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Top-Rated Golf Courses in Palm Springs

By Nick Marshall

A little more than a hundred miles east of Los Angeles, the desert resort of Palm Springs lures serious golfers and outdoor sports enthusiasts with its abundant charms. Consistent year-round sunshine, balmy temperatures, and almost zero rainfall come standard, while the 125 public and private golf courses in Coachella Valley and its environs constitute the most golf courses of any region in California. Leading golf publications have picked Palm Springs as particularly appealing for couples and golfing families, but any golfer should find inspiration from the wide open spaces and grandiose mountain backdrop.

Stylish Resorts

Founded in 1926, La Quinta is the oldest resort in Palm Springs. Among citrus trees and hacienda-style elegance, 90 championship holes from leading course designers await. The only private club in the world with two courses in "Golf Magazine’s" top 100, La Quinta includes: the public PGA West TPC Stadium Course designed by Pete Dye, once ranked the fourth toughest course in the U.S. by "Golf Digest;" the only Greg Norman-designed course in Coachella Valley, which has tight fairways fringed by desert rough and colorful flowers; and the Nicklaus Tournament Course, where precisely manicured fairways taper to challenging rough. With the added sand hazards, players need to exploit their full range of shots.

Top Designers

The Dunes and Mountain courses at La Quinta share a clubhouse. The former, designed by Pete Dye, was initially one of the venues for the PGA Tour Qualifying School. Based on a Scottish links design with narrow fairways and thick rough, the course made "Golf Digest’s" top 75 courses in America. Recommended for novice golfers, the Dunes has 78 sand bunkers, raised greens, and spectacular holes playing toward the mountains. The recently renovated Mountain Course, seemingly hewn from the Santa Rosa mountains, is a warren of pot bunkers and well-bunkered greens. One of "Golf Magazine’s" top 100 courses, it's a favorite PGA championship venue. With make-or-break doglegs and elevation shifts, Mountain requires accuracy and strategy.

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Championship Pedigree

Mountain Vista’s two championship courses include more than 20 lakes, waterfalls and emerald-green fairways. The 6,669-yard Santa Rosa, "Greenskeeper’s" top-ranked course, designed by Greg Nash and Billy Casper, features wide landing zones and just 49 bunkers, making it player-friendly. The San Gorgonio Course, while shorter, is a long-hitter’s paradise on the back nine. The Arnold Palmer-designed Classic Club, "Greenskeeper’s" No. 2 pick, hosts the Bob Hope Classic (now known as the Humana Challenge). A top-10 desert course according to "Desert Golf," it packs in 14 stone bridges, more than 5,000 pine, pepperwood and olive trees and 30 acres of water features.

Natural Setting

Indian Wells Resort, home of the LG Skins Game, is California's only 36-hole public course in "Golf Week’s" top 20. Choose from the Players Course, with wide fairways but demanding bunkers, or the Celebrity Course, with undulating fairways, soaring pines, streams, and lakes. Desert Willow Resort was voted "Desert Golf’s" No. 1 public access course. The Firecliff Course totals 7,056 yards but still incorporates more than 100 bunkers or waste areas. With some fearsome hazards, the course is ideal for the competent golfer. The Mountain View course has fewer bunkers and gentle expanses of turfgrass, with impressive views along Coachella Valley.

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