Golf Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley on three budgets


PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Sporting a diverse playing terrain and serving as annual host to both the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge (formerly the Bob Hope Classic) and the LPGA's first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship -- the Coachella Valley charts among the country's most unique golf pockets.

Here's a breakdown of how to plan your Palm Springs golf trip on three different budgets:

Coachella Valley golf on a high-end budget

The desert 'high season' refers to more than just the flock of snowbirds taking a winter respite. In short: If making the travel, be prepared to flip more than a C-note when making peak tee times at the area's deservedly-lauded top golf vacation destinations.

Any high-end trip to the Coachella Valley should begin at PGA West and the La Quinta Resort & Club. With five public (and nine total) courses offered by the umbrella ownership, the 'Western Home of Golf in America' presents an all-star cast of course designers.

Begin at the La Quinta Resort's Mountain Course. The back nine of the Pete Dye design is routed through some of the region's most inspired mountain terrain and presents an idyllic mesh of challenge, beauty and solitude.

Segue to PGA West's Greg Norman Course. This quiet desert gem sports a unique dearth of turf, carved by the surrounds of decomposed granite. Prepped for an advanced test, finish with the PGA West's TPC Stadium Course. Annually regarded among the best and toughest courses in the country, the Dye design poses as many adventures to annual Q-School finals visitors as it does to the amateur.

In the Mid-Valley, keep the pressure on at the Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club in Palm Desert. Nick Faldo's debut domestic design is a monster on the front, and it will challenge throughout with Australian Sandbelt-inspired bunkering and a host of tough approaches. Also in Palm Desert is the Classic Club. A former host to the Hope Classic and offering one of the state's finest clubhouses, the stout course couples a challenge with ample nature sightings and a host of goodies that come with the price tag.

Both the Mountain View Course and the Firecliff Course at Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert are exceptional and echo the class and care of the choice clubhouse. If the plan is to play 36 holes of these immaculate course conditions, start with the former before moving on to the more demanding Firecliff.

Minutes away are the dual courses at Indian Wells Golf Resort. Among the most polished operations in the area, the scene is impressive from the moment you pull up to the clubhouse. Both the Celebrity Course and the Players Course impress with beauty and challenge.

On the east end of the Valley, check out the Indian Canyons Golf Resort's South Course. The very playable, tree-lined fairways and palm-framed greens present a chance to employ mid-iron skills that will find the accurate heading home with a scorecard sure to lower the handicap.

Coachella Valley golf on a mid-range budget

Dipping below the $100 mark doesn't translate to a dramatic descent in quality.

Don't miss out on The Golf Club at Terra Lago's North Course in Indio. While the facility's South Course charts as the tougher track on these grounds, the North counts among the top values in the region. The coupling of rustic surrounds and resort-style closing water holes create an experience matching memorability with playability.

The Santa Rosa Course and the San Gorgonio Course at Mountain Vista Golf Club are a pair of Billy Casper creations in Palm's Desert's Sun City community that are certain to appease with wide and well-groomed fairways and no shortage of holes to keep you honest.

In Desert Hot Springs, get major bang for the dollar at Desert Dunes Golf Club. Host to the Canadian Tour's annual Desert Dunes Classic, the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design is a thesis in tranquility and nature. A windy day will serve as a name course defense, though a calm round will offer myriad scoring chances.

Coachella Valley golf on a valley budget

Deals are tough to pencil in for top courses at peak hours during a high-season visit, but don't overlook some sound value options. Many of these babies were crafted during a late-80s boom, but they still maintain relevance and won't dent the wallet above the $65 mark.

At Mission Lake Country Club in Desert Hot Springs, enjoy a design of the desert's most prolific hand, Ted Robinson, Sr., also known as 'The King of Waterscapes.'

In Palm Springs, Cimarron Golf Resort's Boulder Course (18 holes) and Pebble Course (nine holes) are dual John Fought designs that play over some of the Valley's most unique, untamed terrain.

Nearby is Mesquite Golf & Country Club, where ample tree-lining, mountain vistas and water play will make a fine desert impression.

Woodhaven Country Club in Palm Desert plays with entertaining ease, but it will grab the collar with a handful of risk-reward holes.