“Just go east on Dinah Shore and then south on Bob Hope and turn right on Frank Sinatra,” is an example of the type of directions you might get in the California desert oasis known as Palm Springs. If you squint real hard you can almost see Old Blue Eyes still running around town with his Rat Pack friends.
Located about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs was originally a hideaway for Hollywood types starting in the 1920s. Since then, the Palm Springs area and the entire Coachella Valley, has grown into one of America’s great golf meccas as well as a high-end resort area with spectacular accommodations, fine dining galore and outdoor activities to please anyone.
Although the Coachella Valley is home to a great many private golf clubs, the number and quality of public access courses is just mind blowing.
Probably the most well-known is PGA West Golf Club in the town of La Quinta. PGA West is home to the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course (shown above), which golf fans will recognize as the former and current host of the PGA Tour stop now sponsored by Career Builder but historically referred to as The Bob Hope.
PGA West offers five other courses in their complex, all designed by legends of the game. The Nicklaus Tournament, the Greg Norman Course, the Dye-designed La Quinta Resort Course, the original La Quinta Mountain Course (the favorite of many), and the Tom Weiskopf Private course.
The wheelhouse for public access in Palms Springs are its municipal courses. These are not your common munys with weed-choked grasses and rock-strewn bunkers. They are all top-notch venues of great design, super conditions and high-level service.
Indian Wells boasts two of the best – the Celebrity and the Players courses, both of which recently underwent complete renovation (to the tune of $24 million) under the eye of architect Clive Clark. The Players Course is a bit more challenging but both are something to behold visually and strategically.
SilverRock Resort is owned by the city of La Quinta and again may be familiar to golf fans as a venue for the Bob Hope from 2008-2011. Set at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, this Arnold Palmer design winds through giant rock outcroppings with spectacular views on every hole. You most likely will be joined along the way by some of the many big horn sheep that inhabit the area.
Desert Willow Golf Resort, may be owned by the city of Palm Desert but you would swear you are at a high-dollar private club. Featuring two 18 hole layouts, Firecliff and Mountain View, plus a stunning clubhouse with outstanding cuisine, Desert Willow has been voted as the No. 1 public access course in the Coachella Valley by Desert Golf Magazine three years in a row.
If you brought your “A” game, you might want to try out the Classic Club in Palm Desert, another Arnold Palmer design and former host course for the Bob Hope from 2006-2008. Classic Club is located in the high desert where wind is often a factor and with 30 acres of lakes to navigate it is a real challenge.
A special place to visit in the year of his passing is Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant in La Quinta. The King, who won the Palm Springs PGA Tour event five times, kept a home in the area and would dine most every evening in his restaurant. The walls are adorned with great Arnie memorabilia and his favorite table is set every night but no one is ever allowed to sit there now that he is gone.
The Palm Springs area is one of America’s premier golf destinations. It has everything a discerning golf traveler could ask for – a great variety of first-class golf, tremendous offerings in resort accommodations, world-class dining, spectacular scenery and a service level without peer. If you haven’t been, put it near the top of your list.