The Good; The Bad; The Golf in Palm Springs
By Bob Enzel
My golfing family and I checked into the Marriott
in Palm Desert during high season with a week of golf in front of
us and many courses to choose from. To ease us onto the golf
scene we opted to start off with the home course, Shadow Ridge
at Marriott. As a Marriott member the fee of $110 was reduced
to $100 which for Palm Desert during high season we considered to
be reasonable. The course was in excellent condition and proved
a suitable challenge, however, the weather wasn’t quite as good as
we anticipated, but neither were we. There were sufficient water
holes to keep our attention focused away from the beautiful mountain
scenery and enough sand bunkers to give everyone’s sand wedge a decent
On our second
day we decided to play Shadow Ridge again because we felt it
was a good course worthy of our exceptional golfing abilities.
This time around the course layout was familiar and we knew which
bunkers we did not want to be in and where we preferred our balls
to land. The course was beautifully laid out and reminded us
of Hawk’s Landing a delightful course in Florida which is also
a Marriott property (see George Schissler’s detailed review.)
The weather improved to an anticipated Palm Springish feel and our
game improved as we got over our jet lag and found our groove…so to
speak. It was a fun day on the course.
The magazine “Golf News” had an advertorial on Indian
Springs Golf and Country Club in Indio; their ad sold us on giving
it a try. It was a nice course, but with 729 homes in
this residential development we thought the course a bit cramped.
On the narrow fairways two balls clunked roofs; another disappeared
into a fenced off yard and one plopped into a swimming pool.
One of the more interesting aspects about this course was that to
get from hole #9 to hole #10 and from hole #18 back to the clubhouse,
golfers have to cross a traffic controlled intersection. On
a positive note, their excellent GPS system was right on the money
and the fairways and greens were in fine condition. The ad truthfully
claimed the greens were small and well maintained at a tournament
level 10 rating on the USGA stimpmeter. The fee was perhaps bit high
for this semi-private course in my humble opinion at $99—the advertorial
promised the best golf value under $100…but it didn’t tell us we had
to pay extra for driving range balls.
it was time to play one of the more well known courses. Our
reservation to play Trilogy Golf Course at La Quinta had been
made weeks before so all we had to do was show up. For our $130
fee we anticipated a top-of-the-line golf course, but perhaps we anticipated
too much? Yes, the mountain scenery from Trilogy is beautiful,
but the scenery is also attractive at most of the other lesser lights,
however, the “Skins Game” is played here and maybe therein lays our
consternation. Playing the course we noted that we crossed
street after second-home-street from one fairway to the next. Our
feelings were that Trilogy is not a golf course decorated with
lovely homes, it is a housing development with lovely tee boxes and
fairways. At this particular time the greens had been reseeded
and were several weeks away from putting merit. Which reminds
me, golfers have to pay extra for a decent course layout and the carts
did not provide GPS service. If you accept the premise
that because a couple of golf pros play the course once a year it
must be a great resort, then you’ve been had. Our opinion is
that Trilogy doesn’t respect the recreational golfer—it’s after
money. There were some good points, such as, an excellent driving
range, putting and chipping facilities, but was this worth thirty
more dollars over equal or better facilities at Shadow Ridge?
We thought not.
following recently appeared in the “Travel & Leisure Golf” magazine.
“Escena Golf Club…which opened in 2005, is a wide-open
Nicklaus designed affair, forgiving without being facile. The
conditions are superb year-round, and the greens fees top off at $115,
a veritable bargain around here.” Around here referred to Palm
Springs. We went on the Internet to check out the Escena Golf
Club and found that the on-line rate was only $75 dollars---a
Palm Springs bargain. The weather continued to be good and the
price was fair, but the resort was still undergoing construction which
perhaps reflected the rate. The driving range consisted of a
back yard-type-hitting net and a practice putting green the size of a
nutshell. Range balls were free, but hitting into a net was
like kissing your sister. According to a golfer that joined
our threesome; “the club house has been under construction for three
Hole one was over five hundred yards. It’s
not often that you begin with a par five and a chance to use one third
of your clubs on the first hole. The course had its good and bad points
and perhaps the bad outweighed the good at this juncture of its short
life as a golf course. The greens were large and interesting
but several were under repair; the par 3 holes offered a nice mixture
and short holes; the sand traps were strategically
placed; abundant water with lots of wildlife, but, the cart paths
were unpaved--sandy and dusty. A couple of the fairways
were quite divoted from previous golfers who must have been using
pick axes instead of golf clubs; so many divots it looked like a mole
convention was in town. The management at Escena
was good enough to provide a nice little course layout booklet at
no charge similar to one that Trilogy sells for about $7 dollars.
The scenery was lovely, of course, mountains all around us, but this
was a facility of the future that we would try again after it completes
When it came time to decide where we would play
our final round, we decided we’d rather play the Marriott’s Shadow
Ridge Golf Course again then play another housing development
course in Palm Springs or Indio. After all, Shadow Ridge
is not a poor relation—it’s a Nick Faldo designed championship course
with formidable bunkers, generous fairways and subtle undulating greens.
And, the ubiquitous Santa Rosa Mountains are also in the background.
The bottom line is that
it’s your money and your time. Sure, play famous courses and say you
did it, but don't be conned by the “Skins Game” into believing Trilogy
is the greatest resort since sliced bread. When you watch the
pros play on TV you don't see construction or streets between fairways--what
you do see are gorgeous mountains and beautifully manicured golf holes.
The pros play on a lot of courses around the U.S. and we've played
a number of them without finishing the round feeling like we'd been
part of a marketing plan.
We’ve now returned
home in the cold and long for the pleasant weather in the Palm Springs
valley and the enjoyment of playing golf in the desert. No question,
Palm Springs has a lot to offer the recreational golfer on vacation
who wants to escape the bone-chilling cold of winter. If you
get the opportunity, by all means go and enjoy the mountains and the
fine golf courses carved out of desert sands.
Tip: Check out the local “Southern California
Golf News” (paper) for advertisements offering reduced fees.
There was even a January $99 special at Trilogy which we couldn’t
take advantage of and a $55 special at Indian Palms. Also,
check for on-line specials.
Brief course comparisons: