O’Donnell Golf Club

The Oldest Golf Course in Palm Springs

Discover the rich history of O'Donnell Golf Club, one of Coachella Valley's oldest golf courses, founded in 1926.

June Allan Corrigan Golf, History

O’Donnell Golf Club

A vintage photograph of O’Donnell Golf Club.

Palm Springs and its environs are synonymous with golf, so it’s hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t a course in sight. A century ago, that was precisely the case until an oil tycoon named Thomas O’Donnell sought to remedy the situation. Spending time at the Desert Inn, he took to playing pitch and putt around the property until he got the idea to build his own golf course (shown above in 1960).

O’Donnell purchased two parcels of land adjacent to the Desert Inn and started building his private nine-hole course in 1926, finishing the following year. Nestled at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, a block from what became Palm Canyon Drive, the course’s layout was determined not only by the contours of the range but also by how far O’Donnell and a golfing buddy could hit the ball.

Armando’s Bar

O’Donnell Golf Club greeting card. 

The fate of the course wavered in the mid-1930s, when O’Donnell’s heart condition prevented him from playing his beloved game. He kept it open for friends upon discovering he enjoyed watching the game almost as much as playing it. However, upkeep of the Desert Golf Course — as it was originally known — grew expensive, and O’Donnell’s failing health ultimately led him to organize the O’Donnell Golf Club as a private, nonprofit club in 1944.

The course incorporated the same year its founder willed the club to the city of Palm Springs, which leased it back to the O’Donnell Golf Club for 99 years. Recognized by the National Register of Historic Places in 2020, the venerable property at 301 N. Belardo Road maintains its status as the Coachella Valley’s oldest existing golf course. It remains open to members only.