Nationally-recognized among the top municipal facilities in the country and one of my favorite places to play in the desert, the 36-hole facility at Indian Wells Golf Resort (IWGR) recently was named the "2014 Course of the Year" by the California Golf Course Owners Association.
"It's an accolade that encompasses your entire operation," says Michael Tebbets, director of sales and marketing at IWGR, prior to a round in recent weeks. "It's what you do from agronomics, hospitality, service levels and, of course, 'Are the golf courses fun to play and welcoming toward men, ladies and juniors?' They really take a look at your whole operation to figure out the award. It was a big honor for us; very humbling."
Careful club selection is important to navigating Hole No. 10 on the Players Course.
From a pair of complementary pristine tracks, to one of the valley's top pro shops to the diverse drink and dine stylings of on-site Vue Grille & Bar – I'm continually impressed by the all-encompassing experiences at IWGR.
Between the two courses, I've become a little more drawn to the John Fought-designed Players Course. No slight to Clive Clark's Celebrity Course with its attractive splashes of color and water features – but the distinct bunkering at the Players may be second only to the South Course at Toscana Country Club for pure aesthetics and sculpting (not that you want to be in there; see: long rakes).
"The Players Course . . . it's kind of like if you're a prizefighter and you're up against a guy who has a really big punch, but isn't in great shape," adds Tebbets. "If you look at it that way, you've got a lot of long holes early on, almost 4,000 yards from the back tees. But on the back nine, you've got a chance to score. If you can make it through without being too battered on the first nine holes, you've got a shot to put together a really good number on the back."
The No. 6 hole on the Players Course is an excellent example of risk-reward play.
With room to navigate from the tee on many holes, the Players is really about avoiding those beautifully-barbaric bunkers and studied approach shots. Creative holes abound, though, pressed for a few favorites, I really dig Nos. 6 and 10.
The 351-yard, par-4 No. 6 hole is a thesis of risk-reward, tempting long-ballers to challenge the lake running along the left side; in addition, bunkering short right and deep middle keeps the prudent player honest. Over time, I've opted to toss a safe 6-iron somewhere in the fairway and leave myself a (testy) approach with the water still in view.
On the 401-yard, par-4 No. 10, I love the mid-fairway bunker design that promotes careful club selection from the box before attacking the massive green.
Spicer Tip 1: If you've yet to take on the Players (the more demanding of the two), take a quick "Interactive Tour" on the IWGR website for some pre-round study.
Spicer Tip 2: Taking a pass on heading to Coachella? The festival weekends present some prime golf opportunities around the desert. Foremost among them may well be the "Desert Two Ball Challenge," which takes place during the first weekend of Coachella (April 10-12). The tourney is placed over a trio of Troon-managed courses: Pete Dye at Westin Mission Hills, Classic Club and Celebrity at IWGR. Cost is $299 per player (covers all three rounds) and $598 per twosome.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Judd on Twitter: @JuddSpicer
See Judd's previous posts under Life on the Links.