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The Classic Club in Palm Desert: Still making waves in the sand

Palm Springs
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PALM DESERT, Calif. -- While stately in scale, it's the smaller accents meshing with the grandeur of the Classic Club that chart this golf course among the Coachella Valley's most classy operations.

To wit, the green fee experience includes: complimentary valet, divot tool, food voucher, ball marker, yardage book, bottled water on the course, and a club towel.

The Arnold Palmer-designed Classic Club was built to be an annual host to the former Bob Hope Classic, although it only fulfilled said aim for three years (2006-08). Brady Wilson, director of golf at the Classic Club, acknowledges that the track was given a windy reputation by the PGA Tour pros that once stalked these grounds.

'The initial vision for the course to be the permanent home for the Hope didn't materialize after those three years. Some unfortunate events occurred,' Wilson says. 'It's unfortunate that we've been labeled as a 'windier course' than anyone else. Yeah, we're over here on the other side of the I-10 and yeah, we're in the open. But when it's windy in the Valley, it's windy everywhere.

'People saw it on TV and Phil [Mickelson] made some comments and you get that reputation, and perception -- as we all know -- can become reality. So we fight it a little bit and we all wish we could go back and have that go a lot differently. However, the golf course is still an amazing facility.'

Much to their credit, the Classic Club has turned transition into opportunity. The facility is counted among the desert's top charitable tournament destinations, hosting nearly 2,700 such rounds in 2010 alone.

Classic Club: A mesh of flora and fauna -- and water

As one of just eight golf courses in the Coachella Valley to have earned status as a 'Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary,' a Classic Club round ensures that an errant shot won't be the only thing wild. Amid the 5,000 plantings, 30 acres of water, and flowing undulation upon these 7,300 playable yards are a host of nature sightings. Should you observe unique wildlife, make note of the observation in the clubhouse registry.

The presence of water is formidable here beyond just the bottled variety. With the hazard playing on 13 holes and fairways oft-rolling toward the drink, the Classic Club counts among the area's most water-featured courses.

The 408-yard, par-4 first hole presents a host of immediate stimuli with water adjoining the left of the fairway coupled with a deep mountain backdrop. Prep to dig in your spikes on the fourth hole. This 568-yard par 5 presents the need to carry water off the tee along with desert death to the left.

From an elevated tee box, the 477-yard, par-4 seventh offers an impressive view of the clubhouse. The hole also introduces Classic Club's demanding double-water green feature, with the drink guarding both the front and side of the green. The par-5 ninth is the golf course's longest hole at nearly 600 yards; foliage runs rampant on the right side of this fairway while a lake guards the left. Double-water again comes back into play here with a stony creek snaking before the green.

The 12th hole is among the most scenic on the grounds. The 162-yard par 3 requires a carry over water, coupled with a massive greenside bunker.

The drink winds you home. The 349-yard 15th hole is the shortest par 4 on the course, but defends with water and bunkering all along the left of this skinny fairway. A lurking lake ensues along the entire right side of No. 16; this 436-yard par 4 will prove nightmarish for the slicer. No. 18 is a true championship hole. This 564-yard par 5 from an elevated tee presents water along the entire right side of both the fairway and green, making the approach a decided test for all players.

Classic Club: Instruction and facilities

There is a full practice facility on-site, offering a short-game area, putting green, practice bunker and superb driving range. Lessons are available from a selection of five different instructors. Within the palatial, Tuscan-inspired clubhouse is Bellatrix Restaurant, offering lunch and dinner to couple with an exceptional wine list replete with regional selections.

Classic Club: The verdict

A former PGA Tour stop, the Classic Club refuses to sulk on 'what may have been.' Rather, the facility presents one of the Coachella Valley's most all-encompassing golf and dining experiences. The beginner will occasionally match undulating fairways with rolling eyes, yet this inspired mix of championship design, nature and impressive service do ample justice to one of the state's finest clubhouses. The classy ideology on which the club was founded amply endures.