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Trilogy at La Quinta: Where Tiger went splash and you golf Palm Springs cheap

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

LA QUINTA, Calif. - When a golf course sales manager can point out the spot where Tiger Woods hit one in the water, the sell suddenly becomes a lot easier.

Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta - No. 17 par 3 - Tiger Woods
Trilogy's 17th is even intimidating if you move up from the back tees.
Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta - No. 17 par 3 - Tiger WoodsTrilogy Golf Club at La Quinta - No. 13 water clearTrilogy Golf Club at La Quinta  - No. 18Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta - fairways green

Vacationing golfers love to come home with their own Tiger tales of following in famous spike marks.

Only Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta doesn't just rest on the fact that it has hosted the LG Skins Game for the past four years. This isn't a golf course that depends on the fact that Tiger and Annika Sorenstam have walked these fairways - and, in Tiger's case, sent a shot splish splashing on the par-3 17th.

Instead Trilogy stands on its own, giving regular golfers great course conditions and a fun round. There is a welcome obsession with conditions on golf courses across the Palm Springs region, a virtual arms race between greenskeepers.

On my recent golf trip to the Coachella Valley, Trilogy's conditioning stood out even by these standards though. Even the tee boxes were in fantastic shape - even during a late-afternoon round.

"You have to be in great condition to compete out here," Trilogy Director of Marketing Bob Veroulis said. "People have great expectations, too. They come out here in the heat of the summertime and expect to see the postcard picture they saw on TV from the Skins Game.

"We have a lot to live up to."

Trilogy's not liable to leave too many golfers disappointed. Management doesn't overcharge you just because Tiger's played here either. It's easy to get on Trilogy for less than $100 most of the year, and twilight rates dip as low as $40 even in peak season.

Gary Panks designed a course that doesn't just throw showy TV holes at you. Instead things fit together. You get some holes on which the fairway openings seem wider than the combined waistlines of an entire fat camp. Others bring the largely tamed desert vegetation into serious play. Then, there's the water.

You're going to remember Trilogy's water clears. Maybe in the same way you recall that night when you drank four too many.

The 17th looms largest in most golfers' minds. This is a 210-yard hole from the back tees, and about 190 yards of that is water. Take at least one shot back here, no matter what tees you're playing from.

Some intimidation is worth experiencing.

"I thought this was supposed to be the bleeping desert," one golfer roared after his third straight water plop on 17.

Play tends to back up on Trilogy's 17th (hey golfers are stubborn). Which means there is a good chance you'll have at least one group watching your attempt to find the green. Or laughing at your unintentional sideshow.

Swing strong, youngster, swing strong.

No. 13 - a 417-yard par-4 - has another memorable forced water clear from the tees. That fairway grass looks as far off as home plate does to a baseball player caught in a rundown.

It's pretty much buckle up and hold on from 13 on. This is the best stretch of Trilogy, a close that's not likely to be forgotten. Especially since the actual finishing hole is a 524-yard par-5 that plays uphill to a green on a ridge that can look like Mount Everest when you're right below it.

Only this molehill mountain has nasty bunkers at its sides and a forest of palm trees in the background.

Backgrounds are big at Trilogy. Mountains loom overhead on most holes. If it's a sunny day - which is almost every day on Southern California golf courses - all the green really pops out.

The houses are there every day, too. Trilogy is awash in golf course homes. They're not leaning so far into the fairways that you should hit them, but you'll never forget you're playing through a community.

One hole plays right along a hulking community center that looks like it could host an army brigade. A few old guys baking in the pool will probably stop to watch your tee shot.

Trilogy at La Quinta: The Verdict

Trilogy at La Quinta isn't 7,174 yards of ultradramatic wows. It might not be what you're expecting from a TV course. It is a course worth working into any Palm Springs trip. This is one of the best values in the desert.

You're going to have great lies and good laughs. What more do you want?

There's a relaxed vibe about the place, set by a staff that doles out warm smiles rather than pretentiousness. The staff really seems to fawn over the large groups, making sure a Podunk corporate tournament actually feels like a major event.

On this day, there were even greeters on the 17th waiting for a large group. Your gallery will not be as big as Tiger's when you go splash on 17, but it will be a gallery.

Just remember to bring some extra sunscreen. Trilogy is very wide open, with few trees and scant shade. Here, you hope your putter is the only thing sizzling.

Fast Fact

Trilogy at La Quinta is only 5 years old, having opened in 2002.

Palm Springs-area hotels

Rancho Las Palmas is an underrated resort in Rancho Mirage that gives you that retreat setting while being in the heart of it all. In this case that means right across the street from The River, the outdoor mall with an actual flowing water body that people in the desert swoon over. Even better, it's close to the high-end shops of downtown, including Tiffany & Co.

Best of all is a pool scene with shooting water streams for the kids and plenty of nanny babes lounging around in hardly anything.

Coachella Valley restaurants

You'll probably pass SilverRock Golf Course on the way to Trilogy, and this is actually a really good lunch spot. The fish and chips are excellent, and the beers are very cold.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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