Palm Springs golf courses for architecture junkies

By Travel ArticlesJune 12, 2012, 4:52 pm

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Celebrity architects may still be a relatively new concept in golf, yet the 'Authors of AutoCAD' are now as much an attraction to a course as playing conditions, historical reference or clubhouse amenities.

To conquer a hole is to fell a designer in name, an interpersonal bragging right to say to your buddies, 'I just handled Pete Dye.' Few regions on the planet offer such a collective celebrity designer gauntlet as Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley region.

Here are four area tests that are certain to peak the interests of those with an ardor for architecture:

Classic Club

Host to the Bob Hope Classic (now the Humana Challenge) from 2006-08, the Arnold Palmer-designed grounds of the Classic Club count among the staunchest tests of golf in the Coachella Valley. The Classic Club was removed from the Hope rotation, in part, because of a windy rep. But don't let that blow you away from experiencing the gravity of these grounds.

The mosaic of 5,000 plantings softens the course's overt muscle, but mid-handicappers will still stand on many tee boxes considering just how good the pros were to have conquered some of these holes. Among the stoutest are the par 5s at Nos. 9 and 18.

The front-side finisher is the top handicap hole at 595 yards, featuring water along the left of the fairway and creeking before the green. At 564 yards, the home hole plays from an elevated tee and will prove a monster should a prevailing wind blow over your visor. Water runs the entire length of the right side and fronts the green on the 18th, serving as a reminder for whom this track was crafted.

South Course at Indian Canyons Golf Resort

Ready for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro? Sure, golf's return to the Games after more than a century's absence is still a few years away, but true design junkies will relish in the opportunity to prep for the 31st Olympiad with a round on the South Course at Indian Canyons Golf Resort. Redesigned in 2004 by Casey O'Callaghan and representing the first design-consulting project for LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, the South is regarded among the top courses for women in the country.

Now, Alcott will team with architect Gil Hanse to design a new track in Rio for the 2016 Games, and to hear Alcott speak toward the Rio course is to envision a similar degree of playability that makes the South such a pleasure for shorter hitters.

Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club

With 22 courses in locations as diverse as Vietnam, Canada, Germany, and Cyprus, Nick Faldo's course design career has begun to mirror the worldwide influence that defined his playing days.

Marriott's Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert represents Faldo's first American project. Inspired by the Australian Sandbelt region, the grounds are a readily enjoyable mesh of pronounced bunkering and resort playability, a boast that too few courses in the desert sport with such seamlessness. Finding landing areas is generally a benign pursuit for the average player, as most fairway traps serve as signs that your driver is out of sorts.

Approaches are a different story, however, as sizeable, well guarded greens combine tricky undulation with testy collection areas. A studied and creative short game is required to score and players will want to prep for greenside sand and the aim of ample two-putts.

TPC Stadium Course at PGA West

Aptly regarded among the most difficult courses in the country, the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West plays as if Pete Dye woke up in a foul mood one morning and designed a track to mirror a rumpled bed sheet from a restless slumber.

It's not just the mass of dune bunkering or nine water holes that pronounce this a monster; rather, it's the endless rise of moguls and retreat of depressions that roll your way toward very subtle greens. It's truly a challenge to find a calm lie on the grounds. Given the continually penal design, PGA Tour pros petitioned to have the course removed from the then-Bob Hope Chrysler Classic rotation after just one year. The Stadium has been softened in years since, but this is still the toughest track in the Valley.

The finishing three tests offer a blunt challenge for the best of players. No. 16 is a 600-yard par 5 with long and deep bunkers that play to the left of the tee before reappearing before the deep left fairway. The 17th is Dye's homage to his design at TPC Sawgrass, sporting an island green with a green depth of just 27 yards. Coming home, No. 18 is a beast of a par 4 at 439-yards, presenting water along the entire left side of the fairway and green, coupled with bunkering running all along the right.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.