Coachella Valley: Desert Destinations

The Coachella Valley has perks worthy of peak season

From the onset of the Coachella Valley’s winter high season, pleasure-seeking snowbirds and vacationers make their annual pilgrimage to the desert – and the destination is worthy of the journey.  Home to idyllic days and a countless array of amenities, the ever-amicable Valley is open for business and ready to host.

Whether your itinerary includes a tour of the desert’s unparalleled golf scene, evenings of drink and dine, a relaxed winter respite, or all of the above – the Coachella Valley has numerous choice options that span the desert floor.

Western Unions  
Historic Palm Springs lives as the nexus of area foot traffic.  Whether your day on the west end of the Valley includes a downtown stroll, a desert hike, or a fairway walk, here are a few courses to tee sheet amid dynamic San Jacinto Mountain backdrops. 

Ready for a round upon arrival?  Grab a cab from the airport for the four mile trip to Escena Golf Club and enjoy a pre-round meal at the quintessential cool of desert clubhouses.  When you’re ready, go from the slick, glass-and-stone mid-century modern architecture of the clubhouse to a course created by Nicklaus Design, where the tough, 611-yard par-5 first immediately grabs your attention.

The dual-course grounds at Indian Canyons Golf Resort in Palm Springs present an exceptional opportunity to enjoy diverse styles.  The storied, William F. Bell-designed North Course debuted in the early-1960s and plays as a classic style of straightaway Southern California golf.  The neighboring South Course enjoyed a redesign in 2004 and has since become one of the region’s most popular plays.  With a host of short and engaging par 4s, the palm-lined South is nationally regarded as among the most popular courses for women in the country.

Central Intelligence
Mid-Valley is your desert core for a myriad of exceptional golf, casino, and accommodation options.  Wherever your Valley stay takes you, know that these centralized, can’t-miss choices are just a short drive away.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage is one of the region’s most extensive playgrounds.  Take in a night of gaming across the full spread of machine and table games before using some of your winnings for dinner at The Steakhouse or an evening at The Show, Agua’s state-of-the-art concert facility with a regular marquee of headline acts. The hotel offers full spa services to mirror the mellow desert mood and the resort presents some excellent stay and play packages with sister property Indian Canyons Golf Resort.

Seeing the massive, Tuscan-inspired clubhouse from Interstate 10 portends what’s to come at Palm Desert’s Classic Club (above).  A former host of the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic (now the Humana Challenge, Jan. 13-19, 2014), the bold Classic Club features 30 acres of water and a wealth of wildlife across its Audubon Society-certified, Arnold Palmer-designed grounds.  After the round, enjoy lunch or dinner at Bellatrix, one of the Valley’s most impressive on-course dining experiences.

The dual Dr. Michael Hurdzan/Dana Frye designs at Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert are a pair of must-plays for return desert guests and newcomers alike.  If you’ve got two days, start with the Mountain View Course before taking your game to the more demanding grounds and forced carries of the Firecliff.  Brilliantly cut through ceaseless desert plantings, the consistent manicuring of these tracks make for two of the most special rounds in all of Southern California. Be sure to take in the terrific patio, where a full desert vista frames on-course activity.

Indian Wells Golf Resort  (below) is a mid-Valley hotbed of golf and resort activity.  Adjoining four lodging properties on the “resort campus” (Renaissance Esmeralda, Hyatt Regency, Indian Wells Resort Hotel and Miramonte Resort & Spa – each with their own stay and play packages), the Players and Celebrity courses each count among the finest in the region.  Akin to Desert Willow, there’s some fraternal twins here, with Clive Clark’s Celebrity proving a colorful and ever-pleasing tune-up before one tackles the muscular bunkering of the John Fought-designed Players.

For an excellent swing and study desert stay, pencil in a trip to Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Club in Palm Desert.  Home to Nick Faldo’s first domestic course design, the Australian Sandbelt-inspired grounds mix generous landing areas and massive (though testy) greens with 89 oft-barbaric bunkers.  To hone all facets of one’s game, pair a round with a lesson at the highly regarded Marriott Golf Academy, where superb facilities, modern swing technology and expert instructors observe your game in as quick as an hour, or via more intensive 2-Day and 3-Day Golf Schools.

The 27 holes of Ted Robinson-designed play at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa set up well for players of all skill levels.  Start with the North or South nines before working up to the tougher West Course, which opens with a four-hole stretch that will challenge all comers. The resort is regarded as one of the most welcoming in the desert, and golfers will fast notice the relaxed vibe while rounding through the property.  For lunch or dinner, enjoy the locally sourced ingredients and California stylings at bluEmber, or simply drive across the street to The River complex, where a host of dining and entertainment choices await.

Rancho’s Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa features two championship courses to couple with the pampering at the popular on-site spa and trio of swimming pools.  If you’ve only got time for one round, opt for the Gary Player Signature Course. An uncommon example of West Coast architecture from the Black Knight, the Player Signature Course mixes forgiving fairways with some required distance and a diverse run of par 3s.

Eastern Influence
As one heads further east, the desert’s mystical qualities are enhanced. Check in, wind down and tee up around the superb solitude of these locales.

The partnership between La Quinta Resort & Club and PGA West  creates the desert’s premier stay and play experience.  Welcoming guests since the 1920s, La Quinta Resort is an all-encompassing property for family trips, golf getaways or romantic sojourns.  The Resort’s seemingly limitless amenities, including spa treatments, swimming, tennis, golf, and dining, are watched over by the Santa Rosa Mountains.  Gentlemen won’t want to miss out on a shave and cigar at the Havana Club and, for all travelers, a dinner at Morgan’s in the desert will prove the best meal of your Valley stay.

Five publics are in play across the grounds of  La Quinta/PGA West, and all are worthy of a tee time.  For your most memorable round, ensure a day at the Pete Dye-designed Mountain Course, where the steady mountain ascent on the back nine evolves into an unforgettable experience.  Shark enthusiasts will enjoy the subtle teeth of the Greg Norman Course, presenting just 70 acres of turf, a dearth of residences and the unique cut of decomposed granite framing.  For the emboldened, set sights on the TPC Stadium Course; scratch golfers will readily enjoy Dye’s ubiquitous test of uneven lies while mid-to-high handicappers should hold on tight to avoid cresting the century mark.

Host to the former Bob Hope Classic from 2008-11, the Arnold Palmer Classic design at SilverRock Resort (above) in La Quinta is a vigorous pairing of muscle and marvel.  Routed across the base of the Santa Rosas with more than 200 acres of turf, water, sand and stone, SilverRock plays more than 7,500-yards for the long baller and presents a consistent test of iron accuracy to avoid well-guarded greens.  The 570-yard, par-5 home hole serves as a final reminder you’ve just taken on a true championship design.

The North and South Courses at The Golf Club at Terra Lago in Indio match native routing with exciting elevation changes and postcard-worthy water features.  Home to the Skins Game from 1999-2002, each track proves a unique play, though the North will make a pronounced impression for the player who appreciates idyllic isolation followed by a hard-charging finish.

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