California — have the same reaction: They’ve never seen anything like it.

Doak likens his first impression of the property to stepping onto the face of Mars: rocky, rugged, and reddish in hue. “I knew right away that it would be the most complicated project we would ever build, but that it had the potential to be the most thrilling course in the desert,” he writes in the yardage guide. Thrilling it is, with steep hills and deep ravines — secluded so well from the outside world that many drive by along Highway 74 none the wiser.

layers are meant to get lost in the course’s visual drama and natural beauty. A rewarding hike up to the first tee, which sits a majestic 1,000 feet above the valley floor, opens into views the likes of which professionals don’t even see on the PGA Tour. The course is distraction-free, unhindered by views of roads, the clubhouse, nor any of the 44 homes that will make up the residential aspect of Stone Eagle. Anything that isn’t a green sits well below the course. As a signature touch, Doak playfully tacked on a par-3 19th hole to settle a tied match or to play for the first round of post-round drinks.

Those looking for great golf needn’t be Stone Eagle homeowners. They don’t even need to live nearby. The club’s “national membership” caters to players outside the area by offering 21 days of golf in prime season and unlimited play the rest of the year. Having drawn emphasis away from becoming a social-scene country club and refusing to crowd hundreds of homes around a course, the focus is purely the game itself. Stone Eagle becomes an ideal place for a group of golf fanatics to hole up for the weekend and play like they mean it. If they happen to own one of the luxurious 3,700-square-foot villas on the course, all the better.

Though Stone Eagle officially opened last fall, the club “reopened” this November with the completed restaurant Aerie. Members and guests appreciate a menu of all-American cuisine and a bird’s-eye view of the 18th hole.
The entire project was respectfully carried out with permission from the City of Palm Desert. Stone Eagle President and CEO Ted Lennon also serves as president of the Friends of Desert Mountains and put environmental soundness and sensitivity at the forefront of the project’s evolution. No wonder rumors of forthcoming awards for the course have spread far and wide, like the views on Hole 17. Standing in the tee box, a player can see — in addition to panoramic views of the valley — part of every hole on the course.

— Lisa Marie Rovito

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