GK Event: Indian Wells Golf Resort

Sunday found me out in the desert once again, enjoying a round in December that reminded me of January. You see, my first rounds of 2013 were at Indian Wells Golf Resort, where I played 36 holes and started on the Celebrity course.

Greenskeeper.org was having their big year-end event on the Indian Wells Celebrity course and I was eager to sign up because I really loved it so much the first time. That, and getting together with my GK friends is always a blast!

With the chilly weather we’ve been having here in Southern California (by our standards), I didn’t head out to play an early round on Sunday because I figured there would likely be a frost delay. My friend and I drove out together and enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Arthur’s Restaurant in Orange (one of my absolute favorite breakfast spots) before making our way out to the Coachella Valley.

There were some clouds in the sky, but they mostly hovered around the mountains and it turned out to be a great day weather-wise as you’ll see in the pictures.

I was excited to play the Celebrity course again. I enjoyed both it and the Players course when I played them previously, but I found the Celebrity course overall more enjoyable. My take on the two layouts is that Celebrity is more of the “resort” course with a more forgiving layout and more prominent aesthetic touches, while the Players course is meant to be a more challenging and thought-provoking design.

In fact, I’m firm in my belief that Indian Wells Celebrity is the “prettiest” course I’ve played in the Coachella Valley. It just looks fantastic from tee to green and the holes are very well-framed with intricate bunkers, dynamic mounding, a variety of trees and flowers, and great-looking water features. In the distance, you are presented with beautiful views of the mountains—primarily the San Jacinto range on the front nine and then the Santa Rosa range on the back. Indian Wells is ideally situated in the valley for such incredible scenery.

Both Indian Wells courses were extensively renovated several years ago. The original Ted Robinson designs were updated and revamped, and by all accounts, both courses have improved dramatically on all levels for a fantastic resort golf experience.

It’s hard to say what the most memorable holes are on the Celebrity course as many of them have a “signature” quality. They all fit together nicely, but each one offers something a little different to keep you interested. We played the white tees for our tournament, and the course plays very short from that set. It’s listed at just over 6,000 yards on the card from the whites, but I’d say it was playing even less than that.

As short as it was playing, that doesn’t mean it’s an “easy” course from the whites. There’s plenty of trouble to get into and some fairways can get quite narrow. And if you do find a fairway bunker, it’s generally a true “penalty” with deep, soft sand and high lips to contend with. However, with a safe tee shot (often a simple lay-up for longer hitters), you can fire away at the pins and post a good score.

From the whites especially, there are many risk/reward holes. Long hitters will be tempted to try and drive a few of these greens. Some are quite well-protected and may force a lay-up, but others are pretty accessible, so you have to decide when you want to be aggressive.

The bunkers and the greens are definitely the course’s biggest defenses. I was able to avoid all the bunkers but one, but the greens baffled me. I could not figure out breaks here this time. I had many good looks at birdies with 10 greens in regulation (which is a lot for me), but did not make one putt of significance. I was uncomfortable all day long.

My only complaint about the layout is that there are only two par-3s and two par-5s on the entire course. It’s weird and unfortunate, especially since the setting would be ideal for a couple more stunning par-3 designs.

The course was in great overall shape and that certainly added to the experience. The rye grass tee boxes, fairways and rough were lush and green. The greens were a little slow and got pretty bumpy toward the end of the day, but ran true for the most part. The bunkers were immaculate.

Overall, it was another great round at Indian Wells and another fantastic GK event. Indian Wells Celebrity is one of my favorite courses in the Coachella Valley and I’ll look forward to my next excuse to play it again.

Some pictures from Indian Wells Golf Resort (Celebrity) (12/8/13):

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