10 Great Public Golf Holes in Greater Palm Springs

by Anthony Manzanares on July 14, 2014

Tucked away in the folds of the San Jacinto Mountains, across the desert floor and in the foothills of Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll  find the perfect environment for enjoying and improving your golf skills in fabulous settings.

For years, everyone from seasoned pros and fun-seeking amateurs to vacationing celebrities, and both corporate and government presidents, have come to play golf in Greater Palm Springs. And why not? With 100-plus golf courses, surrounded by abundant sunshine, low humidity, and dramatic desert scenery, there’s plenty to go around.

Golfing in greater Palm Springs

The total number of golf holes to be found in the nine desert cities that comprise the Greater Palm Springs oasis hovers just above 2000.  So it’s understandably difficult to isolate the best or most popular, especially when accounting for personal taste.  That said, here’s a sampling of some of the outstanding holes that await on the Coachella Valley’s public courses – all very scenic and enjoyably challenging!

1. Classic Club

Here, #12 is the signature hole and Arnold Palmer’s favorite at Classic Club despite the fact that it only measures 162 yards from the back tees and 116 from the forward tees.  The daunting tee shot is all over a body of water, with a creek and a waterfall to the right, and one large bunker that engulfs the left and back side of the green (which has a large ridge in the middle, clearly defining itself into two tiers).  There are great views of Big Bear and of the Chocolate Mountains, depending on which direction you’re putting.  Par is a great score here.

Location:  Palm Desert

2.  Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa

According to Westin Mission Hills head golf pro Jeff Beier, #11 is a par 5 with water along the right side of the hole. This Gary Player Course offers a classic risk-reward play.

Location:  Rancho Mirage

3.  La Quinta

Named “Stadium” thanks to designer Pete Dye’s ingenious plan to sculpt spectator seating areas into the natural terrain, this course has witnessed a multitude of historic moments.  A highlight was Lee Trevino’s unforgettable hole-in-one on #17 – nicknamed the notorious Alcatraz Island hole— netted him a cool $175k in the made-for-TV “Skins Game.” This is a PGA West course.

Location:  La Quinta

4.  JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa 

The 17th hole on the Palm Course is an island green par 3 that plays from 115 yards to 160 yards.  Beware:  This one’s an all-or-nothing shot, thanks to three strategically placed bunkers that make the target just a little more tough to get to.  A par is always a good score on this one.

Location:  Palm Desert

5.  Escena Golf Club

The inward nine here starts with a challenging par 4 at hole #10, an example of Jack Nicklaus golf design at its best.  If you can cut the corner of this dogleg right hole, you’ll have a short club into the green.  But no matter which club you use for your approach, the picturesque beach bunker left of the green, and stunning mountain views, are very distracting.  Chipping areas around the green allow you to use your imagination to save par.

Location:  Palm Springs

6. Indian Wells Golf Resort

At well over 600 yards, #9 on the Players Course is one of the longest par fives in Southern California. The tee shot must be played over a barranca and left of a fairway bunker to gain the best angle. The ideal second shot must find a relatively narrow sliver of grass sandwiched between a lake on the left and bunker on the right.  This lengthy par five is truly a three-shot hole that will present unique challenges to players of all skill levels.

Location:  Indian Wells

7. Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

Nicknamed “Terminator,” #8 is a par 3 that is the Resort Course’s  signature hole.  It’s all over water to a small protected green, which demands precise shot-making.

Location:  Palm Springs

8. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa

At this Ted Robinson-designed 27-hole golf course, more than 1,500 palm trees line the fairways that meander over gently rolling terrain and around six lakes at the base of snow-capped Mount San Jacinto.  The view from the 5th hole of the West course is absolutely spectacular.

Location:  Rancho Mirage

9. SilverRock Resort

Hole #7 on the Pete Dye Mountain Course is a long par 5 that measures 603 yards from the tips, with water in play from tee to green.  With the Santa Rosa Mountains setting the backdrop, players must avoid the lake to the right side of the fairway and a large fairway bunker to the left of the fairway.  After a good drive, players must decide whether to shoot over the water or leave themselves with a long third shot over water to a small green that is well guarded by water and bunkers.  A par here is a good score.

Location:  La Quinta

10. Desert Willow Golf Resort

The 18th hole on the Firecliff course is a picturesque yet difficult par 5 that measures 385 Yards from the forward tees up to 535 yards from the back tees.  The fairway is lined with palm trees and a creek running down the left side with desert terrain on the right.  The creek on the left meanders across the fairway and pools into a lake that guards the right side all the way to the green.  The left side of the fairway and green are well protected with bunkers and slopes.   The 2 tiered green offers difficult putts from all angles.  #18 can make or break your round, if you can get away with a par you have done well.

Location:  Palm Desert

Photo credit:  Greater Palm Springs CVB

| Anthony has found travel provides a healthy balance to his day job as a criminal defense attorney. Living on the periphery of blogging for years, he's now decided to flex his creative muscles with a little writing and photography of his own. Anthony's favorite travel destinations are the Caribbean, Italy, and Ireland.

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