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Tee Off at one of Palm Springs' Best Golf Courses



While Palm Springs has long been a haven for sun seekers looking to spend their afternoons poolside, there's little the desert does better than golf courses. More than 100 courses can be found throughout the desert cities, including PGA courses and those designed by heavyweights like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. And with year-round warm weather beckoning you to the greens come sunrise, it's hard to resist packing up the clubs and going for 18 holes. 

While every golfer will find their personal favorites in Palm Springs, one golf destination that's undisputedly notable is Desert Willow Golf Resort, which offers two Palm Desert courses to please both novice and experienced golfers. The Firecliff course – one of the most challenging in the desert – pits golfers against more than 7,000 yards of water features and sand beds, while most find the Mountain View course a little friendlier. 

Across town, SilverRock Resort in La Quinta once hosted the Bob Hope Classic (now the Humana Challenge that draws former President Bill Clinton and a myriad of celebrities each year). The resort's Arnold Palmer Classic Course is nestled at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, hence the resort's name. This public course is owned by the city of La Quinta and features bunkers, creeks and natural hazards around every turn. 

Ready to tee off? Check out the full list of the desert's 10 best golf courses below.


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The low key courses at Palm Desert Country Club celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2012, and today the 18-hole Championship course is known for its expansive fairways and large sand traps. Waterfalls, lakes, tree-lined fairways and the San Jacinto Mountains in the distance keep a morning on the greens as easy on the eyes, a welcome distraction from a few tricky holes. You'll find that if you can conquer the challenging holes of 2 and 15, the rest of the course will be much easier to navigate. Palm Desert Country Club's Executive course is scheduled to reopen in fall of 2013.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: Palm Desert Country Club offers one of the oldest courses in the desert, as well as one of the most relaxing.

Local Expert tip: If you plan to hit the greens hard during your stay, a one-month membership may help you save on fees. A Roadrunner Pass is also available and offers a 25% discount on greens fees.

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Formerly Trilogy Golf Club, The Golf Club at La Quinta has hosted the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Annika Sorenstam. The 18-hole championship design by Gary Panks includes wide fairways that draw golfers looking for a more relaxed game with scenic mountain views on every hole. Six distinct tee boxes mean your game could range from 4,998 to 7,175 feet in length. Another reason this golf course is a popular choice? The fees are some of the most affordable you'll find for a course of this caliber. The course also received 4.5 out of 5 stars from Golf Digest's round-up of best places to play in 2008-2009.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: The Golf Club at La Quinta is an 18-hole championship course that hosted the PGA Tour's LG Skins game from 2003-2006.

Local Expert tip: If you're looking for a deal, you won't find a better value for this quality course than a mid-week tee time during summer.

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La Quinta Resort offers access to five courses � its Mountain and Dunes courses, as well as the three resort courses at PGA West. The Dunes course is filled with sand traps (hence the name), but it's also a player-friendly course that's fun for golfers of all skill levels. The course is also known for its links-style design and scenic backdrops. The Mountain course is a better fit for golfers seeking a bit of challenge on the greens. Narrow fairways, tall grass and elevation changes will keep you on your toes, but at least the views of the Santa Rosa Mountains will keep your spirits high.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: La Quinta Resort offers two Pete Dye courses on site, as well as the three resort courses at PGA West.

Local Expert tip: If you only have time for one course, opt for the Mountain course.

Read more about La Quinta Resort →


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Classic Club is undoubtedly one of the more high-end golf courses in the Palm Springs area, but it's well worth the price tag. Aside from the impeccable service, Classic Club is known for its Arnold Palmer-designed course that previously hosted the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. The tour-quality greens, 30 acres of water features, elevation changes and five tee box sets make this one of the desert's most challenging and fun courses. On a windy day, though, expect the difficulty factor to go through the roof. The views and service, though, are high-class throughout. Classic Club is managed by Troon Golf, which specializes in luxury courses.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: Classic Club once hosted the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic on its Arnold Palmer-designed course.

Local Expert tip: If it's a particularly windy day, opt for lunch at the clubhouse rather than fighting the wind on the course.

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Escena's Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course is a fan favorite for its prime Palm Springs location, its mid-range price point and its design that's just plain fun to play. PGATour.com ranked Escena's course as the 6th best course to play in California, a designation earned for the challenging holes you'll experience as soon as you tee off. Four sets of tee boxes means you can set your own pace on the greens, so no need to be intimated by this scenic course. Also of note is the distinctly Palm Springs clubhouse and its mid-century modern design. After a round of golf, retreat to the clubhouse to cool off with that 19th hole drink.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: Escena Golf Club boasts a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, attentive staff and an affordable price point, especially considering the quality of the course.

Local Expert tip: Ask for a copy of the course layout. This handy booklet will help you master the course with descriptions and yardage for every hole on the course.

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When a club can say that not one but both of their courses earned a spot as one of the top 20 courses to play in California, you know you need to book a tee time. Both the Celebrity and Players courses at Indian Wells Golf Resort earned the accolade from Golfweek Magazine, and the Celebrity course also hosted the PGA Tour's LG Skins game twice. Both courses are picturesque, though the Players course is a bit more challenging. The service is standout here – for example, your clubs are picked up in the parking lot to be placed in your cart, your cooler is topped off with ice throughout your game and after your round, your clubs will be waiting for you in the parking lot, squeaky clean.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: Indian Wells Golf Resort's two courses were both ranked as one of the top 20 courses to play in California by Golfweek Magazine.

Local Expert tip: Arrive early to warm up on the practice range – golf balls are free for practice.

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The 18-hole Arnold Palmer Classic Course at SilverRock was the host course for the star-studded Bob Hope Classic (now the Humana Challenge) from 2008-2011. Today, the public course invites golf enthusiasts of all skill levels to "challenge the rock." The 7,578-yard course rolls over 200 acres and sits at the base of the sprawling Santa Rosa Mountains, a breathtaking backdrop best appreciated at sunrise with an early tee-off. The front nine holes are relatively easy to conquer when compared to the challenge of the back nine, which are crawling with water features. This public, city-owned course is also one of the best golf values to be found in the desert.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: SilverRock offers an Arnold Palmer-designed course that's garnered praise and awards from outlets like Zagat and Golf Week Magazine.

Local Expert tip: Spend some time in the practice facility before heading out to "challenge the rock."

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The prestigious PGA West Golf Club in La Quinta boasts six golf courses designed by some of the best names in the industry, including Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Pete Dye's Stadium course was ranked one of the top 100 courses to play in the U.S. by Golf Magazine, and it's also one of the club's more challenging courses – after all, the 17th hole is more commonly known as "Alcatraz." And if you manage to escape Alcatraz, you'll still have to navigate the water-lined 18th hole stands between you an victory. For a shorter and easier round, the 9-hole Greg Norman course is a popular choice.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: PGA West Golf Club features six courses designed by golf greats like Pete Dye, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Local Expert tip: Only three of the courses – the Greg Norman course, the Arnold Nicklaus Tournament course and the Stadium course – are open to the public, so plan accordingly.

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The Nick Faldo-designed course at this Marriott timeshare location in Palm Desert has been ranked one of the best resort courses and the 19th best course in California by GolfWeek Magazine. So why do people love the 18 holes at Shadow Ridge? Well, mostly for the challenge. The well-kept course features unforgivingly steep sand traps, a signature design by Faldo. Fairways can be deceivingly uneven, and the water features throughout the course may claim a ball or two during your game. The trick to mastering the course at Shadow Ridge is to attack it conservatively rather than going for all-out glory.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: Shadow Ridge Golf Resort features a Nick Faldo-designed course with killer sand traps and unsuspecting water features that create a challenging 18-hole game.

Local Expert tip: Take your golf game to the next level with instruction from the full-service Marriott Golf Academy, a practice facility and golf school located on site.

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Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert offers two of the area's best courses for those looking to tee off in the desert. The pristinely kept greens of both the Firecliff and Mountain View courses are well-manicured with desert flowers, bushes and trees. Combined with the courses' water features, natural hazards, sand beds and pristine views of the San Jacinto Mountains, both courses are easy favorites with visiting golfers. The Mountain View course offers 18 tranquil holes on a smooth course, while the Firecliff course is an 18-hole course that challenges players with large lakes and more than 100 bunkers throughout.

Recommended for Golf Courses because: Desert Willow offers one of the most challenging courses in the desert, as well as a scenic course for a more casual game.

Local Expert tip: Opt for a round at the Mountain View course if you're looking for an easy morning of golfing or if you're new to the sport. The Firecliff course isn't for the weak of heart.

Read more about Desert Willow Golf Resort →


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Meet Marissa Willman

Marissa Willman moved to the Coachella Valley in 2001 and loves discovering the best that the desert has to offer. As a Palm Springs local, Marissa enjoys sharing her knowledge of this desert...  More About Marissa

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