In my previous blog column I covered some of the history and activities in and around Palm Springs.
On a recent visit to the area with my son Carey, we tried to do it all and to some extent succeeded, but really not possible to do with all the options available.
This first visit to the area was part of our annual father/son adventure. On these trips we always always include trying to include experiencing the range of tourist draws in the regions we visit, even though our primary motivation is always to test our skills, or lack of thereof, on the golf tracks.
This column will focus mostly on that activity in this unique region of California.
While the region is most often identified with downtown Palm Springs proper, the area is actually comprised of nine separate but inter-connected communities that also include Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella.Most of these communities are in the 50,000 population range, and travelling between them is easy and stress free.
Each city offers any number of courses from which to choose.
Between mid-September and late November, fully one-third to a half of golf courses in the Greater Palm Springs area are closed for overseeding. This is done annually at this time to insure that when the majority of tourists arrive for the prime winter months, they will be playing on the finest conditions that can be found on golf tracks anywhere.
While our trip to Palm Springs occurred during the fall time frame, there was no problem in finding golf courses to play on. It is part of a deliberate strategy employed here to make sure those tourists who visit during shoulder season periods, still have plenty of options for quality golf.
The schedule of overseeding by golf course is also published online. We don’t hear of overseeding in the same manner as undertaken in desert areas, but the process is an important one.
Most of the courses here have Bermuda grass on them during the hot summer months. The nature of Bermuda grass is such that it will go dormant during the cooler winter months. So ryegrass is seeded over the Burmuda, then covered by a layer of sand that makes the courses unplayable until the new seeds root, and get strong.
Depending upon who you talk with, there are between 110 and 125 golf courses in the Greater Palm Springs region, many designed by the top names in the industry, from Arnold Palmer, to Pete Dye, Jack Nicholas and more.
Many of the resorts will have two courses, each developed by a different designer, giving their guests no reason to look further than the property where they choose to stay.
When I asked Michael Walker, a Regina Saskatchewan native and now Club Director at the Omni Rancho Los Palmas, why Palm Springs has become such a major golf destination, his answer was simple, “For seven months of the year we have the world’s best weather. From the middle of October to after the end of April there is no place you’d rather be for golf.”
Maxing out at 6500 yards, the Rancho Los Palmas course was created to be challenging but enjoyable, and affordable, for the mid and higher handicap golfer.
For those who want the wide open spaces with few houses bordering the fairways, the Weston Mission Hills Palmer course, the J.W. Marriot Palm Desert tracks, and the Indian Wells Resort courses are exceptional.
Millions of dollars have been invested in creating rapids and waterfalls on these desert courses, in addition to as many man-made lakes as you are likely to find anywhere. This makes them beauties to behold and a challenge to play. But these are challenges that are fair, with numbers of tee options from which to play.
For a taste of real desert golf, framed by the nearby mountains of Palm Springs, is one of the regions newest courses, only minutes away from downtown Palm Springs. The Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort offers two interesting choices.
The new Resort Course offers rolling terrain, loads of target making shot challenges, lots of water and memorable mountain views.
The older Legends Course was designed more than half a century ago, with narrow tree lined fairways, over 40 bunkers, and severely sloped greens that make putting a mixture of celebration and chagrin.
There are PGA golf courses nearby, and two annual golf events are hosted in the area every year. The Humana Challenge in support of the Clinton Foundation will be played in La Quinta in just a few weeks, from January 15-19. In 2015 the LPGA Kraft Nabisco tournament will be hosted in Rancho Mirage from April 2-5.
While golf was our primary focus during this trip, the quality and variety of unique restaurant choices made it much more interesting than many other places. And the options of things to do, from resort water parks, to aerial trams, mountain and valley hiking, along with many other choices, made for an enjoyable vacation.
To find out more about the courses in this prime golf destination area, along with a list of others things to do, contact the Greater Palm Springs Visitors Bureau at www.visitgreaterpalmsprings.com.
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