Playable Palm Springs: Four great golf courses for the Snowbird with a rusty swing

By Travel ArticlesFebruary 19, 2013, 5:00 am

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- It's only natural for some rust to settle into the golf game for those in cold-weather climates. The muscle memory atrophies, the touch goes raw and the timing is lost amid the frost.

When returning to the game in the winter -- whether for a week's vacation or a seasonal getaway -- the key to building renewed confidence is easing back into the swing.

Travelers bound for the desert take note: Here are four great golf courses in the Palm Springs region to firm that turf under your spikes.

Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa

Home to 27 holes of Ted Robinson-designed play, Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage proves perfect for families or couples staying at the resort while concurrently testing the iron play of low handicappers.

Start with Ranco Las Palmas' South Course. Though the longest of the three nines at 3,218 yards from the tips, the South continually rewards accuracy from the oft-benign boxes with a clubbing-down mentality that will present better looks for shot-shaping shorter hitters.

From the South's outset, play it safe on the 395-yard, par-4 first that moves dramatically right post a downhill wash. On the 362-yard No. 7, par can be found with a crisp three-wood before a hard right turn fronts a water-guarded approach.

Warmed-up, move to the West Course, which begins with a muscular three-hole stretch before easing into pure pleasure highlighted by the delicate, 301-yard No. 5.

The short 129-yard sixth that comes next may find some mellow spectatorship from the adjacent pool and bluEmber restaurant. If you're staying at the resort, prep your fans to come watch the par-3 shorty.

Desert Dunes Golf Club

Juxtapose your resorting regime with the untamed beauty at Desert Dunes Golf Club, the Coachella Valley's only Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course.

Free of housing, the natural routing, ample nature sightings and backdrop of Palm Springs' iconic windmills ensures Desert Dunes is among the region's most tranquil rounds.

On a calm day (newcomers may want to gauge wind speeds as the course plays markedly tougher with a stiff current), Desert Dunes provides the peaceful pleasures of being away from the world with a string of reachable par 4s that average about 390 yards from the tips.

While the front side presents a feel of unencumbered openness, the latter nine transitions nicely to a tree and desert-lined routing that provides a sense of variety.

Indian Springs Golf Club

Aptly thought of among the region's most welcoming and well-paced courses, Indio's Indian Springs Golf Club matches a desert welcome with continually playable grounds, stellar pace of play, exceptional green conditions and a free lunch (really -- well, with a green fee) at the Club House Grille.

Not that the track is a pushover: With water spreading across 11 holes and a beefy six-hole spread from the round's outset, Indian Springs will test the scorecard for 90 minutes before weaving the player into a rhythm that rewards with lots space to navigate.

A good example is on the finishing holes. The 193-yard 17th sports trouble to the right but thorough spacing to the left. On the 556-yard, par-5 finisher, tee space is readily available all along the left side prior to green-guarded water and sand fronting the right of the putting surface.

Mountain Vista Golf Club

Home to a pair of Billy Casper designs -- the well groomed San Gorgonio Course and Santa Rosa Course at Mountain Vista Golf Club -- Palm Desert's Sun City community defines the splendor of retirement golf. If you have two days, start with the Gorgonio Course before seguing to the slightly more challenging Santa Rosa.

Yes, this is where old dudes take pride in their tricked-up carts. Yes, this is where the fairways offer more bowls than a Kellogg's convention. And yes: This is where golf is meant to be pure, sunny, guilt-free desert fun.

To be sure, both tracks keep you honest with some greenside water play, aggressive pin placements and a host of testy par 3s. But for those aiming to play with a smile that will last the duration of your four hours, this is the unapologetic, triple-scooped, double-fudged, whip-creamed chocolate sundae on the east side of the Coachella Valley. Spoon it up and enjoy.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.