The Year of the Desert

After yesterday, I’ve decided to proclaim 2013 as the “year of the desert” when it comes to my Golf Nomad adventures. I’ve taken multiple trips to Arizona and Vegas (in fact, I’ll be up in Nevada next weekend so stay tuned), and I’ve visited part of Southern California’s high desert. And as you may have noticed, the low desert (i.e., the Coachella Valley) has been a frequent source of golf entertainment for me throughout the year.

As most courses are coming out of their fall maintenance and overseeding, the prices are starting to go back up rapidly. Still, I couldn’t resist a quick trip out there Saturday for another double-dip…

Mesquite Golf & Country Club • Palm Springs, CA • 11/2/13

As far as public regulation courses in the Coachella Valley go, I’m actually getting very near the bottom of my list. I had to pay Mesquite a visit sooner or later, so why not now? After all, their rates are still pretty reasonable compared to everyone else. Though, that fact alone could be worth causing some trepidation.

Well, the lower prices and the terrible reviews I’ve been reading all year on Greenskeeper.org have been kind of a big one-two punch. Each review I saw seemed to get exponentially worse as the year went on. It was clear Mesquite spiraled dramatically downward heading into the summer season. 

Needless to say, my expectations were set pretty low and I came in viewing this as not much more than a “checklist” stop, made convenient by a $39 price tag for Saturday morning when most everything else was $85-$150 for the same weekend morning times. I booked a 6:48 tee time through the course’s website, but when I showed up they didn’t have me listed in the system. It didn’t matter too much, though, because there wasn’t much demand so early in the morning. I ended up being first out on the course by myself. I had to wait for maintenance a few times, but otherwise cruised around in two hours flat.

Other than the dwindling conditions in recent years, Mesquite has always been known as a pretty solid track in terms of layout. It won’t blow you away with anything too dramatic or challenging as you work your way around the course, but it offers enough diversity to keep you interested and entertained. There are a few “funky” holes that were a bit awkward as a first timer (the 3rd hole comes to mind). 

As an older course design, you can expect some quirks and also a shorter layout. Mesquite tops out at 6,312 from the black tees, with the blue tees measuring just 5,945. Around here if you hit fairways, you can fire at the pins. If this happens, you’ll enjoy your score at the end of the day.

The course leapfrogs back and forth across a narrow desert wash/creek/ditch, but it’s not too hard to avoid. There are some great unobscured views of the mountains to the west and south of the course, providing a very nice backdrop throughout your round like you’ll find on most Coachella Valley courses. The weather was picture-perfect (once it was light enough to start seeing things) and that definitely added to the experience for me because I always love dawn patrol in the desert.

I enjoyed the layout overall and the conditions turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I figured this might be a good time to visit Mesquite since it had recently reopened after its fall overseeding and maintenance. I hoped this would be my best shot at catching the course in reasonably decent shape. That turned out to be the case.

Mesquite was actually in pretty good overall condition with mostly lush grass coverage throughout. There were some bad patches scattered throughout the fairways and rough, and the fairway grass was still a bit shaggy (which is expected after overseeding). Mostly, though, I’d say it was looking and playing pretty good. Some of the greens did have issues. They are rolling a bit slow (again, no big surprise after maintenance) and several had some dead spots, which was unfortunate. I was in my fair share of sand traps. I noticed more small pebbles than I prefer to see and there were some long strands of grass growing up through the bottom in places. However, the sand itself was soft and playable enough. The tee boxes were mostly good, but a few were too lumpy.

All in all, it was a positive experience for me at Mesquite. That said, this is by no means a “destination” course if you are visiting from out of town. It is still is quite low on the Coachella Valley totem pole in terms of overall appeal, but then again the bar here is set pretty high with so many nice courses to choose from. By Palm Springs standards, I’d say Mesquite is still fairly rough around the edges right now. However, by general SoCal standards it’s in pretty nice overall shape.

As a cheaper option, the price is reasonable for what you get. I would expect (hope) the course stays in fairly decent through winter (especially if they can get the greens a little better). But by the time next summer rolls around, I expect Mesquite will go back downhill. Or, who knows? Perhaps this is a positive sign of things to come!

Some pictures from Mesquite Golf & Country Club (11/2/13):

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Of course, I had more golf to play after finishing at Mesquite…

Mountain Vista Golf Club (Santa Rosa) • Palm Desert, CA • 11/2/13

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll know I played here not too long ago. On that visit, I played the San Gorgonio course and found it pretty enjoyable. During that visit, I could not help but notice how green and gorgeous the Santa Rosa course was beginning to look at the end of its overseeding process. Since it opened up a couple weeks ago, I’ve been wanting to come back out and play it while it looked so sharp.

I found a GolfNow “hot deal” time at 11:32 for $50. That’s not super cheap, but it’s not too bad for this time of year on what I knew would be a pretty quality course. 

Because my morning round went way quicker than expected, I called over to Mountain Vista to see if they could get me out earlier than my tee time. The guys in the pro shop were very helpful. I ended up teeing off at 10:30. On such a great day, it was pretty busy out there and the course is currently running as cart path only. With the older crowd there and all the extra walking folks had to do, things moved along a little slowly at times. However, we still finished in about 4.5 hours.

As far as conditions went, Santa Rosa lived up to and exceeded my lofty expectations. It was near immaculate out there! Everything was lush and beautiful throughout the course. It looked perfect and played nicely, even though there wasn’t much roll-out on drives with the fairway cuts still left a tad longer than usual. The greens were running a little quicker than I would have expected this soon after maintenance. I would say “medium” speeds right now and I would presume they’ll quicken up even more in the coming weeks. 

The perfect weather and outstanding conditions may have overshadowed the course itself. I found Santa Rosa to be a pretty fun course, but nothing too exciting or challenging. Now, that I’ve played both, I would say San Gorgonio is a more interesting course overall. Santa Rosa is a better looking track visually and it’s very well-suited to the senior crowd of this Sun City retirement community. It’s pretty forgiving from tee to green and the greens themselves aren’t as tricky as on San Gorgonio. 

Some significant water hazards come into play and scattered trees provide the course’s main defense, but you really have to spray the ball to find major trouble. There are very large sprawling areas of grass surrounding the course and providing pretty big buffer areas between the holes and surrounding houses/roads. They keep it all nicely mown and it looks sharp, even though I imagine it’s a lot of extra maintenance for something that’s purely aesthetic in most places. This feature reminded me a lot of nearby Desert Falls Country Club.

Santa Rosa offers multiple tees to cater to a wide variety of skill levels. The blue tees are  great for seniors and play to a yardage of 5,693. Then there’s the gold tees, which is what we played. Still not super long or intimidating at 6,162 total yards. There’s also a combo set between the blues and golds if you are interested. Longer hitters and low-handicappers will probably want to play the blacks at 6,720 yards to maximize what challenge there is here.

The most distinctive hole on the Santa Rosa course in my opinion is the 11th. It’s a fun one that requires a tee shot over a lake to a pretty generous landing area. You hit over a  different part of the lake to an elevated green flanked by some nice waterfall features.

Both Santa Rosa and San Gorgonio offer something for everyone, and that “something” is quality golf. Neither Mountain Vista course will blow you away, but you’re sure to have a pretty enjoyable experience in the mid-level price range as far as Coachella Valley courses go. 

Some pictures from Mountain Vista Golf Club (Santa Rosa) (11/2/13):

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