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

Palm Springs
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DUBLIN, OH - JUNE 03: Phil Mickelson drops a golf ball after hitting his approach shot in the water on the 11th hole during the first round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Morgan Stanley at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 3, 2010 in Dublin, Ohio. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)  - 

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.