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Toughest Hole in the Desert

They call it Alcatraz — an island green that taunts players at the tee a mere 166 yards away at PGA West in La Quinta.

Emily Chavous Current Digital, Golf

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The 17th hole at PGA West is touted by pros as being among the sport's most diabolical.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PGA WEST

They call it Alcatraz — an island green that taunts players at the tee a mere 166 yards away. The entire Pete Dye–designed Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta brims with hazards, and the 17th hole, with more lake than grass, is touted by pros as being among the sport’s most diabolical. As Dye described it, “Love and hate can be found here.”

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Its 1987 PGA Tour debut stirred up quite the rumble. “The course is on the outskirts of Indio but host [Bob] Hope says the back tees are in Hemet. It doesn’t matter where they are. No one will ever play them,” Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote that year. “You need a camel, a canoe, a priest and a tourniquet to get through it.” In the 1987 Skins Game, swinging alongside Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Fuzzy Zoeller, Dallas-born Lee Trevino conquered Alcatraz with a hole-in-one. Even so, tour pros collectively — and successfully — signed a petition to remove Stadium Course from the rotation in 1988. It took almost three decades for the Professional Golfers Association to warm up to Dye’s design, but in 2016, Alcatraz reassumed its position on the tour. Jason Dufner cinched his 2016 CareerBuilder Challenge (now Desert Classic) victory with a par-saving recovery shot from the 17th green’s rocky perimeter.

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Keen to try your hand at Alcatraz’s par 3? Book a stay at sister property La Quinta Resort & Club to take advantage of special golf offers. Stadium Course reservation fees are discounted June through September.

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