PGA West features "Alcatraz" surrounded by water.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY JP HENNEBRY/PGA WEST
Spotted with outstanding courses designed by some of the industry’s best architects, fair-weathered Greater Palm Springs has built a reputation for championship golf. Whatever your handicap, the desert’s most demanding tests are sure to challenge your game.
Of course, there are those rare, glimmering moments in which the player dominates. Who could forget Lee Trevino’s hole-in-one on PGA West’s aptly named “Alcatraz”? Walk in the footsteps of golf giants and take our advice on how to
tackle — or maybe survive — five of the area’s hardest public holes.
Course: Pete Dye Stadium Course
Hole: No. 17
Known as “Alcatraz,” the valley’s most notorious hole trades distance for intimidation. Precision is paramount on this par 3, and simply finding the island green should be considered a victory. Sure, a legacy hole-in-one or even a birdie would make a great story, but avoiding the water and the green’s rocky surrounds needs to be your focus. As for strategy, play stock yardage to the middle of the green, regardless of pin position.
Course: Nick Faldo Signature
Hole: No. 18
For many, a bogey can feel like par on the Shadow Ridge home hole, easily among the toughest finishers (public or private) in all of SoCal. The flag is nearly 450 yards from the back tees, with a testy stream to your left that runs the length of the fairway before fronting the green. The fairway is best found with a gentle draw off the bunkers hugging the right of the landing area. Clear the stream with a shot to the front-left of the green. From there, wedge your way to an up-and-down finish, or use the flat stick and hope for a long, two-putt par.
Course: John Fought Players Course
Hole: No. 6
Water along the dogleg left crescent makes this hole appear longer than it is, but don’t be fooled into biting off too much hazard from the tee to shorten your approach; rather, take your medicine with a safe and short tee shot to the right.
Course: Arnold Palmer Classic Course
Hole: No. 17
This monster par 5 stretches nearly 600 yards from the tips, but the test is more than length alone. A canal crosses the fairway, and a massive left-side bunker guards the landing zone past the hazard. Mid-handicappers will want to assess a pair of layups — one before the canal and one to ensure you avoid the huge trap. Play patient, take four shots to reach the green, and hope to one-putt for par.
Course: Hurdzan/Fry Firecliff
Hole: No. 17
A pairing of beauty and brawn, the penultimate par 3 tracks at 204 yards from the tips and has long been reputed to smudge a solid scorecard. To avoid the trouble of lengthwise bunkering and lake water all along the intimidating right side, the prudent player should play a cut shot off the left bunker, even at the risk of coming up a bit short of the green.