Just north of Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, you will find Ironwood Country Club. It’s yet another wonderful private club with plenty of history and character.
I was out at Ironwood yesterday participating in another SCGA member outing, which was set up on the South Course as a 7:30 shotgun start. A few friends and I were also fortunate enough to be able to play the North Course afterward, so I will be reviewing both Ironwood courses in this post.
The South Course is generally considered the premier course at this 36-hole facility. It was originally designed by Ted Robinson, Sr. and Desmond Muirhead (with some consultation from Arnold Palmer). Then, architect John Fought came in later to rework some holes and make a few modifications. In other words, several big-time course designers have had their hands in both Ironwood courses.
The South is definitely the longer course of the two, topping out at 7,274 yards (par-72). However, it offers eight different tee boxes/combinations to suit any skill level. Our group played the white tees at 6,489 yards and that was plenty for me.
Ironwood Country Club benefits from the same beautiful surroundings that help make clubs like Bighorn, Stone Eagle and The Reserve (the only one I still haven’t played in this part of town) feel so special. This little valley along Highway 74 is just a great spot for golf in the desert.
The South Course doesn’t offer any major changes in elevation like Stone Eagle or Bighorn, so the views may not be quite as spectacular and the hole designs probably aren’t as dramatic overall. Unfortunately, the morning lighting was a little harsh on the mountains, so some pictures won’t really do it justice. Still, it’s a wonderful setting that is peaceful and serene with hardly any houses along the course. It’s hard to not enjoy yourself when playing golf in a place like this.
The 6th and 14th holes are the two par-3s that stood out to me with nice water hazards and scenic backdrops in play. These are both great holes where you can definitely feel the original Robinson influence.
One of the more interesting holes on Ironwood South is the par-4 12th, which happened to be the last hole we played because we started on 13 in the morning shotgun. This hole requires a semi-intimidating drive over a wide desert wash and then the hole doglegs slightly left toward the green.
The South Course was in very nice shape overall. There were a few small brown spots here and there as the summer transition is just around the corner. However, the tees, fairways and rough were mostly quite green and lush (playing on the soft side). Some fairways had been aerated, so we had more than one ball end up in an unfortunate spot. I was in a couple bunkers and I thought they were pretty nice. The greens were firm and rolling at medium/fast speeds. The ball liked to trickle a little further past the hole than you would prefer after downhill putts, but I felt they were very good putting surfaces (especially during this transitional time of year in the desert).
Ironwood isn’t usually going to be mentioned among the top-shelf desert private clubs, but it is a very nice option in that second tier. If you ever have a chance to play it, you’ll want to take advantage.
Some pictures from Ironwood Country Club (South Course) (6/1/17):
After a brief break to finish scarfing down our box lunches, our group was back out on the North Course around noon. I noticed a couple of singles on the course ahead of us, but we never encountered anyone and enjoyed our own pace.
From the moment we started on North, we could tell it had a little different feel than South. First off, it is much shorter overall. The back blue tees on North top out at just 6,088 yards. However, it is a par-70 with three par-5s and five par-3s in the mix, so it plays longer than the total yardage might suggest. Me and my scores would argue that this course from the blues was actually a little more difficult than the South Course was from the whites. I think it was mainly the tee angles were less forgiving for a fade hitter. It felt tighter and more uncomfortable for me personally. Still, it’s not a course that will beat you up that much.
The front nine goes back and forth right next to parts of the South Course. Then, the back nine takes a detour out through the houses and ultimately up into a small canyon, which was enjoyable. I really liked holes 15 and 16 as the highlights of the North Course.
The 15th is a lengthy par-3 (206 from the blues with a pretty good side/head wind working against us). It plays slightly downhill to a green tucked into a small cove surrounded by the rugged desert hillside. The next hole (16) plays along that rocky hillside with a semi-blind tee shot over a corner. The hole is a slight dogleg right and tempts you to try and bite off as much as you can on your tee shot.
From tee to green, North was also in good overall shape. It was probably just a slight notch down from South with a few more brown/bare spots scattered throughout the fairways and rough. A few of these fairways had been recently aerated, as well. The tee boxes were great and everything was still pretty lush and green for the most part, so there was not too much to complain about. The bunkers were a bit crusty on top, but actually had a decent layer of sand underneath. The greens on this side were much softer and rolling slower/bumpier due to to a recent aeration. Though we caught this course during maintenance, it was clear to see that the greens are typically as well maintained on North as they are on South.
Though South will probably be your first choice if playing Ironwood, the North is a worthy companion course.
Some pictures from Ironwood Country Club (North Course) (6/1/17):