Palm Springs

Wrapping around a rocky edge, La Quinta's Mountain Course

NO. 1 COURSE: MOUNTAIN COURSE AT LA QUINTA

LOCATION: La Quinta, Ca.

DIRECTIONS FROM PALM SPRINGS AIRPORT: Head northwest on E. Tahquitz Canyon Way toward N. El Cielo Rd. Turn left at S. El Cielo Rd, and then left at E. Ramon Rd. Get onto I-10 E and go to the Washington St. exit. Turn right at Washington St. Make a right at Eisenhower Dr. and continue one mile. Resort will be on the right.

PHONE: 800-598-3828 (web site: laquintaresort.com)

OPENED: 1985 (Architect: Pete Dye)

GREEN FEES: Rates vary widely depending on the season. Call the clubhouse ahead.

LAYOUT: Par 72, 6,756 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: You’re not in the valley here. You’re in and around mountain edges and jutting rock outcroppings. It’s almost impossible to narrow it down to one signature hole.

The second hole, a 205-yard, par-3, the No. 1 handicap hole, grabs your attention with water all along the left side. The back side of the mountain has the most unusual terrain, beginning with holes No. 12 and going through No. 15. You enter a rocky solitude where the only noise you might hear are golf balls clanking off rock.

The par-4 14th offers bunkers that steers toward a dogleg right along the mountain while 15 is a long par-5 with a sizable bunker protecting an elevated green.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 16, par-3, 167 yards. This is the peak of the course, offering an expansive view of the Santa Rosa Cove. It’s not the hardest hole – the 18th handicap – but the view is spectacular.

NO. 2 COURSE:  DESERT DUNES

LOCATION: Desert Hot Springs, Ca.

DIRECTIONS FROM PALM DESERT: Take I-10 west to Palm Dr. exit. Go north on Palm Dr. The course is on the right-hand side.

PHONE: 760-251-5370 (web site: desertdunesgolf.com)

OPENED: 1989 (Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr.)

GREEN FEES: Through Feb. 29, 2012 – Resort Rate, $119; Early Bird (6-8 a.m.) $79; Prime Time (8-11 a.m.) $99; Peak Time (11 a.m.-12:23 p.m.) $79; Twilight (12:30-2 p.m.) $49; Super-Twilight (after 2 p.m.) $29.

LAYOUT: Par 72, 6,876 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: It’s a links-style course, lush fairways bordered by thick layers of natural grasses. The course winds through natural sand dunes, with significant elevation changes, and fast, sloping greens.

There are water hazards, strategically-placed bunkers and narrow landing areas. All around are dramatic mountain views and plenty of wildlife cutting through the course, roadrunners, bobcats and desert kit fox. More than 500 yards was added to the layout, 20 new tee boxes were built and the first and 15th holes were redesigned.

SIGNATURE HOLE: Combination of No. 9, par-5, 546 yards, and No. 18, par-4, 443 yards. A ample sized bunker sits in the middle of a unique double green for the ninth and 18th holes. The ninth is a par-5, 546 yards, so the approach generally is going to be from a longer distance.

NO. 3 COURSE: INDIAN CANYON – SOUTH COURSE

LOCATION: Palm Springs, Ca.

DIRECTIONS FROM PALM SPRINGS: The course is just two miles south of the city. Take I-10 south to Hwy 111, which becomes Palm Canyon Dr. and the road divides. Turn left on Murray Canyon Dr. Proceed one mile. Course in on the right.

PHONE: 760-327-6550 (web site: indiancanyonsgolf.com)

OPENED: 2004 (Architect: Casey O’Callaghan)

GREEN FEES: Rates range from $50 to $130 depending on season. It’s a semi-private course with limited public play. Call ahead.

LAYOUT: Par 72, 6,582 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: Sitting in the sheltered valley among the San Jacinto Mountains, there are gorgeous views all around. Four large lakes come into play for six holes. There are also more than 850 palm trees to avoid.

It’s not exceptionally long for a desert course, but there are five par-5s. Precise shots are important, as straying left or right can result in long trouble. There is also the sister 6,943-yard North Course.

It is considered one of the more accommodating courses for women in the country, extending 4,878 yards.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 16, par-4, 345 yards. The tough shot here is always going to be your approach to the green. You have to clear a water hazard in front but, if you fly too far, there’s water behind. Plus there are two bunkers, one in front and one on the right. The farther your tee shot the less of an issue you’re going to have.

NO. 4 COURSE:  FIRECLIFF AT DESERT WILLOW

LOCATION: Palm Desert, Ca.

DIRECTIONS FROM PALM SPRINGS: Take I-10 south and exit at Cook St. Turn right on Country Club Dr. Course entrance is on the left.

PHONE: 760-346-7060 (web site: desertwillow.com)

OPENED: 1997 (Architect: Dr. Michael Hurdzan)

GREEN FEES: Rates range from $75 to $185 depending on season.

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,056 yards (five tee positions)

LOWDOWN: Almost every hole has a waste area to carry off the tee. The lengths vary from hole to hole but you’ll also find that the landing area, at times, can be small.

It’s a combination of lush fairways and desert terrain. That desert pops up when you hit short off the tee or wander left and right. Then add water. It comes into play in at least half the holes. Then add more than 100 bunkers.

It has been selected the best public access course by Desert Golf Magazine for the past three years. There is also the 6,913-yard sister course, Mountain View.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 18, par-5, 536 yards. It takes three precise shots to get close to the pin. Your drive has to clear a waste area beyond the tee box. Then you have to deal with a small creek running across the fairway about 400 yards out. Your approach to the green has to avoid water in front and right and a bunker right and beyond.

NO. 5 COURSE: ESCENA 

LOCATION: Palm Springs, Ca.

DIRECTIONS FROM PALM SPRINGS: Take I-10 south and exit at Palm Dr. Turn right and left and Vista Chino. Then a right on Clubhouse View Dr. and enter the course.

PHONE: 760-778-2737 (web site: escenagolf.com)

OPENED: 2009 (Architect: Jack Nicklaus)

GREEN FEES: Rates range from $43 to $87 depending on the season.

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,211 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: This is the new kid on the block – 2009 – in a region known for plenty of quality golf courses. But when Jack Nicklaus gets involved, his designs attract attention.

The wonderful San Jacinto Mountain formed the backdrop to this desert course. Nicklaus uses the natural landscape while mixing in water features and plenty of sand.

It’s has been named one of the top 10 public courses in California by PGATour.com

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 1, par-5, 611 yards. Your back better be limber right from the start because Nicklaus sends you off with the longest hole on the course, also the No. 1 handicap hole. Fairway bunkers right and left on the drive. Another on the left as you approach an undulating green. That’s the warmup, as three holes later is the second longest hole, another par-5, followed by a 245-yard par 3.

- Bob Sherwin