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.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.