Exactly seven years ago today, a friend and I drove out to the Coachella Valley for a quick overnight golf trip that found us playing a whopping two courses before heading home. We played the South Course at The Golf Club at Terra Lago one day and then the Dunes Course at La Quinta Resort the next day before returning home to Orange County, where I lived at the time.
You can definitely say things have come full circle, as I now call the Coachella Valley home and I just happened to play the South Course at The Golf Club of Terra Lago very recently. It wasn’t anything planned. It just came together at the last-minute, and I eventually realized just how close this latest round was to the original anniversary.
I guess I should also mention that my review of that that trip from seven years ago was the very first thing I ever posted on this site. I actually started the blog as a way to highlight some bigger golf trips I had coming up in the fall of 2011, but the Coachella Valley story was my first attempt at posting an article. Little did I know at the time that this site would still be going seven years later and that it would have developed into such a massive archive of my golf adventures.
I’ve now played over 1,000 different courses, and I have reviewed a good majority of them on this site. I have played in 43 different states. I have played “bucket list” rounds on some of the country’s top tracks. Most importantly, I don’t see an end to this madness anytime soon!
Recently, I have been going back through every past article, one-by-one, to make some minor updates and clean things up a little. Not everything transferred over perfectly from the old site, all the articles needed a good proofreading and I also wanted to make notes about courses that have been closed, renovated or changed names since I played and reviewed them. I’ve still got a long way to go on that particular project, but it is fun going back and rereading a lot of old posts.
Perhaps no old post was more entertaining than my very first one. The reviews were short and simple, and I only posted a few pictures from each course. Things have definitely changed a lot since then. I am now much more long-winded and I love sharing as many photos as I can.
Being that I just happened to play one of these courses right around the 7th anniversary of the blog, I figured it was about freaking time to give it a more proper and detailed review…
The Golf Club at Terra Lago (South) • Indio, CA • 10/18/18
My friend JohnnyGK of greenskeeper.org arranged a round out here and I was happy to join along with another local GK member. We teed off a little after 7:00 and enjoyed a nice relaxed pace as a threesome. We let a couple of faster twosomes play through, but otherwise the course wasn’t too crowded.
The South Course had just reopened from its fall overseed. The North Course was just a few days away from shutting down, but it was still getting some play that day.
This was actually my third time playing the South Course. I went out there last summer with a cheap hot deal. Unfortunately, the course was in very rough shape and I didn’t feel it was fair to post a new review of it. The first time I played here, it was in excellent condition and I kind of wanted to remember it how it was. Last year, everything about Terra Lago just felt run-down and it was sad because I really like both of these courses.
Fortunately, it seems the new management is putting in some real effort here. I don’t know if Terra Lago will ever be able to compete with the immaculate conditioning and high-end feel of some of Coachella Valley’s top-shelf facilities. However, I will say that it offers two of the most underrated layouts in the valley and things appear to be headed back in a positive direction. Plus, it’s a very unique desert setting that definitely stands apart from the somewhat-manufactured “oasis” style courses around here that often blend together a bit.
Both courses at Terra Lago were designed by the Schmidt-Curley team, and that’s already a good selling point. I have always liked their architectural style. Terra Lago offers some links-ish elements woven throughout a very rugged desert landscape. There are some homes around parts of each course. However, there are numerous holes surrounded by nothing but desert and it provides a wonderful backdrop for golf.
Being that it’s located on the north side of the I-10, wind is often an issue at Terra Lago (especially in the afternoons). We were fortunate with a pretty calm morning round.
I mentioned that I think Terra Lago’s layouts are very underrated in the Coachella Valley region. I would also argue that the South Course is underrated compared to the North Course, which generally garners more attention between the two. The North has a handful of great signature holes (most notably the three right next to the clubhouse with the water hazards in play). However, I personally think that South is a stronger 1-18 layout overall. That is not to put down the North, though, especially because I think they generally keep it in better condition than the South. Based on all the factors, it’s kind of a coin flip for me. My point is both are worth checking out. Just about every hole at this 36-hole complex is interesting and challenging, and there really aren’t any bland stretches on either course.
The front nine of South has several holes that zig-zag across an aqueduct canal. There are two bridges over it that are made from old railroad box cars. That’s a fun touch.
Though there are numerous great holes on the South Course, I particularly love the collection of par-3s (North also has great par-3s). The 4th is perhaps the signature hole with an elevated tee box and a great overall look right on the edge of the desert wasteland just north of the course.
The 6th is a long one that has you hitting over the aforementioned canal if you play the black or gold tees. It’s a beast, especially if the wind is blowing into you. The 12th is nicknamed “Star Wars,” I guess because the green complex kind of has a star-like shape and almost plays as an island. It is elevated and surrounded on all sides by a neat bunker complex. It’s an awesome little hole.
Lastly, you have the 17th, which is another really good short par-3 with a very tricky green and all sorts of trouble to get into if you miss the green on your tee shot.
The course was in pretty good overall condition and definitely a lot better than when I was here last summer. It’s still a bit rough around the edges, though. The tee boxes were mostly quite good with just a few a little thin on the overseed coming through. The same was true with the fairways. There were a few small sandy/dead spots here and here, but they offered mostly nice lies throughout. The rough was mostly okay. There was some obvious storm/flood damage on the front nine where some mud and water washed through lower-lying parts of the course, but nothing too bad.
The greens were good with the bermuda still holding strong as the winter grass starts to come in. They were a little slow, but should smooth out as the season progresses. I was only in one fairway bunker and it was fine. All bunkers seemed a bit hit or miss from what I observed, though.
In the summer, you can play at Terra Lago for very cheap. You have to deal with some lesser conditions and hot weather, but it’s a good value for two really fun courses. In the winter, the prices do go up significantly just like everywhere else in the Coachella Valley. Conditions will be better during the peak season, but still don’t expect things to be pristine. Whether or not it’s worth the winter prices is hard to say. Still, I would recommend everyone check out both Terra Lago courses at least once because the layouts are great and the setting is truly unique compared to anything else in the valley.
Some pictures from The Golf Club at Terra Lago (South) (10/18/18):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)