Desert Falls Country Club in Palm Desert: A unique and challenging Coachella Valley golf course

By Judd Spicer, Contributor

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Desert Falls Country Club provides a rolling, good round. With ample fairway undulation to complement mass green complexes, the Ron Fream design breaks free from much of what defines "desert golf" in the idyllic golf pocket that is the Coachella Valley.

Desert Falls Country Club
Desert Falls Country Club is a unique and challenging golf course in California's Coachella Valley.
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Desert Falls Country Club

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Can bunkers qualify as their own continent? Desert Falls Country Club in Palm Desert seems determined to find out.
This Ron Frehm design boasts bunkers so huge that they look like the inventor of the Big Gulp came up with them. And escape is anything but guaranteed. Sometimes getting out of one bunker, just means landing in another at Desert Falls.

18 Holes | Semi-Private golf course | Par: 72 | 7093 yards | Book online | ... details »

Aptly regarded as one of the region's most challenging golf courses (a boast backed by its 133 slope and 7,100 yards from the tips), Desert Falls C.C. plays akin to myriad facilities in this resort destination -- from the tee. Yet after driving toward the generous landing areas, the course waves the player over an engaging (albeit unrelenting) series of uneven lies, blind approaches, massive greenside bunkers, sneaky water defenses, and colossal putting surfaces with far-reaching fingers that may find you and your playing partners making reads from different area codes.

"It has a little bit of a Scottish links feel, a little bit more openness," Desert Falls Country Club General Manager Tim Skogen says. "It's not your traditional, condominium-designed golf course. We are a residential community, but the residents are a little bit more off to the sides.

"There isn't one hole on the golf course that isn't at least a double-wide hole. So you have much more feeling of expanse. That, plus the pure yardage, along with the size and contours of the greens and bunkers, are very distinctive."

A former host to several star-studded events (the Frank Sinatra Celebrity Open among them) and also the site for both PGA Tour qualifying and regular Southern California Golf Association junior tournaments, Desert Falls is indeed unique in these parts.

While a lack of GPS and off-fairway yardage markings may find the newcomer frustrated at first blush, the design's ability to present game-changing pins on these firm greens will have them coming back for more.

"It's one of my favorite in the desert," Janet Wellman of Palm Desert says. "Big greens and different tee placements makes the holes stay interesting. I've played here a number of years and depending where those tees are, it makes each hole play different day to day."

Desert Falls grabs your collar from the outset, presenting a 380-yard dogleg left at No. 1 with water guarding the green. Pin placements come into play on the greens at Nos. 4, 7 and 9. The 556-yard, par 5 ninth is an exceptional hole, presenting a risk-reward second shot over water. Moreover, both the rookie and veteran Desert Falls player will no doubt remark upon the No. 9 green shared with the eventual home hole.

The back nine at Desert Falls Country Club

On the back, the 227-yard, par-3 14th is unquestionably among the most entertaining holes in the desert. When playing on a hot day beneath the mid-afternoon desert sun, the unconditioned player will need to exercise special focus here. With mountain vistas looming beyond ample bunkering and an 18,000-square-foot putting surface (really), this green is regarded as the largest west of the Rockies. If the PGA Tour were ever to specify a "Kodak Challenge" valley-style, this hole would be on it.

"This is how I thought golf in the desert should be," Alice Gosselin of Palm Desert says.

While ample courses in these parts wind you home with a caress, Desert Falls Country Club further distinguishes itself with a demanding finish. Holes 16-18 are among the course's eight toughest handicaps. At 458 yards, No. 18 is the second-longest par 4 here and requires accuracy on the approach with water extending into the fairway. To step upon the shared green at 18 with your game intact is to known that you've indeed ascended to the marked demands of Desert Falls.

Desert Falls Country Club: The verdict

This self-proclaimed "friendliest club in the desert" is among the most unique and challenging golf courses in the Coachella Valley. Ample distance from the tips, massive greens and undulating fairways distinguish Desert Falls Country Club from many in the region.

Just as the personnel is indeed welcoming, newcomers may consider making their initial trip with those already familiar with these grounds. A myriad of blind approaches accentuate the challenge for first-timers.

Desert Falls Country Club: Instruction and facilities

Desert Falls offers a full practice facility with driving range and large putting green, along with areas for short game and sand rehearsal. On a seasonal basis (November-April), the course hosts instruction from the John Jacobs' Golf Schools.

A full-service clubhouse, bar and grill, and ample meeting/party space are also on the grounds.

Judd SpicerJudd Spicer, Contributor

Judd Spicer is an award-winning, veteran freelance writer hailing from St. Paul, Minn. After 12 years of covering MLB, NBA, NCAA and the active golf landscape of the Twin Cities, he relocated to the Palm Spring, Calif. region to further pursue his golf work and Champions Tour dream. Sporting measured distance off the tee, Spicer refers to his pitching wedge as his "magic wand." Follow Judd on Twitter at @juddspicer.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Sounds intense!

    Dan Perelstein wrote on: Jul 2, 2011

    Sounds like a really challenging and fun course! It seems a bit out of my league though. Very descriptive and colorful article, and easy to read.