RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Gerald Ford may have gone on to the Great Golf Course in the Sky, but he'll be lucky if the greens there are green as the ones he played in his sunset years.
In Palm Springs, the fairways often look clean enough to eat off. When it comes to conditioning, golf courses here take pains to keep up with the Joneses.
"I think most of the courses around here take a lot of pride in their conditions," said Ryan Wilson, director of golf at Mission Hills Resort and Spa. "You'll have GMs and head pros checking out other courses to see where they stack up."
That competitiveness is a very good thing indeed for golfers.
A recent, extensive Golf Digest survey of regular golfers found that well-maintained greens and bunkers are the No. 1 determinant of round satisfaction. Well-maintained fairways and tees rank a close second. And no golf destination has more consistently well-conditioned courses than greater Palm Springs.
How to explain this across-the-board excellence? Simply put, Palm Springs courses know that being green matters - and they call themselves on it. (That and the fact that no one wants a cranky, silver-haired army storming the clubhouse exclaiming, "Well, I never ...")
Who's the best of the best? Having scoured the desert, TravelGolf.com offers its 2007 list of the Best-Conditioned Golf Courses in Palm Springs.
Martha Stewart might risk another prison term to steal the secret of keeping grass as green as the fairways on the Gary Player Signature Course at Mission Hills. The entire staff seems similarly perfection-obsessed. You might have to play cart-path-only on days when it doesn't look necessary, but with all those perfect lies, you won't mind.
The desert plants that fill this course look so strikingly perfect, it's almost hard to imagine they're real. Keeping the playing areas ultra-green accentuates the desert growth even more.
The Classic Club isn't always in tournament shape, but day-to-day conditions are so good a first-timer won't be able to tell the difference. The layout's lushness makes its 7,300-plus yards and 142 slope rating seem a little less mean.
The Shark doesn't have the best design at the sprawling, high-end PGA West complex, but he seems to have scored the best grounds crew. The daunting, curving, bunker-squeezed 13th is even more dramatic when the little fairway grass that's there is this verdant.
Conditioning coasts, so you might not expect to find a course this reasonable on a list like this. But Indian Canyons is in great shape -- the grass here should make the owners of all the fairway-hugging homes green with envy.
In the Coachella Valley a course without palm trees seems to come from another planet, but stark, minimalist Escena Golf Club boasts great greens and easy-to-love looks.
January 8, 2007