INDIO, Calif. -- Perhaps it's appropriate that the modern-day grounds of the Indian Springs Golf Club were initially designed, in part, by crooner/composer Hoagy Carmichael back in the early 1960s. What was once counted among the Coachella Valley's golf also-rans was razed to Stardust at the turn of the New Millennium.
"We had 102 golf courses in the area at that time," said Indian Springs General Manager and Director of Golf Neil Finch, who was on site for architect David Ginkel's total course overhaul in 2000. "I used to say this one wasn't ranked in the top-100. It was not very impressive."
More than a million yards of dirt were moved to craft the grounds of today, and the result is a highly playable golf course that serves as a nice, little gem on the east end of the Valley.
Indian Springs is also a point of pride for Finch, who added the title of "proprietor" to his aforementioned duties in 2008.
"It's nice working in the resort business," said Finch. "I'm trying to give people a good product at a good value. Nobody is excluded from having a good time here. Some other places with difficulty and length are designed for Tour pros, and mama just can't play those. And, usually, if mama isn't having fun, nobody's having fun."
Such a homespun vibe is mirrored throughout the clubhouse. While a number of the region's luminary tracks are bigger than Indian Springs, few can match the consummate cleanliness of these grounds and affability of these caretakers.
The Indian Springs' staff calls these greens a "Perfect 10," a reference to the speed of the Stimpmeter setting. The putting surfaces indeed roll true, though pitches and chips require a studied touch.
The other name feature here is water, which spreads across 11 holes. But true to the course's inclusive design: The hazards are coupled with ample "outs," serving as a test for the low-handicapper while concurrently playing as a pleasing aesthetic that won't beat-up the duffer.
"They kind of come in on the side, so there's tons of bail-out area," said Finch of the water features. "So it's not in your face. It's not target-golf."
The front side at Indian Springs will make the more distinct impression, though getting from the gate quickly requires some finite shot-making before the course offers some ease. The 350-yard, par-4 first is short but skinny, presenting water on the deep right and bunkering to the left mid-fairway.
"No. 2 is our signature hole," said Finch of the 400-yard dogleg left. "There's a waterfall behind the green that creates a stream that goes to the left and front of the green. And there's also a lake on the right. Even though it's only 400-yards long, it's probably our most difficult hole."
After a lengthy, 233-yard, par-3 third, the 562-yard, par-5 fourth hole sports an ample landing surface before water appears before the front and right of the green.
The 360-yard, par-4 No. 7 is a thesis of hazard meeting a bail-out option. The tee shot proves benign before lake water emerges to the right and back of the hole on the approach, though going left finds ample playing space.
"There's a lot of good-looking holes at you finish up," said Finch. "No. 15 is a simple par 4 with a stream that fronts the left of the green and water behind to the right."
The 193-yard 17th is another example of a bail-out option, with spacious turf to the left and water and bunkering to the right. Choices are also evident on the par-5 home hole, where water guards the front and right of the hole, yet mama can still find that par by playing safely to the left.
"It's a nice course, and it was hard to hold the greens," said Tod Louis, a high-handicap vacationer from Highland Park, Minn. "It's pretty spread out, so there's some commuting between tee boxes. There was some water but not too much to get you in a lot of trouble."
Bigger isn't always better. While many area courses advertise themselves on the tenet of inclusion, Indian Springs truly is a golf course that will prove very playable for all levels.
Full practice facility is offered, and instruction is available to players of all levels.
Visitors will surely appreciate the free lunch that is included with your green fee. Tip: Though the free lunch can be used for an on-course snack, wait until after your round to enjoy the voucher in the excellent Club House Grille.
March 23, 2012