Playability makes for fun rounds on the Palm and Valley golf courses at Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert
PALM DESERT, Calif. -- For years, the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert has been a haven for just about every type of person to convene, from golfing vagabonds to free-spirited Hollywood entertainers. At its hub, guests enjoy frosty margaritas while dangling their feet in the pool and listening to live music. A mere chip shot away, golfers are unloading their carts and checking scores.
Desert Springs Resort is where golf, cuisine and a good time combine, to make for one of the largest properties of its type in the west, winner of several travel awards and a favorite destination for generations of patrons.
With water spreading from its two golf courses (thanks to the King of Waterscapes, Ted Robinson) to the massive pools, lakes and fountains flanking the fairways, Desert Springs Resort is literally a 450-acre Coachella Valley oasis amidst the stark contrast of the desert.
Desert Springs Resort: The golf
Steps from the resort and surrounded by the Santa Rosa Mountains, Desert Springs Resort's two Robinson layouts are straightforward, fair and allow few tricks -- just pure and classic desert golf. It's part of the reason the Valley Course and Palm Course have remained so popular for more than two decades for a variety of skill levels.
"Guests come to this resort to break away and enjoy themselves," said Drew Hudgens, head golf professional at Desert Springs Resort. "The courses, with their open layouts and greens, give that to them. They'll also provide a test from the back for those seeking more challenge, though."
Between the Valley and Palm Courses are more than 35 acres of water features, in the form of man-made lakes, lagoons and streams; one such feature on the Palm Course is filled with bright pink flamingos, off the third hole. Those that fear a water hazard may struggle a bit at first sight but quickly find they are not as in play as might appear from the tee.
Desert Springs Resort's Palm Course stretches 6,761 yards with a 130 slope rating, and although fairways are hilly, they are also wide and forgiving. The occasional errant shot isn't punished too hard.
Closely routed to the resort and its amenities, the Palm Course is considered the more difficult of the two layouts, thanks to well protected greens, thick rough and towering palms flanking the holes. The Palm also has one of the best finishing stretches in the area: the island par-3 17th hole capped by the dogleg left, 432-yard, par-4 18th, with water all along the left.
Desert Springs Resort's Valley Course, on the other hand, runs 6,627 yards with a slope of 127, with fairways molded to funnel even some sub-par shot back to more playable lies. It's a bit quieter and plays a little more friendly as well, meandering along the outskirts of the resort property.
Desert Springs Resort: The verdict
The Palm and Valley Courses at Desert Springs Resort offer the scenery and amenities expected at a desert golf course but at a playability that makes golfers feel good about their games, no matter their skill level.
"When you play out here, it's a ego booster; you always feel good afterward," said Jeff Waller, a Portland, Ore. native and semi-annual Desert Springs Resort visitor. "The courses are forgiving, and as a whole, they don't beat you up; you don't have to be in the fairway to make a good approach shot. It just makes for a fun round."
Practice facilities and golf instruction at Desert Springs Resort
One of the most unique features in the golf sense, however, is Desert Springs Resort's 18-hole putting course. Aptly named The Greens, this little layout offers some big challenges as the nation's first all-natural putting course.
The 1,436-foot, par-54 Greens has all the same obstacles as a larger version, including bunkers, water hazards and trees to prevent a hole-in-one. With undulating fairways and strategically placed holes, don’t be surprised if breaking par doesn't happen easily.
Not only does this 36-hole facility come with a driving range and putting green, it's also home to one of two TaylorMade Performance Labs in Southern California (the other is at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad) and only eight worldwide. Along with group and individual lessons from PGA Professionals, John Jacobs Golf School also calls Desert Springs Resort its home.
Stay and play at Desert Springs Resort
There's not much you can't do at this nearly 900-room property.
A total of 10 eateries (including Costa's, a nightclub) are at Desert Springs Resort, along with more than 450 varietals of wine from which to choose. Several of the restaurants are connected via gondolas that sail through the resort’s adjacent waterways and dock in the hotel lobby.
Like tennis? Twenty courts, including hard, clay and grass, are available at the Lawn and Tennis Club. A hard day on the golf course or courts should end in Spa Desert Springs, or if retail therapy's the vice, one of the many boutiques and shops at the resort should do the trick.