'I'm headed out to the desert. Where should I play?'
During a recent round with one guest, the conversation was further specified: "Alright, man; you've now taken me around to your favorite courses. But what are your favorite holes?"
After a thorough review of my own articles and notes over the years, I share the answer. Will these be your personal favorites or are these a definitive Top 5? Perhaps not. But in my countless hundreds of desert rounds, here are five holes from Palm Springs golf courses and around the Coachella Valley.
Love 'em or loathe 'em, here are five of my favorite tests in the Coachella Valley. (In no particular order)
Photo courtesy of Desert Willow Golf Resort
Desert Willow Golf Resort Firecliff Course, Hole 17.
Desert Willow Golf Resort Firecliff Course: Hole 17
This 204-yard par-3 is such a beautiful beast. While many course designs sport a little breather on 17 before a taut home hole, the Firecliff offers no such reprieve. Check out the visual intimidation of water and bunkering all along the right side. Wanna bail out? Then toss it in the horseshoe bunker on the left. Even from the white tees, this baby charts at 170-yards. This hole is gorgeous, but your card may not be as you head to 18.
Desert Willows Golf Resort, 38-995 Desert Willow Drive, Palm Desert, 760-346-0015, www.desertwillow.com
Photo courtesy of Indian Wells Players course
Indian Wells Players Course, Hole No. 7.
Indian Wells Players Course: Hole 7
Lots of choices for excellent holes at the Indian Wells Golf Resort, and please put me down for a runner-up entry on the short par-4 10th with mass bunkering mid-fairway. But it's tough to beat the Players' 456-yard par-4 sixth, which requires vision, imagination, and focus to play around the crescent lake water all along the left of the fairway.
Indian Wells Golf Resort, 44-500 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells, 760-346-4653, www.indianwellsgolfresort.com
VIDEO: Judd Spicer talks with Golf Professional Derrick Strub about how to play the 18th hole at Shadow Ridge Golf Club.
Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club: Hole 18
Not a home hole for the timid, the 446-yarder can turn a good round into a disaster thanks to a creek running all along the left-center of the fairway before fronting the green. Bailing out left toward the water isn’t much of an option, just as tossing something to the right either finds you O.B. (in somebody's outdoor grill) or flirting with short bunkering. Long and straight placement is the required recipe here, and this challenge always weighs on my mind about three holes before even getting to the box.
Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club, 9002 Shadow Ridge Road, Palm Desert, 760-674-2700, www.marriott.com
Photo courtesy of woodhaven country club
Hole No. 5 at Woodhaven Country Club.
Woodhaven Country Club: Hole 5
This course became my introduction to valley golf after I grabbed a cheap summer membership when I first moved out here. The desert has no shortage of tracks where you can spray it around pretty well from the tee, but this ain't one of them. Rather, Woodhaven squeezes you and the outing becomes an opportunity to practice controlling your ball and dialing in your irons. On the tiny, 263-yard par-4 fourth, every single time I bring a pal here, they take out a driver or 3-wood and try to bomb the green. Not advisable, I say, as the diminutive hole sports tree-overhang to the left (there goes your draw) and water to the right (so you best carry all that trouble). I've learned to simply grab a 6-iron from the box, toss something in play about 180-yards, and then try to wedge my way to an early-round birdie.
Woodhaven Country Club, 41-555 Woodhaven Drive East, Palm Desert, 760-345-7636, www.woodhavencc.com
Indian Canyons South Course: Hole 16
This is my favorite style of golf hole: A short par-4 which provides options and doesn't simply involve grabbing the driver on the box.
On this mere 321-yard par-4, all golfers are basically hitting to the same spot, regardless of which tees you play. The test is to find yourself about 100-yards out to full wedge range before tossing a studied approach over water (front, right and behind) an elevated, bunker-guarded green.
Indian Canyons Golf Resort, 1097 E. Murray Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760-833-8700, www.indiancanyonsgolf.com
Judd Spicer is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. Have a golf tip or golf story idea to share? E-mail Judd: [email protected]. Listen to Judd on KXPS 1010 AM from 8-10 a.m. Sundays with Matt McKay for “The Press Box.”
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See Judd's previous posts under Life on the Links.