Pro-Quality Courses at Prorated Prices

With the three-day Labor Day weekend, I wanted to play somewhere interesting. However, having just got back from a big trip recently, I didn’t want to drive too far or stay the night anywhere. Just head out on Saturday morning, play 36 somewhere nice and then head back home to enjoy all of Sunday and Monday off from work. 

With the heat we’ve been having here in Southern California, I figured it would be pretty toasty no matter where I chose to play. So if I was going to brave the heat, I might as well go where it’s hottest to take advantage of some incredible summer deals in the Palm Springs area.

I’ve been meaning to take at least one super-hot-but-super-cheap little trip out here all summer. The course on the top of my list has been SilverRock Resort, partly because I knew it was supposed to be an excellent track, but also because it was in my Red Dot discount book. The deal is 40% off during their off-season months (in addition to their lower-than-usual pricing this time of year). However, now is the time of year where the desert resorts begin letting their courses dry out more in preparation for fall overseeding and major maintenance. So even though the thought of heading the desert had been crossing my mind, I wasn’t sure if now would be the right time. Then, I saw a review of SilverRock earlier this week on Greenskeeper.org that seemed very positive in terms of conditions, so that made the decision easy.

I tried calling ahead Friday evening to make sure I wouldn’t have any problem walking on in the morning, but nobody answered in the pro shop.  So I just threw caution to the wind and headed out there super early. I figured I’d try and get one early morning round in at SilverRock and then find something good online for the second round in the area. I got out there a little before 6:00, but the guy in the pro shop informed me they did have a tournament going on and I wouldn’t be able to get out any time soon. Bummer. 

Oh well, I knew I’d still be able to get out there in the afternoon, so luckily there are plenty of other options in that area. I went on GolfNow and saw a 7:15 time at The Golf Club at La Quinta. It was only $35 and just down the road, so I booked it. 

The Golf Club at La Quinta • La Quinta, CA • 9/1/12

The Golf Club at La Quinta’s claim to fame is that it hosted the annual Skins Game for many years. So it is a course where many pros have played and created memorable moments. Other than that, I would consider it an “average” Coachella Valley course.

There weren’t too many people out there and it’s obvious they strip down their services a lot this time of year. The bar/restaurant is closed and the pro shop seemed pretty bare in terms of stuff for sale. When I checked in, the guy in the pro shop handed me a warm bottle of water and told me it “came with the round.” He also informed me that there was no cart service out on the course, no snack shack open and the only sundries for sale were some warm Gatorades and granola bars that you could buy there at the counter. He also let me know there were water stations throughout the course for refilling my one little water bottle. Fortunately, there were coolers with ice on the carts to chill my water. Unfortunately, a few of the water coolers out on the course were completely empty. We got by, but it seemed pretty chincy.

They did have free range balls, so I warmed up a little bit before they sent me out to the first tee. I was paired with a threesome and our pace was perfect all day. We had a nice cushion in front of us and the group behind us never pressed at all, so that was enjoyable. 

The course was in decent shape. Everything was a bit shaggy, though. The tee boxes were level and lush, but the grass was a little too long. By the time you got your tee in the ground, it felt low with the deep grass around it. The fairways were lush and mostly green, though they did seem to get dryer and browner as the round went on. I didn’t get much roll on my drives, but they were REALLY nice to hit from with perfectly fluffy lies. The rough was also nice to hit from with a nice amount of fluffiness. The ball always sat up well. I was in one bunker and the sand wasn’t too deep or great, but it was soft enough to play from. The greens were the worst part of course. They were slow and bumpy—still recovering a bit from recent aeration I think. 

The layout of this course is nothing too exciting. Kind of a “Palm Springs 101” track. Still lots of nice scenery with the mountains providing a beautiful backdrop in La Quinta. I did find the back nine a lot more interesting and challenging than the front. More water comes into play and the hole designs require better shot-making. But compared to the other tracks nearby at La Quinta Resort and PGA West, it definitely doesn’t quite measure up to those standards. For $35 on a Saturday morning, though, it was still a good deal on a solid desert track in relatively good condition. So, it’s hard to complain too much.

One last note on the lack of “amenities” is that while we were putting on the 18th green, two cart boys came out and started wiping down our clubs in search of tips. We all got a laugh out of that because of the few resort perks they retained, they kept the most annoying one!

Some pictures from The Golf Club at La Quinta (9/1/12):

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After I finished at La Quinta, I grabbed a quick bite to eat at Subway and then headed back over to SilverRock. The course looked relatively open as I drove into the parking lot, so I knew I’d have no problem getting on this time. I checked in at the pro shop and my Red Dot rate was just $39. Such a great deal for this course. That said, the going GolfNow rate yesterday was just $44, so either way it’s an excellent value this time of year.

SilverRock Resort • La Quinta, CA • 9/1/12

SilverRock is also a course that has gotten plenty of play from the professionals. For the past few years, it’s been one of the courses used in the Bob Hope Classic (now called the Humana Challenge). I don’t think it’s in the rotation next year, which is too bad.

They sent me right out to the first tee and let me know there were a couple of other singles that just headed out and I could probably catch up with them. There was a twosome just about to tee off on the 1st tee when I rolled up, but they let me play through to catch the singles. I did catch up to the two singles (who had joined up with one another already) after a few holes, but I didn’t push too much. We were moving faster separated than we would as a threesome, so I figured I’d wait until we all caught up to bigger groups in front before joining them. 

That happened on the 8th hole, where I caught up to them on the tee box. They let me know it was them, another twosome in front of them and then a couple of foursomes in front of them. They were planning to stay split up in hopes of playing through the larger groups ahead. In other words, I was still on my own. However, when I got to the 9th tee, they has just joined up with the twosome in front of them, thus creating another foursome and leaving me effectively screwed as a single behind all these groups! Thanks, guys. 

Well, the 10th tee is right by the 1st tee, so as I was sitting in agony waiting to tee off (did I mention it was well over 100 degrees at this point?), I started to wonder if I should just go play the front again. Just then, a marshal pulled up and recommended that I do just that. I thought that was a great gesture. As long as I got the permission, I was happy to get in a bonus nine despite the brutal heat. I zipped around the front nine again in less than an hour. However, when I got to the 10th hole, I somehow ran into another log jam of groups and had no choice but to wait if I wanted to play the back nine here.

It was an odd pace for 27 holes. I played the front nine twice in about 2 hours total, then the back nine was over 2.5 hours. It was still just a tad over 4.5 hours for the whole thing, but it seemed longer because of the heat and all the waiting on the back nine. Oh well, for $39, getting to play 27 on this wonderful course was the deal of the century.

As for the course itself, I have not one bad thing to say about the layout at SilverRock. It’s an exceptional course on all levels. It’s incredibly scenic as many of the holes hug the edge of the mountains. It’s reminiscent of La Quinta (Mountain) in that sense, but doesn’t have the holes that take you into the hills. The layout is fun and challenging, depending on which tees you play. In my opinion, if you choose the right tee for your skill level, SilverRock offers the perfect amount of challenge. The back tees stretch to over 7,500 yards for the pros! Most of the fairways are pretty wide and forgiving, but if you do stray off the fairways (even just a bit), you will find plenty of trouble (either native desert areas, big fairway bunkers/waste areas or water hazards). The greens are very well protected, primarily by enormous bunkers that feature a lot of intricate shapes and deep faces.

Water comes more into play on the back nine as many of the holes criss-cross the canal. The round culminates in the fantastic 17th and 18th holes. 17 is a monster of a par-3 with water all the way up to and then around the right edge of the green. From the pro tees, it plays at 237 yards! Because I had time to kill, I teed up a driver (just for fun) from the tips and took a rip. I hit a good ball, but still came up short and landed in the water. It’s a beast of a hole from there and still no picnic from the forward tees either.

The 18th hole is a great par-5 finisher that brings water into play on all the shots, creating some gut-wrenching risk/reward decisions. It’s an excellent finish to an excellent course.

Regarding the conditions, the greens are recovering well from recent aeration. They are still quite slow for what you’d expect out here, but they rolled smooth. So once you get used to the speed, they are not so bad. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were all in pretty nice shape for this time of year. There were some dead/bare spots in the rough and around a few of the greens, but nothing too bad. Otherwise, everything was lush and mostly green (just a few streaks of brown here and there as the course begins to dry out). The bunkers all had plenty of sand. It’s a very coarse/heavy sand, so it does take some getting used to, but it was very consistent in the numerous bunkers I was in! 

Overall, I was very impressed with SilverRock and it is now amongst my favorites in the Coachella Valley. I’d probably still rank Classic Club first, but SilverRock is now my #2 in the region. So when it comes to desert golf, Arnold Palmer’s my man. Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus are both right up there, too, with their own masterful creations at La Quinta Resort and PGA West. 

Some pictures from SilverRock Resort (The Arnold Palmer Classic Course) (9/1/12):

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The view from the pro’s tee on 17 below. 237 Yards with little room for error!

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On the way home, I got off the road in Banning. I ended up eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Señorial. Looks like they haven’t been open long, but the food was very good and they had reasonable prices, so I won’t be surprised if I stop there again.

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