Sure, you know about the valley’s wealth of Big Boy courses because you’ve played them, read about them, seen them advertised or watched the pros tackle them on television.
But among the vast amount of Coachella Valley golf courses are surely a host of public plays that you have overlooked.
Here are 10 of my favorites that are worthy of exploration for all levels of players. I’ve listed the courses alphabetically.
Desert Dunes Golf Club
Want to play a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course? Well, the Coachella Valley’s lone public RTJ2 design is found in Desert Hot Springs, where Desert Dunes charts among the region’s most unique plays. Yes, the winds can blow out there on occasion. But on calm days, enjoy the wealth of nature and solitude on a course sporting a wealth of getable pars for the strong wedge player. 1900 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs, 760-251-5370, desertdunesgc.com
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY DESERT FALLS COUNTRY CLUB
Desert Falls offers a host of challenging, fun holes, combined with some tricky greens.
Desert Falls Country Club
Located in the heart of Country Club Drive’s, well, country clubs, this Ron Fream-designed Palm Desert play catches many off-guard. While many community-style courses from this era can cater to a higher-handicap crowd, Desert Falls offers a host of challenging, fun holes, combined with some tricky greens. 1111 Desert Falls Parkway, Palm Desert, 760-340-5646, desert-falls.com
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PGA WEST
The Greg Norman Course at PGA West has minimal turf.
Greg Norman Course at PGA West
Oftentimes overshadowed by its more famed sister courses, the Norman plays with minimal turf and maximum tranquility. Set apart from the bustle of the PGA WEST Tournament clubhouse, the Norman routes with decomposed granite (the “DG”), which is a style of play desert golfers may well want to become familiar with sooner than later, as the next decade’s water restriction will no doubt find more courses angling to play with less green and more brown. 81405 Kingston Heath, La Quinta, 760-564-3900, pgawest.com
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY HAWK’S LANDING
This 12-hole course makes it a quick play with plenty of challenges.
Situated about 30-minutes from Palm Springs up in the cooler-environs of Yucca Valley, this 12-hole course (with a great driving range) makes a fun and fast play. The 6-hole loops drawn at Hawk’s also speak to the future of golf, as the game’s time constraints have been driving players away in recent years; but up at Hawk’s, time really flies, making it a great stop to swoop over a 6-, 12- or 18-hole day. 55100 Martinez Trail, Yucca Valley, 760-365-0033, hawkslandinggolf.com
Mountain Vista Sun City
This is where my Pop and I generally duel, enjoying matches across the twin Billy Casper-designed courses which offer really, really generous landing areas from the tee and are always in top playing condition. I also tell folks these two courses make for an excellent stop to get a desert golf vacation underway, as continually finding your tee ball in playable grass (aided by bowled fairways) makes for a great confidence builder. 38180 Del Webb Blvd., Palm Desert, 760-200-2200, mountainvistagolfclub.com
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OMNI RANCHI LAS PALMAS
Omni Rancho Las Palmas offers a trio of nine-holf courses.
Omni Rancho Las Palmas
A trio of Ted Robinson-designed nine-hole courses define Rancho Las Palmas, where I’ve long enjoyed taking guests over the years. Personally, these courses always seem to fit my eye and I just seem to score well here, as the 9s really dial-in iron requirements and promote careful, club-down study from the tees. As for those guests, my valley visitors always have fun, where high-handicappers aren’t overly-penalized and single-digit players contend with needed accuracy on a host of the 27 holes. 41000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, 760-568-2727, omnirancholaspalmas.com
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SHADOW MOUNTAIN GOLF CLUB
Shadow Mountain Golf Club offers a test of wedge and flat stick play.
Shadow Hills North Course
I just recently checked-out this 18-hole, par-3 play for the first time and was really impressed. This isn’t just a pitch-and-putt. The course has some muscle in distance along with a host of hazards along the way. A super fun play that I’ll be returning to soon, especially when I feel the need to dial-in my lofted irons. 81-240 Sun City Blvd..m, Indio, 760-625-1534, shadowhillsgolfclub.com
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SHADOW MOUNTAIN GOLF CLUB
A Gene Sarazen design lined with palm trees.
Shadow Mountain Golf Club
One of a mere handful of designs from the great Gene Sarazen, I really dig this 5,400-yard par-70 track with about 700 mature palms and surprisingly undulated green structures. Classic green-to-tee segues support a timely round that proves a fine test of wedge and flat stick play throughout. 73-800 Ironwood St., Palm Desert, 760-346-8242, shadowmtgc.com
The Lights at Indio Golf Course
We’ve enjoyed mentioning this course before, which offers the valley’s only night-lit golf along with a burgeoning FootGolf scene. Akin to Shadow Hills, this par-3 course asks for more than a wedge and putter and always proves tougher than first-timers think. And just as Shadow (or Rancho Las Palmas) makes for excellent 7- or 8-iron refinement, The Lights will really shine on the strong 5- or 6-iron player. Playing at over 3,000 yards, this is one of the longest par-3 courses in the country, sporting seven holes at 179 yards or longer. 83040 Avenue 42, Indio, 760-391-4049, indiogolf.com
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY WOODHAVEN COUNTRY CLUB
The fifth hole at Woodhaven.
Woodhaven Country Club
You’ve probably driven past the Palm Desert club on Washington and Hovley on hundreds of occasions. Next time you’re seeking a round – stop in. A shorter, par-70 design with an array of fun and strategic holes, Woodhaven has a way of squeezing you from the tees . . . making your next round at one of the lengthy, wide open Big Daddy tracks seem all the more inviting from the box. 41-555 Woodhaven Drive East, Palm Desert, 760-345-7636, woodhavencc.com