Marathon Day in the Desert, Part 1: Cimarron Golf Resort

After playing three rounds on my birthday last summer, I swore I’d never play 54 holes in one day again. I guess technically I held true to that statement yesterday when I played 63!

I didn’t plan to, but it just kind of happened.

It started in Cathedral City, where some friends and I had made plans to play a morning round at the Cimarron Golf Resort. We were using the Underpar.com vouchers we purchased earlier in the week. The deal was too great to pass up: $39 for two players including a free replay round that could be used on either course there. So for $78 as a foursome, it was worth the visit even if the courses turned out to be junkers. Well, they didn’t, so it was even better than hoped!

Even though those vouchers were good through September, I wanted to get out there and play the courses while conditions were still in the tail end of peak winter/early spring season in the desert. Based on recent reviews on Greenskeeper.org, we knew the courses were looking good.

We had a 6:36 tee time on the Boulder course (the main regulation layout) and teed off right about then. We had some groups ahead of us and had to wait a few times here and there, but the early morning pace was still nice at about four hours. It was a beautiful morning, though the heat was expected to pick up significantly as the day went on. Whatever the reason, it never looked to crowded out there all morning. Of course, there are many exceptional courses out in the Coachella Valley and Cimarron is not known as one of the top-shelf choices. But after playing there yesterday, I’d definitely say it’s worth a visit, especially considering the great deals they’re offering lately and current conditioning.

Cimarron is a bit different than anything else I’ve played out in the Palm Springs area. There are some houses and roads along the outer edges of the course, it’s nice that the course is self-contained within the property. Also, there are very few trees on the entire course. It’s a links style design and you have some great unobstructed views of all the various mountain ranges that surround the Coachella Valley. It’s very “open” out there and it was a cool place to play first thing in the morning as the desert came to life under the early morning sun.

The layout of Boulder is solid. It won’t blow you away with any super-dramatic holes and some do tend to blend together a bit. For the most part it’s pretty forgiving, but there are some subtle elements of challenge as most links courses present. There are no real elevation changes as the whole course is flat and sits in a low part of the valley. There’s a desert “wash” that runs the length of the course. Some holes play across it and most play right alongside it, so it will come into play on some stray shots. However, there aren’t too many bushes in the wash, so usually you can play from it. Just expect a crusty lie with small pebbles all around your ball. 

Cimarron Boulder reminded me a lot of The Links at Summerly in Lake Elsinore. Similar layout and topography, but easier to figure out. That course has some blind shots and those tricky burns to contend with, whereas Boulder is mostly pretty straightforward. 

Though fairly forgiving overall, Boulder does present some challenges. The fairway bunkers are well-placed and definitely will come into play off the tees. The greens are very simple for the most part, without much undulation or slope to contend with. Most putts are pretty flat and easy to read. However, around the greens is where the course can be tricky. Most of the greens are perched up slightly, surrounded by nasty bunkers, big mounds and steep false edges. In other words, once you get on the putting surfaces, things are pretty easy, but getting on the greens is the tough part.

With the price we paid, you’d almost expect the course to already be in summer conditions with things thin and dried out. However, the Boulder course was in excellent condition. The greens were smooth. A little slow early on, but sped up a bit as the morning went on. The fairways were beautiful with green grass. Not much roll-out on drives though. The rough was cut pretty low and easy to hit from. I personally preferred hitting from the rough because the ball sat up nice and fluffy in it. The fairway grass was a little “stickier” and it was giving me fits because my low swing plane would catch just before the ball, causing fat shots with massive divots. 

The sand traps were a little crusty, but the few I found were decent enough to play from. Some others that my playing partners found were a bit worse, though. Other than the bunkers, the Boulder course is still in primo shape right now. So if you bought one of those deals through Underpar or GroupGolfer, then I’d recommend getting out there as soon as possible. I don’t think this course will ever look or play much better than it does right now!

Some pictures from Cimarron Golf Resort (Boulder) (4/20/13):

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We finished the morning round at about 10:30. One of my buddies had to leave after that, but the other three of us were planning to stick around. The replay offer was good on either course and replaying the Boulder would have been the most bang for our buck. However, considering none of us had been to Cimarron before, we were all curious to check out the short Pebble course while were were there. We took a brief break to grab lunch in the restaurant/bar there. I had a pretty basic, but tasty turkey sandwich and steak fries. 

As we were eating, we could see the Pebble course wasn’t getting much action. We saw a few groups head out, but knew it would be a pretty quick round once we got out there. We teed off a little after 11:00. We ran into a few groups on the course, but the pace was still pretty fast as we finished the 18 holes in just over two hours.

Technically, Pebble is an “executive” course, but for all intensive purposes it’s a par-3 course. Only one of the 18 holes is a par-4, and it’s pretty short basic hole. Otherwise, Pebble offers a pretty nice mix of distances to let you use most clubs in your bag. Holes range from under 100 yards to over 200.

The most notable holes on the Pebble course are the 1st and 18th, which are fun and nice-looking holes that bring a big pond into play. Between those two, many of the holes kind of blend together and none are terribly exciting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine small course, but not as dynamic as what you can expect to find at a course like Shadow Hills North (to me, it’s the ultimate desert par-3 track).

Like on Boulder, the Pebble course plays in a flat area with the desert wash running the length of the course. It comes into play a lot, but is pretty easily avoided on these short and simple holes. Aesthetically speaking, it would be great if there were more long grasses or scrub bushes in the wash area because it would be more visually pleasing. As it is now, it’s kind of ugly and desolate looking.

There isn’t much mystery to any hole on the Pebble course. They are all pretty straightforward iron or wedge shots to greens that don’t have too much protection. There are only a few bunkers on the whole course and other than the wash areas and some mounding around the greens (nothing nearly as significant as what you find on Boulder), there’s not much trouble to get into.

Condition-wise, Pebble was in similar great shape to Boulder. Nice greens, fairway areas and rough. The bunkers looked a little worse for the wear, but we did notice maintenance guys working on them on the first hole, so that’s a positive sign. Otherwise, the course is in very nice shape right now.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to play the Pebble course again, but it’s a fine par-3 course where you can work on your iron and wedge shots and enjoy a quick, convenient round. The conditioning is good and we had fun, so it was worth the visit for me this time (especially considering the deal we had to play both courses for $19.50 a player). 

Some pictures from Cimarron Golf Resort (Pebble) (4/20/13):

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This guy wasn’t quite as camouflage as he thought…

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I wasn’t done with golf after this, but more on that in Part 2 of the story. To be continued…

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