PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- There are 168 hours in a week. Can you devote 28 of those to golf?
Home to nearly 125 golf courses, Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley offer no shortage of options for players seeking variety in setting and challenge. Whether you've got the legs for seven consecutive days of play or are simply seeking to intersperse a few rounds amid the wealth of desert activity, here's a list that can satisfy players of all skill levels.
Like the leviathan mountain backdrops that define the region, the list is a slow, steady climb that goes from casual tests to vigorous challenges.
Start you week in the proper gear with a highly playable round at Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage. Home to 27 holes (request the South-West rota if you can), the welcoming, centrally located Ted Robinson designs are perfect for gearing up the mid-iron play that will serve you well over the course of the week.
Segue from resort grounds to the spare beauty of Desert Dunes Golf Club in Desert Hot Springs. Few courses in the area offer the tranquil setting of this Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, which expertly evolves in landscape from an open front side to a latter nine layout with more defined routing.
Short, engaging par 4s define the card at Desert Dunes, which is best to play in the morning before west valley winds find opportunity to oscillate your ball.
Maintain those sensibilities of setting by moving across the valley to La Quinta Resort & Club and PGA West. Nine courses (including five public) sprawl across "The Western Home of Golf America," boasting an all-star cast of designers and no shortage of variety.
The third day will be best defined with a round at Pete Dye's Mountain Course. While the initial nine may elicit a few, "Um, this doesn't look like the photos I saw," rest assured that the transition to the back segues to some of the desert's most stirring topography by No. 12.
Spend the entirety of the day at Marriott's Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert, where superb practice facilities match one of the valley's most unique courses.
Arrive early to make ample use of the pitching range and spend time post-round doing the same on the full range. Between such polishing, enjoy Nick Faldo's first domestic design, where aggressive bunkering and ample green undulation awaits.
Stay in Palm Desert for and pencil in a visit to the Classic Club. Built to host the former Bob Hope Classic (now the Humana Challenge), the Arnold Palmer design plays across one of the desert's most impressive (and aggressive) pieces of property.
Water is abundant here, appearing on 13 holes and regularly playing as a double-featured hazard beside/behind greens. The home hole is a par-5 beast from an elevated tee box that sports water all along the right of the fairway and putting surface.
If you've got the legs for a 36-hole day, spend it at either Indian Wells Golf Resort or Desert Willow Golf Resort.
Host to the Golf Channel's "Big Break," Indian Wells features the eye-catching water and color of the Celebrity Course and the more penal (though equally fetching), bunker-laden roll of the Players Course. Both tracks are immaculately sculpted and present some of the region's most popular stops for style and challenge.
The unparalleled desert routing at Desert Willow in Palm Desert plays across the Dr. Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry-designed Mountain View Course and Firecliff Course. Like Indian Wells, one can't go wrong with either. Start with the Mountain View before enjoying a patio lunch overlooking the grounds. Then segue your latter 18 to the more formidable Firecliff, which sports ample forced carry and consistently tough sand.
Conclude your desert week with the punitive pleasures of the Stadium Course at PGA West. This is the region's most difficult test of skill and will. Tipping out at 7,300 yards (with a slope of 150), the Stadium Course doesn't necessarily intimidate with grandeur -- at least before the three finishing holes.
Rather, it's Dye's masterful land manipulation of consistent, albeit oft-subtle elevation changes, lurking water, side hill/uphill/downhill rolling lies and blocked pins that get in one's head.
After seven days of golf, the truly driven will find no more formidable challenge. If you're still getting warmed-up at this stage, the timid will find this baby an unwavering day of Stadium sweat and suffer.
March 12, 2013