If You Can’t Beat the Heat, Join It!

I enjoyed a nice day out in the Coachella Valley yesterday, even though it was quite hot. With temperatures well over 100 degrees in the afternoon, I knew it would be brutal. However, I also know that with the heat in the desert comes reduced prices and less crowds. Also, most courses are still in pretty good shape since summer hasn’t fully kicked in yet, so it’s worth enduring some high temperatures for some great golf…

Mission Lakes Country Club • Desert Hot Springs, CA • 6/1/13

A friend and I played here in the morning. This is a course I’ve been very intrigued by, but haven’t had the chance to play. When I was on my way home from Arizona last week and ran into some heavy traffic in Palm Springs, I actually drove up to this course to try and play. Unfortunately, as a semi-private club, they have some very particular hours and less availability for public play, so I wasn’t able to get out. However, I did see the course looked to be in fantastic shape and it really looked like an enjoyable layout.

From what I understand, they have two shotgun starts a day at 7:30 and 12:30 on all weekdays. Weekends are a little different, but they still do a number of shotguns for members’ events. That was the case yesterday when they had a men’s club tournament going on. Still, they let us get in on the shotgun and it worked out well.

I think my friend and I were the only two non-members out there, but it was fun playing amongst all the regulars and old-timers with their fancy personal carts. We were paired with one and he was a really nice guy. We started on the 18th hole as a threesome and quickly caught up to the groups ahead of us. We did have to wait a lot as they were playing a little more slowly in a club tournament setting, but the overall pace was still pretty good at a little over four hours.

They gave us a price of $35, which was a fantastic deal. Apparently, whoever signed us up on the phone quoted us a better-than-normal price, so we lucked out. Normally, they said it should be $45 on a weekend right now, so we saved a few bucks.

Mission Lakes is a Ted Robinson design and it’s one of his best that I’ve played, in my opinion. It feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, several miles north of the freeway in Desert Hot Springs. You have to drive on some desolate, ugly roads on the way out to the course that seem pretty sketchy, but when you get to the Mission Lakes community, you’re greeted with some nicer homes and a beautiful golf course set along the hillside.

Most of the course winds its way through the community with some minor elevation changes, pretty tight fairway cuts and hard-to-read greens that are much more difficult than they appear. There aren’t a ton of trees on the course and a lot of holes feel pretty wide open, but the trees are well-placed and the doglegs are set up nicely that it plays much tighter than it looks. There is some water in play on the front nine and it definitely makes its presence known on the first two holes. That said, most of your best scoring opportunities will be on the front nine at Mission Lakes.

The back nine is where things get really interesting and more challenging, if you ask me. The 10th-12th holes here are the signature holes and a complete departure from the rest of the course visually and design-wise. The 10th is a relatively benign par-5 that winds through a small canyon. It’s uphill all the way and has a pretty big dogleg left to right, but it’s easy to position yourself for a good score (either three smart shots or two aggressive shots in an attempt to cut the corner).

Then, the 11th is a beautiful beast running along the top edge of a ridgeline and overlooking the entire valley below. Though all courses out in the Coachella Valley are quite scenic with the mountains all around, most don’t feature any majorly elevated areas (only 16 at La Quinta Mountain comes to mind as far as public courses go). So this hole on Mission Lakes definitely stands out for such a great panoramic vista. This is a tough hole, as well. Unless you are really accurate with your driver and can perfectly bomb one over the hillside on the left to the skinny fairway area behind it, the play for most here will be a lay-up of about 200 yards to the fairway landing area to the right. Then, you are still left with a 200+ yard shot over the canyon to a pretty tricky green. It’s a very unique and intimidating hole, especially for first-timers like us.

To round out this great trio of holes, you reach the par-3 12th, which features a massive drop-off from tee to green and another great view. Since we were playing in the morning, the wind was not much of a factor yesterday, but it can get very windy out here. It was still difficult trying to judge what yardage to play with such a steep drop. I can only imagine how tough it is to judge the distance on this delicate shot when the wind is really howling.

The rest of the back nine flattens out as you go back into the neighborhood below, but it does not get any easier. Other than the relatively straightforward par-5 14th, the back nine plays pretty long and tough. Both remaining par-3s are long (including the 234-yard 15th—from the white tees!) and the par-5 16th is really long, as well.

The course was in great shape, too. They had aerated the greens a few weeks ago, but they are healing nicely. There were still some bumps on the greens, but they were mostly pretty smooth and relatively soft/receptive. The fairways were great. The grass was maybe a tad long on them so not much roll-out, but they provided excellent lies all the way around. The rough was deceptively tough here. It was not deep at all and the ball always sat up, but the grass was super lush and thick. It would grab your club and make you work. The bunkers had nice white sand and I found them great to hit from. The tee boxes were pretty level for the most part.

I really enjoyed this course, so I would definitely recommend Mission Lakes as a good change-of-pace in the desert. Even in peak season, the prices are relatively reasonable. However, with their semi-private nature, I would always recommend you call first to see what’s going on the day you are planning to play.

Some pictures from Mission Lakes Country Club (6/1/13):

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Some pictures from holes 10-12…

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It was pretty warm at Mission Lakes in the morning, but we knew the real test of endurance would come in the afternoon round…

Indian Springs Golf Club • Indio, CA • 6/1/13

We drove all the way across the valley to play here for our second round because we had a GroupGolfer voucher to use up. It was $45 for two players, so only $22.50 each! That was a steal of a deal for this course.

By the time we got to the parking lot here, the temperature gauge on my car read 107 degrees! There was some cloud cover yesterday and the air felt a little heavier than the normal “dry heat” of the desert. It was definitely quite stuffy at times, but we got used to it and managed just fine.

Our tee time wasn’t until 1:30, but we got there around 12:30 and they let us head out right away. We played through a couple of groups on the course, but otherwise zipped around as quickly as we could and finished in a little over 2.5 hours. To me, that’s the best way to beat the desert heat when playing golf. As long as I don’t have to wait around a lot, it’s bearable. Luckily, most of these courses don’t get too crowded in the afternoons on these hot days, so it generally works out okay.

I found Indian Springs to be a solid layout on all levels. It doesn’t stand out too much from many other residential/country club style courses throughout the Coachella Valley. It has a very “familiar” feel, which is not bad, but I never felt too blown away by anything. There are some nice holes, including a few nice par-3s with a lot of water in play. The second hole was a cool one with a big dogleg left and a waterfall behind the green. The back nine (primarily holes 14-18) was a very good stretch of holes I thought.

Indian Springs is quite forgiving off the tee. Other than a few tight holes, most feature pretty wide open landing areas. As you get closer to the greens, the course starts to bare its teeth a little bit. The greens are relatively small and hard to hold, and there are well-placed bunkers and water hazards to provide all the visual intimidation you need on approach shots.

The routing of the course is a bit crazy. It’s not unique in the desert for a course to wind its way through a residential neighborhood, but Indian Springs takes to to the extreme on holes 1-12. There are many streets to cross and it jumps all over the place as you go from hole to hole. It’s a little confusing, but the signage here is pretty good and easy to follow. Just take a look at the course from a satellite view on Google sometime and you’ll see just how spread out and unorthodox this course is routed.

Indian Springs was also in very good shape. The fairways looked like they were starting to dry out a bit in the early stages of summer, but were still very nice and we always had excellent lies. The rough here was not too penal or deep, but it was in pretty good shape with consistent cuts. The greens were a tad firm, but had great putting surfaces. We felt much more comfortable on these greens than at Mission Lakes for whatever reason. The only condition issue here was the bunkers, which were pretty crusty and not very good.

I’d definitely recommend Indian Springs, especially if you get a good rate. If you play a lot of golf in the Coachella Valley like I do, it will blend in a bit with other courses you’ve played, but it will still keep you plenty entertained and challenged. I’d consider it a solid “middle of the pack” option out there, which is still pretty great by most standards!

Some pictures from Indian Springs Golf Club (6/1/13):

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