RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Pete Dye stands among the most prolific course designers in the Coachella Valley with six tracks to his credit. His desert portfolio spans the sadistic (TPC Stadium Course at PGA West), the scenic (La Quinta Resort & Club's Mountain Course), the secluded (Hideaway Club) and -- in the case of his Pete Dye Resort Course at Westin Mission Hills -- the skinny.
Charting just 6,700 yards from the tips and routed through residential and resort property, the par-70 scorecard presents a mesh of Dye signatures and dart board shot-making requirements.
'You don't see much of the par 70 anymore,' said Michael Macleod, director of sales and marketing at the Westin Mission Hills. 'So, it's a lot more of a traditional golf course, even though it was only built in 1987. It feels like it might be an older-era course. It's not a big, wide-open course with acres of room. Your sense of perspective narrows greatly.'
Upon arrival, the guest's perspective will instantly narrow upon the water-laden home hole routed along the path from the bag drop to the clubhouse. Ample Dye signatures await on the 18th, as if the designer seeks to instill target-golf fear before a ball is even struck.
'I think the Pete Dye Resort Course is very recognizable to golf design, to people that know golf course and particularly Dye courses,' Macleod said. 'You see the railway ties and the pot bunkers. Although it's sort of 'Pete Dye Light' to a certain degree, because it's a tough course, but it’s not punitive like some other Pete Dyes around town.'
Despite the lack of length and just two par 5s, the course can indeed prove a challenge to the inaccurate. While the greens are among the truest in the Valley -- the route to these putting surfaces encompasses a selection of water hazards, lengthy dune bunkering, tee shots into the prevailing wind and a host of alleyways skinnier than a desperate jockey on race day.
First-time players will undoubtedly comment upon the absence of secondary-cut beyond the fairway. The lack of two-inch grass in favor of turf sans overseeding cuts a distinct map of direction between green and brown, and hitting from the harder surfaces will likely take more than a few strokes to find a simpatico swing. The errant will experience the brown readily, and when the course rolls it generally rolls toward trouble.
Beyond aesthetics, water plays havoc on three distinct occasions, with No. 8, No. 14 and No. 18 accounting for Dye's most memorable holes.
'The three holes where the water comes into play are the defining holes,' Macleod said. 'If you're a good player, and you're worried about your score -- those are the holes that will define if you're playing well or not.'
The water running all along the left side of the 197-yard, par-3 eight likely won't prove penal from the forward tees, though a precise strike is required from the tips. Such clemency isn't offered on the ensuing water challenge.
'No. 14 is a par 4 with the hotel on the left-hand side,' Macleod said of the Dye's No.2 handicap hole. 'It's a very narrow driving area, and then there's water about 200-yards off the tee to your left. And there are houses on the right before more water to the right of the green. From the tee, you can hit a driver -- as long as you hit it straight. Or you can hit a 5-iron.'
The Dye concludes with a railroad-tied finish that will kick the caboose of the errant.
'No. 18 is a great signature hole and reminiscent of the 18th at Sawgrass,' said Macleod. 'The water runs along the left, and it's a narrow driving hole with a narrow landing area. If you go way right, you'll also find trouble.'
Pete Dye Resort Course at Westin Mission Hills: The verdict
'It's a good course. Pretty tough with the water, but I like it,' said high-handicapper Bob Chase of New Brunswick, Canada. 'But you get off the fairway and discover that it's not that easy.'
This isn't a desert-grandeur example of Dye's work, yet the course will prove a burden for those who spray the ball or own a poor sand game. GPS isn't in play, though 150-yard fairway poles serve as apt guides, and the truly prepared will make ample use of both the supplied yardage card and the Westin's exceptional 'Virtual Tour' on its website.
Full practice facility if offered, and private instruction is available to players of all levels via the Barry Clayton Golf Academy. Daily clinics run at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. for $20. Just after a summer overseed, the course will segue into an $800,000 retrofitting of Dye's signature railway ties.