Four golf courses in the Palm Springs area that you might have missed

By Travel ArticlesNovember 20, 2012, 6:05 pm

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- In golf, as in life, what you don't know actually will hurt you -- or at least impair a good time.

The Palm Springs region and entire Coachella Valley offers one of the country's best pockets of prime golf courses. But by digging beneath the topsoil, one will uncover a host of fun and engaging desert challenges that are certain to elude most travel guides.

To that effect, here are four courses that shouldn't be overlooked when planning your Palm Springs golf getaway.

Greg Norman Course at PGA West

To paraphrase from Jon Landau's 1974 critique of Bruce Springsteen: 'I have seen the future of golf and it just may be the Greg Norman Course at PGA West.'

With a dearth of turf (fewer than 70 acres), a wealth of manageable par 4s (from the championship tees none play more than 450 yards) and a setting that astutely weaves a natural solitude through a scarcity of homes, this very well may prove the kind of grounds your grandkids will play when course construction is renewed in coming years. To wit: Less water is required for maintenance, greens are reachable for the mid-to-high handicapper and the player actually feels some sense of privacy here. The pithy, 337-yard, par-4 11th is seminal of such design; though bunkers abound, the tenets of accuracy and club consideration are paramount to par.

Though less famed than the Dye, Nicklaus and Palmer designs at the umbrella ownership La Quinta Resort and PGA West, the Norman is not to be missed.

Heritage Palms Golf Club

The desert is filled with community-style courses that can be overlooked. Heritage Palms Golf Club in Indio is among the chalk of these underrated tracks, and perhaps it's apropos that the grounds were drawn by Arthur Hills, one of the country's most underrated designers.

Highly playable, well manicured and endlessly fun, Hills makes use of seemingly every inch of the Heritage grounds. Though tipping out at 6,700 yards, the course presents expert employ of lake water, waste areas and teasing sightlines to keep even low-handicappers honest. For the average/older player, both landing areas and green complexes are sizeable to keep play well-paced and scoring opportunity prevalent.

Oh, and the sand is so soft, you'll feel like the 56-degree is navigating a silken bed sheet teased with melted butter.

Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa

The three nine-hole courses offer opportunity for shot-shaping, family time and confidence-building fun. Not that Ted Robinson's late 1970s designs are a pushover. For ultimate enjoyment of these playable grounds, be sure to slate the West Course into your schedule.

The West nine begins in surprisingly penal fashion with a dogleg left par 4 followed by a beastly par 3 and Herculean par 5 -- all told, the first three holes sport nearly 1,800 yards from the tips and will test single-digit handicaps.

But after the teeth are aptly ground, a pleasing resort experience is born. The West opens up on the 347-yard, par-4 fourth before a fine risk-reward ensues on the diminutive, 301-yard, par-4 fifth. (Tip: Be sure to investigate your landing area here; an iron off the tee is advisable).

The 129-yard, par-3 sixth plays poolside and offers spouses, pals, parents or offspring the fun opportunity to place a quick call to party members and say, 'C'mon and watch me hit this green.'

Woodhaven Country Club

Another of the desert's undervalued, residential-lined tracks is Woodhaven Country Club in Palm Desert, where, like Heritage Palms, all players are given opportunity to score and to do so at a snappy pace (which isn't without merit in the summer and early autumn months).

While tight and tiny at just 5,800 yards, the course isn't without teeth. Accuracy is a premium here, as well as a solid iron game. Holes Nos. 4-7 are evident of such exacting play translating to scoring confidence.

The 394-yard, par-4 fourth is the top-handicap hole and asks for a considered tee shot followed by a strong approach. On the ensuing fifth, players should dial back and conservatively use a 7-iron from the tee to avoid water on the right and set up a great birdie opportunity on this 263-yard par 4. The par-3 sixth is all carry over water before the 489-yard seventh (just one of two par 5s on the par-70 layout) demands a deft tee shot for those aiming to acquire the green in regulation.

For a visitor looking to squeeze in a quick prep round prior to playing some of the area's Big Dog venues: Woodhaven is a fine play to start.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.