Heating Up in La Quinta

On Thursday last week, I was out in the desert. I got the most out of my day, despite some crazy heat that was well over 100 degrees in the afternoon. I spent the day in La Quinta playing two different private clubs…

La Quinta Country Club • La Quinta, CA • 6/2/16

I was signed up for an SCGA outing here. Technically, it was the first day of their annual “Bob Hope Trail” four-day package, but I was only signed up for the first day since I had already played the rest of the courses that were scheduled.

It was an 8:00 shotgun start. It was originally a pretty full field signed up, but the insane temperatures that were forecasted through the weekend brought on a lot of last-minute cancellations. Thursday was bad enough (my car said 117 degrees at one point when driving home), but it was supposed to get even hotter over the weekend.

Though kind of a nightmare for the organizers, it worked out well for those of us who were brave enough to attend. With a smaller group, that meant faster play for everyone. Our group started on the 9th hole and never had anyone in front of us or behind us, so we were able to finish in about four hours. Thankfully, there was also a nice breeze much of the round, so that kept the heat from being too stifling.

La Quinta Country Club was established in 1959 and is in the current rotation for the Career Builder Challenge (formerly Humana, formerly Bob Hope Classic). The history gives it some added appeal, but otherwise it’s pretty typical of older desert tracks. In that, it’s nicely conditioned and an enjoyable overall experience, but I’d be hard-pressed to pick it out of a lineup with so many other similar courses around.

The course runs through a nice gated neighborhood with a mix of older style desert homes and modern renovations. Plenty of trees line the fairways and can come into play often as they are there to protect the homes a little from stray drives. We played the combo set of tees between the Long and Middle. At 6,175 total yards, I was comfortable with the yardage, but it was no advantage for me to play up on several of the holes where we played the Middles. Many of those holes featured tee boxes that were up the left side with trees pretty close on that side. It really killed me as an exclusively cut hitter with my driver. In the end, I would have much rather played the Long tees on every hole. I would trade the extra yardage for having comfortable tee angles. That’s just me, though.

Overall, though, I’d still say the course is fairly forgiving and straightforward. If you stay out of the trees, homes and water hazards, then it shouldn’t be hard to post a really good score. Otherwise, there isn’t too much to highlight about the layout. It all feels very familiar having played out in the desert so much over the past few years. I don’t want my review to sound negative, because it is a good course. It’s just not anything too distinctive.

The course was in very good overall condition. It was starting to brown out a little in areas, but the playability was generally quite nice. The tee boxes were great. The fairways were great to play from, though a handful had been recently aerated and I had to knock off a point for that. Same goes for the rough. It was cut low and easy to play from, but a few sections had also been punched. The greens were firm and rolling smooth at medium speeds (quicker than they looked). I was in a couple bunkers and they were excellent.

Basically, La Quinta Country Club is yet another really solid course as part of a nice club. Those who maybe haven’t played as much in the desert will likely enjoy it more than those who have played a lot of similar courses out this way. There’s always added appeal for the exclusivity of being a guest at a private club and playing a course that is currently played by the professionals in a big tournament. That said, so many courses out in the Coachella Valley have been part of the tournament rotation and/or have hosted The Skins Game, so that affiliation is only as special as you want to make it.

Some pictures from La Quinta Country Club (6/2/16):

I didn’t have any other specific plans for that afternoon, but I am always keeping my eyes and ears open. It just so happened that one of the players in my group at La Quinta was a member at another nearby private club…

The Palms Golf Club • La Quinta, CA • 6/2/16

As is always the case when I get paired with someone I know is a member at a course I haven’t played, I was extra nice to the woman in my morning group. I was just trying to work a future invite, but she was a snowbird about to head back home in a few days. Instead, she called over after we finished at La Quinta and vouched for me.

When I called into the pro shop, they asked when I wanted to come out and I knew that it was best to strike while the iron was hot. Otherwise, these kind of invites can fizzle away easily. I inquired about playing that afternoon and they said to come right over. It was just a short drive away and I knew the course would not be busy on such a super hot day, so it was perfect timing.

The summer guest rate was just $50, which I gladly paid and then teed off a few minutes later. I played through one twosome and saw a few other people braving the heat on the course, but otherwise had the place to myself and zipped through in a little over two hours.

I found The Palms to be an interesting and somewhat unique course. It didn’t blow me away, but I did like that it was something a little different (especially after the relatively common look of La Quinta CC in the morning).

It’s a more modern design with some links elements. It is kind of sprawling across the landscape with only some palm trees separating one hole from the next. The Palms was co-designed by Fred Couples and Brian Curley. Freddie is also a member and part-time resident here, apparently.

Speaking of palms, there are a ton of palm trees on the course. They are all different types and sizes. I’d be curious to know how many different species of palm trees are actually represented here and how many total trees are on the course. The back nine in particular has palm trees everywhere and there are sections where they are all lined up row after row kind of like an orchard. I don’t know if this land was once a tree farm (or still is) or if all of these were brought in and planted just for the course. Either way, it’s kind of a neat look to spice up what would otherwise be a very wide open course.

Though there are a lot of trees around, the course itself does play rather open from tee to green. The fairways are forgiving. The greens, however, are pretty well protected and feature some unusual shapes and undulations that make approach shots and scrambling more difficult. There are a few water hazards in play and then some neat serpentine creeks on several holes. I liked the look of these with the mounds of rough along the edges of the water.

Admittedly, this is definitely not the best time of year for this course in terms of the aesthetics. I can only imagine how cool it looks with lush, green grass sprawling between all the trees and more evident fairway/rough cuts to provide better sight lines off each tee.

It was starting to get a few brown spots around the edge as summer comes on. That said, the playability was still very good from tee to green. The tee boxes were good and the fairways were always nice to hit from with tight-ish lies. The rough was dry and cut down, so the ball sat up nicely. The bunkers were excellent. The only issue was the greens because they were aerated recently (probably within a week or two). They were slow, sandy and bumpy. In another few weeks they will be nicer again.

One other thing to note is that the routing of this course can be rather confusing for a first-time player not accompanied by a member. Nothing is really marked and the cart paths are sporadic. There are several intersections of multiple holes, so it’s not always clear which one is next. Several times, I had to check the yardage on the scorecard and compare that to the plates on the tee boxes. Otherwise, I had no map, no pin placement guide or anything that helped me navigate the course by myself.

Once I get more private desert clubs under my belt, I’d love to revisit The Palms someday during the peak season. I think the look of the course will shine even more than in any of the pictures I’m posting below.

Some pictures from The Palms Golf Club (6/2/16):

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