My family is headed to Palm Desert, Calif., over Christmas. My brothers and I, ages 26-32, are average weekend golfers who would like to play two or three rounds. Our price range is $60-$150. Any suggestions on courses with good views that will leave us with a few bucks for a beer at the 19th hole?
— Patrick Read, Baltimore, Md.
Ah, yes — the golf-beer balance is a delicate one, indeed. I hope you like PBR, because you'll only have a buck or two left after your Saturday round at La Quinta Resort & Club's Mountain course ($139-$189 in December; 760-564-7610, laquintaresort.com). But it will taste great after you duel with a back nine that boasts the reachable par-5 15th — its green curled into a mountain cove — and the downhill par-3 16th, a forced carry to a sliver of green hemmed in by rocky desert scrub. To save enough cash for the imported stuff, try the region's best bargain, Escena Golf Club ($60-$105; 760-778-2737, escenagolf.com), a six-year-old Nicklaus Design effort near the Palm Springs Airport. There are wide fairways and bunkers that a 15-handicapper can escape, with just enough water to keep things interesting. The middle-ground pricewise is Marriott's Desert Springs ($135 in December, $79 after 2 pm; 760-341-2211, desertspringsresort.com), whose Palm and Valley courses won't "wow" you with design innovation but will knock you over with scenery, from waterscapes to towering palms to mountain views.