While the Coachella Valley’s 120 golf courses offer a takeaway for every level of player, more than 50 percent are private.
Of the dozens of privates golf courses that I have had the pleasure to play in the desert, here are five that particularly impressed me for a variety of reasons.
Toscana Country Club
“If I were a member somewhere . . .,” is how my golf pals and I have begun many conversations.
Toscana often dominates that conversation due to its 36-holes of Jack Nicklaus-designed play, the final eight of which were completed on the North Course in November 2015, a decade after the club’s golf debut.
Both plays are terrific, with The Golden Bear’s signature shot-making requirements dressed in impeccably manicured surrounds of flowers, mountains, and natural desert palate. I haven’t been able to enjoy the North’s final eight holes, so put me down for a round on the South, which sports the most beautiful bunkering I’ve ever seen.
76009 Via Club Villa, Indian Wells; 760-772-7000; www.toscanacc.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSION HILLS COUNTRY CLUB
Dinah Shore is there to greet golf enthusiasts at the entrance to the green of the 18th hole of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course.
Mission Hills Country Club – Dinah Shore Tournament Course
Of the trio of private golf courses at Mission, the Dinah is by far the most impressive. For what the Palmer presents in playability and the Pete Dye offers in, well, the designer’s patented level of frustration, the Dinah is truly of one the finest plays in Southern California.
There’s a reason the world’s best women proefessionals hold a special place for this Desmond Muirhead designed course competing in the annual ANA Inspiration — LPGA’s first major of the season.
With its muscular collection of par 3s, a continual demand on ball placement off the tee and brilliant designs on holes 6 and 18, the course really asks for a handful of visits before one knows how to properly attempt to score and attack.
34600 Mission Hills Dr., Rancho Mirage, 760-324-9400; www.clubcorp.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PALMS GOLF CLUB
The Palms Golf Club sports more than 50 professional players as members.
The Palms Golf Club
This counts as the fastest golf experience I’ve had since moving to the desert nearly six years ago. Aptly-reputed as owning some of the best pace of play in the country (folks get around in about three hours), The Palms also sports one of the nation’s lowest, cumulative handicap indexes.
A true player’s course with better than 50 professionals as members, The Palms’ roster includes Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples and local pro products Jennifer Johnson and Byron Smith.
57000 Palms Dr., La Quinta, 760-771-2606; www.thepalmsgc.org
PHOTO BY JOHN HENEBRY
The course at Stone Eagle Golf Club is one you’ll never tire of playing.
Stone Eagle Golf Club
The most unique layout in the desert is brilliantly routed through the Santa Rosa Mountains, blended with the natural rocky surrounds, and undulated mounds like no other course in the region.
I’ve had the pleasure of playing here on a few occasions, finding the Tom Doak design a total stunner, not to mention tough; though I played in the off-season, the course sports some seriously slick greens in the peak play months.
72500 Stone Eagle Dr., Palm Desert, 760-773-6223; www.stoneeaglegolf.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF THUNDERBIRD COUNTRY CLUB
With such a storied history, Thunderbird Country Club is on everyone’s play list.
Thunderbird Country Club
As something of a golf history junkie, I have been chomping hard at the bit to play Thunderbird since I first visited the valley back in the early 2000s.
A few months back I finally got the chance. The historical and aesthetic backdrops of this private golf course are equally amazing, and it’s a wonder to consider that just a year after its 1951 opening, Thunderbird hosted its first pro event (which served as the genesis for today’s CareerBuilder Challenge) with the likes of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.
Three years later, the club held the 1955 Ryder Cup matches with a Sam Snead-led American squad beating the Brits in fine fashion, 8-4.
70737 Country Club Dr., Rancho Mirage; 760-328-2161; www.thunderbirdcc.org
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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