toughest courses

5 Toughest Golf Courses in Greater Palm Springs

If you're looking for that ultimate golf challenge, here are five public courses guaranteed to test your skills.

Judd Spicer Golf

toughest courses
The beauty of Desert Willow Golf Resort's two courses means you can't be distracted from your game.

With the desert’s high-season in full swing, it’s time for the golf excuses (and sloppy scores) to fade. Your best move is to up your game and tackle one of the five toughest public golf courses in Greater Palm Springs.

Here they are in no particular order.

Firecliff Course at Desert Willow Golf Resort

In part to improve on pace of play, the Desert Willow brass wisely elected to remove a small host of Firecliff bunkering this summer past. But fewer bunkers or not, this course truly burns with its continual host of forced carries from tee boxes, presenting a look, style, and feel more often found in the Phoenix area. Sure, the vast wealth of desert scape and scrub from the tees doesn’t require much pop to actually carry (especially from the forward tees). However, there is just so much to look at around every turn, that the golfer really needs to be a solid visual player to simply look past the stimuli and find a landing spot on the fairways.

38-0995 Desert Willow Drive, Palm Desert, 760-346-001;

The Stadium Course at PGA WEST has a way of getting into your head.

The Stadium Course at PGA WEST

This Pete Dye design remains one of the toughest public plays west of the Mississippi. And it’s funny how, from the outset of a round, most newcomers eyeball this monster and kinda’ shrug at its rep. But little by little, the Stadium will get you. Whether it’s Dye’s continual, rolling nuances, the struggle to find a flat lie, or the ongoing presence of pins blocked by subtle mounding, this course just plain gets in your head.

56150 PGA Blvd., La Quinta, 760-564-7101;

Beautiful bunkers will test you along with expertly placed sand traps.

Players Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort

Plenty of par chances are in play across the attractive John Fought-designed Players Course, but one needs be a fine bunker player to escape some scorecard damage. Yes, the bunkering is beautifully-sculpted here, but the sand is also expertly-routed from tee-to-green, putting danger in play across the round.

44-500 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells, 760-346-4653;

This course really lights up the night sky in Indio.

The Lights at Indio Golf Course

“Wait, what?” some will be saying. “A par 3 municiple course on this list?”
The Lights at Indio is not your typical par 3. As one of the longest par 3s in the country, The Lights (so named for its night-lit course) features six holes charting at least 160 yards, including four playing at 180 yards or more. And those 180 yard shots, well, most mid-handicappers really struggle with a true 5-iron or hybrid precision club. Bottom line? You will be hard pressed to match the course’s par 54.

83040 Avenue 42, Indio, 760-391-4049,

Watch your approach shots while tackling the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA WEST.

Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA WEST

The Nicklaus is oftentimes generous from the tees box; yet the approaches here are really, really challenging. The putting surfaces require some very learned iron and wedge play to be held, and balls not finding the greens generally result in some very quirky up-and-down tries.

56150 PGA Blvd., La Quinta, 760-564-7101;

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 and co-host Matt McKay on “The Press Box,” Sunday mornings from 8 -10 a.m. on ESPN 103.9 FM – Palm Springs.

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