A Golf Renaissance in California's Coachella Valley

A Golf Renaissance in California's Coachella Valley
Located just over 100 miles east of Los Angeles -- the Coachella Valley is located in the northwest extension of the Sonoran Desert and originally was the easy getaway for Hollywood celebrities wishing to avoid the prying eyes of paparazzi. The allure soon spread to retirees. Looking for a warm retreat with many enjoying golf as their prime leisure activity of choice in spending their golden years in style and comfort.

Nine communities are within the Coachella Valley -- the most noted being Palm Springs.

Over 125 courses dot the landscape -- a mixture of private gated communities with walled-off golf compounds in concert with a growing number of quality resorts and daily fee facilities providing another compelling reason to tee it up.

As the years passed and retirees aged -- the overall allure of the Coachella Valley started a downward perceptional slide. The Coachella Valley became more noted as a place where old timers go and eventually fade out. Relevancy became an issue. Other destination locations diversified their offerings -- searching for younger audiences and those with varying lifestyles with a propensity to spend dollars as needed. More distant locations, with cost sensitive air transport options, offered no less ideal weather and a wider array of amenities and services. The Coachella Valley quickly became viewed as more "yesterday" than "today."

Coachella ValleySilverRock Resort

A case in point the former Hope Desert Classic -- named for the late great entertainer Bob Hope and an annual pilgrimage for the PGA Tour to the Coachella Valley since 1960 -- experienced near dire circumstances in securing long term sponsorship in recent times. Fortunately, the latest sponsor -- Humana -- had the good fortune in bringing former President Bill Clinton into the mix in serving as the event's public face and the connection to the global Clinton Foundation. Keeping the PGA Tour stop was an imperative in showcasing not only golf but the overall standing of the Coachella Valley.

Instead of simply fading into the background a concerted effort was started and quickly escalated in attracting a range of visitors – Canadian's, those within the gay community, a younger audience to counterpoint those of senior status. The net result? Many now call the greater Coachella Valley home year round.

As the rise of various resorts and other daily fee golf options became more prevalent -- broader opportunities for golfers searching for courses offering quality layouts and various services emerged -- previously only provided for gated community residents. Many of the newer courses have incorporated a slew of different design styles from some of the best golf architects in the field -- far beyond the predictable and pedestrian palm-tree lined courses that were so much a part of the early golf scene.

Various facilities have smartly added loyalty programs. Tiered pricing is de rigueur at many facilities throughout the year in order to keep golfer demand at a steady clip -- even when temps routinely go above 100 degrees.

The Coachella Valley of 2014 provides an eclectic assortment of activities with the arts, music and theater all making major strides -- personifying a 21st century intersection of hipness, chic and stability. Summers were at one time the siesta period -- not anymore. For an area once viewed as passé the reinvigoration has emboldened the belief that the future is indeed a promising one.

Coachella ValleyLaQuinta Resort, Mountain Course Hole 15


LaQuinta Resort / Mountain Course

Stellar Pete Dye design -- not bearish in terms of difficulty and provides a close connection to the desert landscape and nearby mountains. The view from the elevated par-3 16th provides an encapsulating overview of what golf is about in the Coachella Valley. www.laquintaresort.com

Coachella ValleyPGA West (Stadium)

LaQuinta Resort / PGA West (Stadium)
Architect Pete Dye provides an array of challenges -- avoid the 19-foot bunker left on the par-5 16th and simply take a deep breath before hitting your approach on the par-3 17th -- named appropriately Alcatraz because it's surrounded by water. With a 76.1 course rating and 150 slope it pays to follow Clint Eastwood's sage advice - "A man's got to know his limitations." www.pgawest.com

Classic Club

The Arnold Palmer layout is no slouch in terms of challenge and beauty. Three times the course served as one of the layouts used for the Hope Classic event and each time the reception was positive. Plenty of fairway movements dictate a deft hand with placement off the tee box and a number of the greens are well defended -- either by sand, water or both. www.classicclubgolf.com

Shadow Ridge / Marriott

The most striking course for the manner in which the numerous bunkers are positioned and crafted. The 2000 design comes from the tandem of Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt -- with Sir Nick Faldo consulting. Shadow Ridge breaks away from the tired pedestrian courses of yesteryear in the Valley -- a memorable layout with a rousing climax with the closing 18th hole. www.golfshadowridge.com

Firecliff's 18th hole at Desert WillowFirecliff's 18th hole at Desert Willow

Desert Willow / Firecliff

Dr. Michael Hurdzan working with then design partner Dana Fry -- in concert with input from PGA Tour star John Cook -- crafted a layout that belies its location. The course sports a more rugged and natural desert presentation -- the total antithesis when matched against other courses throughout the Valley. Playable but beguiling in its overall presentation -- fun is always the word here. The closing hole is a solid risk-and-reward hole to be remembered. www.desertwillow.com

Indian Wells Golf Resort / Players

Indian Wells has had community golf options since 1986 but in 2006 the two available courses were overhauled smartly. The facility's Celebrity Course hosted the now defunct Skins Game in '07 and '08 and is a fine layout but the adjoining Players Course is the more rigorous test. Designed by John Fought -- Players is not framed by intrusive homes or roads that break-up the experience and will demand your utmost skill. This is muni golf that belies the stereotypical definition. www.indianwellsgolfresort.com

SilverRock Resort

Located and owned by the community of La Quinta -- this Arnold Palmer design served as one of the host courses during the Hope Classic and presents numerous key decision holes -- ones protected by water and bunkers and often "choke point" areas where margins for error are extremely small. The long par-4 15th is one the area's best holes and will play a key role in determining your final tally for the day. www.silverrock.org

GC at Terra Lago / North

Opened in 1998 as Landmark Golf Club -- the facility gained immediate attention in hosting the aforementioned Skins Game from 1999-2002. The 36-hole complex consists of a North and South courses. Both are quality challenges with the North providing far more elevation changes and a bit more hole diversity. If time allows be sure to play both. www.golfclub-terralago.com

Coachella ValleyPalm Springs Aerial Tramway


Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Whisks you away from the desert floor to the near top of San Jacinto peak in less than 15 minutes. Opened in 1963 the tram is the world's largest rotating aerial tramway. You begin the climb at the 2,643 foot level -- passing through five life zones to a height of 8,516 feet at Mountain Station. Hiking and sightseeing make the visit an absolute must. www.pstramway.com


Less than an hour's drive from the heart of the desert floor -- Idyllwild, situated in the San Jacinto Mountains, is roughly at a mile elevation in height and is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise with rock climbing among the more featured activities. A range of shops and stores deck the area but never to the point of overkill. For those looking for a desert alternative to your time in the Coachella Valley it's the perfect addition. www.idyllwild.com

Coachella Valley

The Living Desert

Opened in 1970 -- the Living Desert is the quintessential way to fully comprehend and appreciate the richness and sheer diversity of the varied life forms occupying this special location. Of the 1,200 acres -- 1,000 remains in a natural state. Situated in Palm Desert, The Living Desert provides for educational awareness and social responsibility and is solid way to both learn and appreciate what the broader Coachella Valley provides.

Coachella Valley

Palm Springs Art Museum

Founded in 1938 -- the Palm Springs Art Museum is a merging of performing arts, educational classes, natural sciences, art exhibitions, and so much more under one roof. The cultural dimensions of the Coachella Valley, both historically and contemporary, are fully explored through a range of programs and offerings. www.psmuseum.org

Coachella ValleyMiramonte Resort & Spa


Miramonte Resort & Spa

Feeling stressed? Head to Miramonte and its renowned The Well Spa. Whatever tensions you have coming in will quickly be alleviated when staying here. Ideally located just off Highway 111. Provides one of the best breakfast buffets in the Valley. www.miramonteresort.com

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa

Immediately adjoining Indian Wells Resort and provides a broad range of creature comforts with 45 acres of solitude and service at your service. www.indianwells.hyatt.com

La Quinta Resort & Club

Opened in 1926 as a desert pleasure getaway by William Morgan – La Quinta Resort is an intersection in honoring the legacy of what made coming to the Valley so utterly captivating. The facility provides access to 90 holes of golf, has 41 pools, and spa on a total of 45 acres. One of the few locations where guests and their pets are warmly invited. www.laquintaresort.com