Contrasting Styles in the Desert

As summer approaches, it’s time for me to start visiting the desert more frequently in search of great deals, quick rounds and new courses. There are so many “private” courses out there I haven’t played yet, I intend to start calling around and seeing if I can get on any during the off-season. I’m sure I’ll be able to get to a few this way, but we’ll see.

Anyway, yesterday was my first trip out there in a little while and I was able to squeeze in one new course along with an incredible deal on another favorite. My friend and I ventured out and started the day on a course that neither of us had played or knew much about…

Avondale Golf Club • Palm Desert, CA • 5/24/14

Avondale still considers itself a private club, but I have regularly been seeing some scattered tee times available through StandByGolf. Also, from what I overheard in the pro shop, they might have some deals with local hotels to get guests out on the course. We booked a 7:22 time for $45. However, when we arrived, they didn’t seem to have us on the tee sheet. I had my printed confirmation, though, and there were no problems slotting us in. We ended up going off right about 7:00 ahead of a couple other groups and we zipped through quickly with nobody behind or in front of us all round.

I’m not sure how I felt about the course itself. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It probably reminded me most of Indian Palms, but also some of the older country club style courses throughout the valley (Woodhaven, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert). Avondale definitely has some old school desert charm with the neat retro three-story clubhouse and members all around in their personal carts. The club opened in 1969 under the name of Del Safari and later became Avondale Golf Club.

There wasn’t anything too exciting about the design and I think there are some missed opportunities in terms of how they use the big ponds and nice water features that are already spread throughout the property. Other than a few holes, the water hazards really doesn’t really come that much into play like the pretty pictures on their website lead you to believe. It could be a more aesthetically pleasing course and much more interesting design if the water played more of a part.

Easily the most notable hole here is the par-3 8th, which does use the water prominently. This hole is dramatically different depending on if you play the blue or white tees. From the whites, it’s 158 yards with a much “friendlier” angle over the water. From the blues, where we played, it’s a daunting hole directly over the water and playing at 201 yards. Either way, it’s a good one.

As an old style course you can expect a few funky hole designs at Avondale. Most holes have notable doglegs and from the blue tees, most of the layout is quite tight from tee to green. There are many very uncomfortable tee shots with trees dictating how you need to hit or shape the ball to get to the ideal part of the fairway. Having some prior course knowledge here or a yardage guide/GPS would be helpful because positioning is key on several holes. Sometimes even when you hit a decent drive, the approach angle can sometimes be awkward if you are not in the perfect position.

As a fade hitter myself, I’d say the course definitely favors draw hitters, but I think it would just take a few times playing here to figure out the best strategy for your game on each hole. The only other note is that the par-3s are all quite long from the blue tees. Three of the four are 200+ yards and the other is about 175. I’d rather see a little more variety in the distances with at least one under 150 that you can be aggressive on. With the wind being a factor most of the morning, I ended up hitting my driver on the three long ones, which is the first time I’ve ever done that three times on the same course!

Getting to the greens can be a bit of an adventure at Avondale, but the greens themselves are pretty straightforward and a good short game player can easily make up for any long game struggles.

The course was still in very good overall shape as we get set to head into the summer months. It was mostly green and lush with consistent fairway and rough cuts, and good lies could be found throughout. The tee boxes were great and the bunkers were good enough. The greens were solid, rolling at medium speeds. The only real maintenance issues of note are the big patches of fairway repair work on holes 1 and 5. There’s a sign at the clubhouse noting these as Ground Under Repair, so it’s good they warn you. They just have big patches of the fairway cut out right in front of the greens on these holes. They are currently just bare dirt/sand until they can put down some new sod.

With so many other great options in the Coachella Valley (especially with the great deals during the hot months), I would probably put Avondale lower on the list. It’s another fine old style course and a stern test of your game, but it won’t “wow” you on any level.

Some pictures from Avondale Golf Club (5/24/14):

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For our afternoon round, we headed to one of the local favorites and a dramatic departure from the old school country club style of Avondale…

La Quinta Resort & Club (Mountain Course) • La Quinta, CA • 5/24/14

The friend I was playing with considers this his personal favorite course, so it was fun to play with him there, especially considering the insane deal we got. We found a “hot deal” through GolfNow for just $40 at 12:45, which is already a steal. However, I also had a buy one get one free reward promo (up to $40), which made it just $20 each! You cannot beat that for a round at La Quinta.

We got there early and they were able to move us up to the 11:51 time, paired with a nice couple. It was relatively busy out there despite a warm afternoon, but the pace was steady and we finished in just under 4.5 hours.

I won’t comment too much about the design of La Quinta Mountain here. I reviewed the course a couple years ago and any comments about the layout in that review would still apply. The design here speaks for itself. I love Pete Dye designs and this course is great. The back nine especially is spectacular as you work your way along the edge of the rugged mountains, culminating in the awe-inspiring stretch of 14-16.

What is worth talking about this time is the conditions. Last time, I was fairly disappointed, but this time was much better. It’s still far from the pristine look that I would love to see on a course of this level in such a great setting, but things were definitely better. Also, we’re at the end of the desert’s peak season right now, so I wouldn’t expect it to be in prime winter shape.

The Mountain Course was closed for quite awhile after some major flood damage last year. There are some new patches of sod you can see throughout the course and some areas you can tell were affected the most. Things are definitely not immaculate, but the playability is great. Lies throughout the fairways and rough were always good (fairways especially) and there really isn’t much to complain about. It’s not as “pretty” looking as I want it to be and there’s not enough visual distinction between fairways and rough from the tees. With all the unique contours here, some more visual “framing” would help. So I still do want to play it someday when it’s as lush, green and perfectly manicured on the same level of most other Coachella Valley resort courses.

The greens on the Mountain course do seem to be struggling a bit. I’m not sure if they are just in transitional phase between spring and summer, but they are a little ugly looking on the surface. For the most part, they rolled true and played just fine outside of a few rough patches. The worst green was on the 6th hole and that one really needs some work.

I believe the course is set to close down again later this year for even more maintenance and repairs. That can only be a good thing as they look to make this course once again one of the real standout options within this golfer’s paradise.

Some new pictures from La Quinta Resort & Club (Mountain) (5/24/14):

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