Fertile sands: Five must-play golf courses in Palm Springs

By Travel ArticlesJanuary 2, 2013, 5:00 am

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Resting amid potent mountain backdrops cut with spare desert beauty, and sporting an all-star cast of course architects, Palm Springs and the entirety of the Coachella Valley lives as one of the country's most alluring golf destinations.

And although a novel could be penned to detail the pleasures of the nearly 125 golf courses (public and private) that encompass the region, here are five destinations that are a must-play for all desert visitors.

Firecliff Course at Desert Willow Golf Resort

Some desert golf courses thrive on beauty while others boast a beast, but few combine the balanced draw of the two courses at Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert.

High-handicappers will appreciate the property's more forgiving Mountain View Course, but the skilled will revel in the test of Desert Willow's Firecliff Course. Both of these Dr. Michael Hurdzan- and Dana Frye-crafted courses are worthy of play if you have time, and the beatific surrounds extend from clubhouse, to patio, to all 36 holes.

The desert carving through native vegetation is exceptional at Desert Willow, though the routing on the Firecliff isn't merely for sightseeing. Tee boxes ask for consistent carry over trouble and stimuli, though the task is far from concluded there. With better than 100 bunkers on the Firecliff, sand is pronounced, as are testy green surrounds that protect par throughout.

Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club

The setting for Nick Faldo's first U.S. course design, the Australian Sandbelt-inspired Shadow Ridge Golf Club in Palm Desert presents one of the region's best tests of short-game creativity.

Generally benign boxes serve as an invite to all comers before approaches segue to 89 bunkers and a host of massive and well-undulating green structures that grab the rest of your bag. Before Sir Nick grants some clemency on the back nine with more manageable par 4s and a stadium-style finish through the resort, newcomers should be prepped for a tough front.

Throughout, getting up and down amid engaging greenside surrounds will have the learned player deciding between employing wedges, mid-irons, hybrids and flat sticks when navigating putting surfaces that consistently defend against one-putts.

Escena Golf Club

If Miles Davis played the 'Birth of the Cool,' then Escena Golf Club in Palm Springs plays as the desert's version of the Rebirth. Be sure to reserve some time to enjoy the architectural surrounds of the mid-century clubhouse design that serves as homage to Palm Springs' of yore.

But don't get too lost in the past. The first hole on these grounds drawn by Nicklaus Design will require ample concentration of the present. A 611-yard, par-5 bear that plays as the top handicap, the first hole grabs your collar from the outset. The inspired backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains and an ascending fairway climb toward a two-tiered green demands accuracy and focus.

The early eye-opener will claim a few doubles, but don't fret: This is a thesis of what's to come over the next 17 holes. Yes, the course gets easier, but the challenge of playing toward long, skinny greens with testy pins will balance attentions throughout.

SilverRock Resort

A calculating mix of visual inspiration and intimidation, the former host to the Bob Hope Classic (now the Humana Challenge) from 2008-11 truly rocks. SilverRock's Arnold Palmer Classic Course design presents an adjacency to Santa Rosa Mountain bases that are truly special -- even in a region with myriad mountain-drawn tracks.

Course navigation, study of subtlety and prudence prove paramount to making La Quinta's SilverRock a golden experience. While myriad area courses consistently handhold from the tee toward ample fairways, this isn't one of them. It's not that finding short grass is a Herculean feat (even from the tips at 7,578 yards); rather, it's a measure of expertly drawn visual variables such as plantings, rocks and waste areas that threaten to get inside one's visor.

First-timers will perform some neck craning to ensure apt direction, and ample study of a GPS is readily suggested. Play what you can see out here, and the enjoyment will be deservedly heightened.

Players Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort

The two tracks at Indian Wells Golf Resort amply splash color and character. To enjoy both, begin with Clive Clark's Celebrity Course, which presents a host of rolling play and engaging water holes.

But if only one day is allowed, don't miss Indian Wells' Players Course. The John Fought design is equally attractive, though a far more complex task. Once on the greens, players of all levels will enjoy a host of makeable putts. Getting to that stage is another matter.

Deep, demanding bunkers and onerous distance (six par 4s play at least 454 yards) are a constant, and navigating inside barranca routing will concurrently request accuracy to complement some distance. An apt impression of the test is tattooed on the 491-yard, par-4 home hole that's sculpted toward barranca on the right and bunkering to the left and behind the long green.

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.