No matter how you look at it, desert golf at La Quinta is a blast.
Murphy O'Brien
By Joe Passov
Saturday, February 07, 2009

Drive around Palm Springs these days and chances are you'll find yourself on a road named for a dead celebrity.

\nFolks like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Gerald Ford put this place on the map, so Palm Springs continues to pay tribute to its dearly departed legends.

\nLa Quinta Resort & Club, which opened in 1926, was the original reason that celebrities hiked into the desert east of Los Angeles, and today the golf and hotel offerings are still A-List. La Quinta has all the amenities that appeal to couples and families, but its menu of trophy courses make it an underrated spot for buddy trips, too. And hey — Adam Sandler was a recent guest, so if it's good enough for Happy Gilmore ...

\nPGA West (Greg Norman)
7,156 yds, par 72
Green fees: $79-$179

\nUnlike the Shark, this nine-year-old course flies under the radar. It has plenty of muscle, but it lacks in-your-face dramatic holes. This is a true desert-target track (okay, so there are nine lakes in this desert) with slender fairways pinched by buffer areas of decomposed granite. Shaveddown green surrounds and crushed-marble bunkers give this layout its distinctive feel. It is completely different from any of its neighbors, but the absence of a 'Wow!' factor keeps it from the top tier. Play it anyway — there's nothing quite like it.

\nLa Quinta (Mountain Course)
6,756 yards, par 72
Green fees: $99-$179

\nWith this 1980 design, Pete Dye transformed the Palm Springs area from a sleepy enclave of private courses to a golf vacation destination. These days the course plays a little short, but it's still drenched in character. Slow play is often an issue, especially at the brutal but beautiful 205-yard 2nd, where the water hazard forces many to reload. You'll also need to struggle through the boredom of flat, house-lined holes from number 10 through 13. However, in the middle of both nines the mountainside golf is so overwhelmingly beautiful and fun that the track earns its No. 70 ranking in our Top 100 Courses You Can Play on the strength of those holes alone. Just remain patient enough to get there.

\nLa Quinta (Dunes Course)
6,747 yards, par 72
Green fees: $59-$149

\nThe Dunes debuted a year after the Mountain and it boasts almost as much traditional Dye challenge — grassy mounds, railroad ties and elevated greens, to name just a few. What it lacks are the genuinely thrilling holes that exist on the Mountain, but it's still a worthy stop for vacationing golfers, even if the primary hazard is a hard-to-disguise drainage canal. The 433-yard 17th, which curves hard left around a large lake, would be an all-star hole on any course.

\nPGA West (Nicklaus Tournament)
7,126 yards, par 72
Green fees: $79-$179

\nThis is the most underrated course in the Coachella Valley, a relic of Jack's no-holds-barred design style in the late 1980s. That's when all you needed to score well on a Nicklaus course was to hit the ball as long, straight and high as Jack did during his heyday. Minimalists will loathe the massive, serpentine waste bunkers, steep falloffs and a lake-protected double green that serves the 9th and 18th holes, but fans of tough, brawny courses will love it.

\nPGA West (Stadium Course)
7,300 yards, par 72
Green fees: $99-$199

\nGuests of La Quinta Resort & Club have preferred access to the PGA West courses, so you can book your mugging on the Stadium Course up to 120 days in advance. It no longer evokes the terror it did in the 1980s, when crybaby Tour pros refused to return and face its relentless obstacles, but the Stadium is still the top public "must play" in the SoCal desert. Good golfers won't be too intimidated by the forced carries, but the 19-footdeep bunker left of the 16th green and the island green at the par-3 17th will make everyone's mouth a little drier.

\nStaying here Rooms at La Quinta start at $225 per night.
Call 800-598-3828 or visit

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