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Course Review: Palm Desert Resort Country Club

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Palm Desert Resort Country Club Review

Jack Nicklaus once said, “The game is meant to be fun,” and Palm Desert Resort Country Club is a golf course that exudes fun with a capital “F.”

Challenging shots and heroic holes will stimulate and tease players of all skill levels. A great collection of long and short holes will keep you on your toes to contemplate strategy and exercise imagination. Forget about slope ratings higher than Mount Everest and preposterous lengths that only widen the gap between amateur golfers and professional tour players. Palm Desert Resort is a fun course to play because its traditional design allows any golfer to play well but still forces all golfers to look back and reflect on how they could have played better.

Palm Desert’s six sets of tees ranging from 5,173 to 6,546 yards is a great example of how this Billy Casper Golf operated, parkland resort track challenges players of various abilities right off the bat. Fairways are generously sized and rarely take the driver out of your hands. However, there isn’t a strictly linear setup to the different yardages. If you play from the tips or play it forward you’re still going to have to think about aggressive or smart options off the tee.

Seven water features affect eight holes, while an array of Honduras Pines, and California Pepper and Tamarisk trees can block second shots and put the screws to players who think they can fire away with reckless abandon. Wide open spaces in the fairways are balanced with a handful of doglegs and tight spots that reward great shots but don’t punish you if you’re six inches offline.

“The course has the right amount of teeth to give better players a championship-caliber test, but the average golfer doesn’t have to strike their drives perfectly every time,” PGA General Manager Phil Vigil said. Like the old resort courses designed in California, you don’t need to be extraordinarily precise off the tee to leave yourself with a good look into the greens.

Natural splendor is a big part of any course appeal, and Palm Desert’s piercing bodies of blue water with majestic mountain backdrops will create memories of joyful contemplation that swell within you until you come back again. Yawning bunkers are strategically placed throughout the course, and feature the kind of immaculate white sand that you only see at luxury resorts. Some greenside traps can be tricky to escape, but they won’t make you want to quit on the spot. Be honest, we’ve all been there.

Medium-sized Bermuda greens are Sinatra-smooth to putt on, and tightly mowed chipping areas offer scores of greenside options. Some putting surfaces are multi-tiered or elevated to intensify the challenge, however, you won’t experience those tormenting scenarios when a good shot hits the green and then trickles off into a hazard because you didn’t juice-up your approach with pro-level spin.

The first few holes at Palm Desert will have you chasing birdies faster than a rabbit with a hound dog on its tail. Don’t let that fool you. On the signature par-3, 6th hole birdie-seekers are faced with a terrifying shot. A forced carry to a well-bunkered island green offers no bailout, even for bogey-shooters. There’s no way around it – if you miss the green you’re in for a spanking. Challenge No. 6 and win, and you’re rewarded with a shot that will warm your heart with golf magic. 

Every great course should have a drivable par-4, and the testy 9th hole conjures up a risk-reward tee shot that’s equal parts harrowing and thrilling. To reach the green in one you’ll have to squeeze your drive through a grove of Eucalyptus trees and onto a small kidney-shaped green that slopes right to left. A lake frames the entire left side of the hole and increasingly comes into play as the fairway progressively narrows all the way to the putting surface. Whether you face your fears or play it safe, No. 9 is a creative force capable of producing spectacular or catastrophic results.

The 18th hole at Palm Desert

The par-3, 18th hole is one of the most challenging finishing holes in the Greater Palm Springs area. From an elevated tee looking straight back to the clubhouse, you’re hitting at a daunting island fairway that requires a drive between 210 and 240 yards to reach. Anything longer or shorter will capsize in the horseshoe-shaped lake. No matter your club selection, this is a shot that lets you know you’re alive. On approach, you have to carry another 50 yards of water to reach the small, undulating green that’s protected by two bunkers at the opening and slopes back towards you. Hit the green to finish your round and you’ll feel Palm Desert’s hearty handshake for a job well done.

The beauty of Palm Desert Resort Country Club is its balanced personality. It’s not a course that gives an advantage to one particular skill level or style of play over another. Fairways are massively wide, but you can’t be careless off the tee for ideal second shot positioning. Green accessibility isn’t hostile, but you still have to carry hazards and give attention to placement if you expect ample scoring opportunities. The clubhouse vibe is welcoming, the playability is enjoyable, and the overall experience is absolutely first-class. Take a bow Palm Desert Resort – you deserve it.

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