PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- This is the time of year when a round of golf for two seems to cost as much as a monthly car payment in winter resorts like Palm Springs.
But actually, this area, which has more than 100 golf courses, has a number of great places to play where you can play for $75 or less. At some of these places, this is an "any time" rate. But as most bargain-hunters know, playing during the week or at twilight can drastically cut the green fees. And twilight in the Palm Springs area starts as early as 12:30 p.m. in some cases. So here are five places that offer a break to golfers as well as superlative playing conditions:
Our first genuine bargain is Indian Springs Golf Club, a semi-private course that was recently expanded and redesigned and is now ranked among the top five public courses in the Palm Springs area by Desert Golf magazine. The course features 360-degree views of local mountains. It's a great course for the high-handicap golfer but also is a very respectable challenge when played from the back tees. The course features medium-to-wide fairways, eight lakes, two dramatic waterfalls, and a desert wash that comes into play on many holes. Since re-opening new teeing areas and bunkers have been added and also a new nine-hole par-3 course.
Current green fees are $75 on Monday through Friday until 1:30 p.m. when the rate drops to $55. On Saturday and Sunday, rates are $85 until 1:30 when the twilight rate is $60. Also the course often runs a coupon in the local paper offering a $10 discount on rates except on Saturday. From the championship tees the course plays at 6,404 yards and has a 69.5 rating and a slope of 112. The forward tees play at 5,760 yards with a rating of 72.4 and a slope of 114.
One of the best values in the Coachella Valley is at the Cimarron Golf Resort in Cathedral City, which has both a par-56 short course (Pebble) and a par-71 long course (Boulder), both designed by John Fought, a designer who worked on the famed Crosswater course in Sunriver, Ore. Fought, incidentally, has now teamed up to do a lot of work in Arizona with PGA star Tom Lehman.
Cimarron has more of a wild desert look than do many of the over-manicured, all green-grass layouts in Palm Springs. It also has British-style sodwall bunkers filled with crushed white marble sand and something of a links style of play. If you want to take on Cimarron's long course in high season, the price is $75 on weekdays and $89 on weekends. After 1 p.m. the rates are $45 and $60. Also worth mentioning, the course has a $95 rate that allows you to play as much golf as you want in a day and includes lunch. Staff at the course suggest playing the long course at about 8:30 or 9 a.m., then eating your complimentary lunch in their restaurant and going back out to play the short course. Because of its lower green fees, this resort is extremely busy.
Long course distances and rating/slopes: 6,858 from the back tees (72.4/123) and 5,127 from the forward tees (69.7/117).
At Heritage Palms Golf Club in Indio, the twilight price-drop starts a bit earlier - at 12:30 p.m. when you can play for $65 during the high season, compared with $95 before 12:30. The standard morning rate will also drop to $75 after April 1. This is a top-rated golf course (four stars from Golf Digest) that was designed by Arthur Hills. The slope and rating are a little more forgiving here, perhaps because the course is the centerpiece of an "active adult" community. But there are lots of water hazards, doglegs and bunkers to make your round a challenge. The course is located at 44-291 Heritage Palms Drive South at Jefferson and Fred Waring in Indio. Distance and rating/slope: 6,727 yards from the back tees (71.4/119) and 4,885 from the forward (66.6/107).
The difference between morning rates and twilight rates is even more significant at the Indian Wells Golf Resort. This resort has two Ted Robinson-designed golf courses loaded with the waterscapes that made him famous. Both these city-owned courses have been highly rated by golf magazines. You can play either course for $70 after 1 p.m. any day of the week during the high season. That compares with a regular rate of $120 on weekdays and $130 on weekends.
Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort features two solid 18-hole courses with great scenery, and the resort has recently been rated by Golf Digest magazine as "one of the best places to play." The newest of the two courses is the Resort Course, a championship course designed by Ted Robinson that opened in 1994. This course has rolling hills, several par 3s over water and unique bunkers and greens. It's a bit more expensive. The green fees at the Resort Course during the week are $79 and rise to $86 during the weekend. Twilight rates start at 1 p.m. when the rates drop to $49 during the week and $55 during the weekend.
The real bargain at Tahquitz Creek is the Legend Course, opened in 1959 and designed by Billie Bell. The Legend is a traditional-style desert course that was recently renovated by Palmer Course Design Co. to increase its challenges. It has tree-lined fairways, beautiful mountain views, more than 60 bunkers and deceptively undulating greens that will enhance your round. At the Legends the regular high-season green fees are $59 during the week and $69 over the weekend. At 1 p.m., the rate drops to only $39 every day of the week.
The Resort Course plays at 6,705 yards with a rating of 71.4 and slope of 120 from the Championship tees. From the forward tees, the course plays at 5,206 yards with a rating of 70.0 and slope of 119. The Legends Course plays at only 6,600 yards from the back tees (71.0/117) and 6,077 yards from the forward tees (74.0/120).
In addition, there is a super-twilight rate that starts at 3 p.m. that cuts the rate to $30 at the Resort Course and $20 at the Legend.
Also worth mentioning is Desert Springs Marriott Resort and Spa, which has two great, well-maintained courses -- the Palm and the Valley. Both courses, designed by Ted Robinson, have been nominees for the Golf Digest best resort course in the United States. The regular rates at Desert Springs are fairly high -- $140 during the week and $150 on weekends. But the price drops to $75 during the week and $80 on weekends at twilight beginning at 1:30 p.m. during the high season. Distance, rating and slope on the Palm: 6,761 yards from the back tees (72.1/130); 5,492 yards from the forward (70.8/116). And on the Valley: 6,627 yards from the back tees (71.5/127); 5,262 from the forward (69.6/110).
February 22, 2002