Old School Charm in the Desert

With Labor Day weekend representing the unofficial end of summer, I figured I’d go and enjoy one of my favorite summer treats—cheap golf in Coachella Valley!

Woodhaven Country Club • Palm Desert, CA • 8/31/13

I got an early start as always, but not as early as usual for me. I booked a 7:30 time here through GolfNow. It was a “hot deal” time for just $20, so it was too good to resist. It has been an unusually humid week here in Southern California and that was amplified in the desert. There was plenty of cloud cover this morning, but not many golfers brave enough to deal with the sauna-like conditions. I ended up in the second group out, paired with three fun ladies, and we teed off around 7:20. Despite a fivesome in front of us that slowed us down a little at times, we still finished in under 3.5 hours!

I didn’t know too much about Woodhaven coming in, other than it is one of many classic “country club” kind of courses in the valley. It fits right in with many I’ve played in the past, but in terms of design, it definitely falls toward the bottom of the list. That is not to say it’s a bad course because it’s still quite enjoyable and not without it’s old school charm. It just doesn’t measure up with so many other more dynamic options out there. But as I’ve always said, even the weakest Coachella Valley courses tend to outshine many others throughout other parts of Southern California in terms of conditioning and scenery.

Woodhaven is a very short course and not terribly challenging, playing to a par of 70 and topping out at 5,974 yards. As far as the par-4s go, there’s actually a decent mix of lengths. The most interesting hole here I thought was the short par-4 5th. It’s a pretty narrow tee shot with water all along the right and OB/trees along the left. There’s a nice waterfall feature at the end of the pond and it’s a pretty looking little hole that also has a little bite. You don’t need much off the tee, but you still have to make sure you’re safe and then you can be aggressive on your approach.

There are a few tight tee shots here from the blues, but most of the landing areas are forgiving and the bail-out options aren’t too punishing if you miss the fairway. The greens are relatively small, but don’t feature too much undulation or severe sloping, so they are easy to get at.

The course was still in good late summer condition. The fairways and rough were generally kept a little longer, but the bermuda roots weren’t deep and the turf was extra soft underneath—resulting in some big divot explosions. The greens were a tad too firm and hard to hold on approaches/chips, but very slow rolling on putts as is typical this time of year. The sand traps were great with just the perfect amount/softness of sand if you ask me (soft enough, but not overly “fluffy”). Some tee boxes were a little beat up and they had a few of the blues closed, making this short course even shorter at times.

It’s hard to beat the $20 price tag I paid, so Woodhaven was worth every penny of that. If you want a real confidence boost on a course that is susceptible to low scores (as long as you keep it somewhat straight), you’ll have a lot of fun out here. If you are looking for a super memorable desert golf experience, then there are many other options to consider first. 

Some pictures from Woodhaven Country Club (8/31/13):

Of course I wasn’t done, so I headed across the valley to my second course for the day…

Indian Canyons Golf Resort (North) • Palm Springs, CA • 8/31/13

Again with a theme of keeping things cheap this time of year, I reserved a 12:40 time for just $25, which is hard to beat for either Indian Canyons course. Today, I played the North. I played the South last year and really liked the setting and layout. I’ve been looking forward to finally playing the North, even though I knew they didn’t share a ton in common beyond the name.

There was hardly anybody out here, so I teed off early around noon and zipped around by myself. I did play through two groups, but ultimately finished in about two hours, which was ideal considering how hot and miserable it was.

The North course is the older of the two and it is dripping with history as it winds through a classic Palm Springs neighborhood set back against the mountains. It’s definitely a beautiful setting. The clubhouse has a very old school look and is filled with timeless pictures of the celebrities who helped make Palm Springs such a hot weekend getaway (Frank, Dean, Bob, Desi, Lucy, etc.).

The course itself follows suit with a classic William P. Bell design. It’s not the most exciting layout you’ll ever play, but it’s solid on all levels. It’s pretty forgiving from tee to green, but offers just enough challenge and diversity to keep things interesting. There’s an “average” amount of trouble to contend with including the houses on the outer edges (OB), sand traps and water hazards. Most fairways are pretty wide, but there are generally some palm trees to get in your way visually and protect many of the dogleg corners. However, they are so skinny, it’s not too hard to hit around them unless you get really unlucky.

Unlike a lot of the older designs in the desert, the North course at Indian Canyons does play to some length. I do believe it has been renovated at some point(s) and probably lengthened in the process. The blue tees top out at 6,942 yards. I played the whites, which were enough for me at 6,482.

This course was also in pretty good late summer shape. Though a bit more dried out than what I had at Woodhaven earlier in the day, I actually found the playability of Indian Canyons to be better. The fairways were cut tighter and lies were always good. The rough was consistent throughout and not too penal. The course featured excellent sand traps and mostly good tee boxes throughout. The greens also looked a bit dried out with some light brown coloration coming in, but they were relatively soft and receptive on approaches and fairly smooth/true on top. They were rolling at medium speeds and more enjoyable to putt on than the slower greens you’ll find at most other courses out there right now.

Now that I’ve played both Indian Canyons courses, I definitely prefer the South because it has a more interesting layout and better scenic value with less houses around the course. North is a quality course with plenty to enjoy, though. I must also commend the staff at North, primarily the starter and the guys around the cart barn. They were very friendly and helpful. The starter loaded up my cart with five bottles of water and then when I finished, handed me a cold towel scented with mango oil. I cannot describe how refreshing it was to wipe down my face, neck, arms and legs at the end of such a hot and humid day. The fact they do little things like this during the off-season (when so few people are out there and paying such reduced fees) says quite a lot about the quality of service here.

Some pictures from Indian Canyons Golf Resort (North) (8/31/13):

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