Course Spy: PGA West, TPC Stadium

PgawestPGA West, TPC Stadium La Quinta, California 7,300 yards, par 72 Green fees: $69-$255 pgawest.com 800-742-9378 Service At this premium course in a pricey corner of the California desert, expect five-star service trappings with a helpful staff and a practice area with grass impeccable enough to dine off. And it took all of our self-discipline not to fill our bag with a bunch of flawless range balls. Pace of Play This is a long, difficult course with more water than SeaWorld, at a resort in a region filled with plumb-bobbing retirees. It doesn't take a mathematician to know what that equation adds up to. Expect a four-and-a-half hour round, minimum, even on less than busy days. Quality At a time when design trends are pointing away from Pete Dye's modern stylings, the Stadium course seems almost retro-chic. Which is not to say it's dated. Like the Art Deco architecture of the surrounding region, this throwback layout has a timeless appeal. Value Peak season in the winter means you'll fork over more than $200 for a top-notch experience. Happily, when the mercury rises, prices plummet, and the Stadium Course is a summer steal at less than $100. For serious players in the golf-crazy area, it's a must all year long. Verdict When it opened 26 years ago, playing this course with balata and persimmon was like trying to tame a dragon with a rolled-up newspaper. In 2012, armed with modern weaponry, today's weekend golfers can have a shotmaking blast on the memorable Stadium course.

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