PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Call them the "Swim Family Robinson."
Initially designed by the late Ted Robinson, the Palm Course at JW Marriott Desert Springs has enjoyed a recent retouch courtesy of the son of "The King of Waterscapes," Ted Robinson, Jr.
And the spring of the progeny doesn't run far from the well.
Robinson, Jr.'s Palm Course retouch (reported at $1.5 million) in the summer of 2011 didn't tweak his father's signature water features. Rather, the resulting refurbish was intended to return the mid-1980s design to its original intentions while adding new wrinkles to the popular resort track.
"We redid the greens from straight seed. It's a TifEagle bermuda and the sand is a new crushed marble," said Tristan Taylor, the first assistant head professional at JW Marriott Desert Springs, adding that the putting surface regrooms have returned the greens to USGA specs.
"We laser-leveled all the tee boxes and regraded and regrassed them as well with new bermuda," Taylor said. "We added some bunkers and brought existing bunkers back toward the fairway to redefine some holes. We also smoothed out some sharp edges and made it a lot fairer and a lot better test of golf."
Of observing Robinson, Jr.'s work, Taylor said: "Keeping it in the family, knowing the golf course from [the] ground up, it made sense to have him come back and do it. He was very hands-on."
Taylor and his colleagues will again observe such tactile approach when Robinson, Jr. returns in the summer of 2012 to retouch the Palm's sister on these grounds, the Valley Course.
The Palm accomplishes exactly what it was designed to do: provide a fair and fun playing surface with a host of memorable holes. Though namely benign off the tee, only the most accurate level of players will escape the eye-pleasing perils of continuous water features.
"The Palm features water on a dozen holes; you can lose a lot of balls on the Palm Course," Taylor said. "In a way, it's easier than the Valley because the fairways aren't as undulated, but again, you have a lot more water and some of those features aren't real visible. You can't really see them; they're kind of blind. So it's a little trickier in that way."
While generally flat on the front side, the back nine presents a transition to oft-rolling terrain that couples with mountain backdrops and expertly palm-framed green targets for a number of postcard holes. The undulations aren't terribly penal, but instead appear like gently waved green bedding. Such eased mounding will no doubt grab your attention of Nos. 10, 13 and 15.
Though the Palm is replete with enjoyable holes, it's the final three that are ideally drawn for scope and stamina.
At 409 yards, the 16th is the second-longest par 4 on the back and is the finest hole among the 36 on the property. The scene is gorgeous, though the test is ample with a tee shot over water followed by a continuous lake running through the deep fairway.
The 160-yard, par-3 17th nears stimuli-overload. Critics may dub the hole as "gimmicky," yet the island green demands accuracy. Anything short, long or off line will either find bunkering or a drop shot. The 17th charts as the No. 14 handicap, but it has undoubtedly seen its share of water balls.
"No. 18 is a great finishing hole," Taylor said. "A 423-yard par 4 with water all along the left side. Water cuts to the greens with railroad ties with bunkers on the left."
Final impressions are typically the most lasting, and while the Palm is an oft-benevolent track, Nos. 16-18 will find the player lacking reserves returning to the clubhouse considering that a more difficult track was just traversed.
In a book on resort-style golf, the Palm should be considered a seminal work, and the recent retouch merely enhances its appeal. With easy hole-to-hole segues, very generous landing areas and a number of memorable water features, this should be counted among the Palm Springs vacationer's list of tee times.
Modern GPS is affixed to all carts. Practice facilities include a driving range, chipping green and putting area. Instruction is available to players of all levels. The resort offers a turf, 18-hole putting course that is perfect for families. The Taylor Made Performance Center is also on site, offering club fitting and swing analysis.
December 19, 2011