Desert Willow Golf Resort's Mountain View Course: Mirth and mercy amid the mountains of Palm Desert
PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Like the "Jumping Cholla" cacti across the peripherals of its fairways, the sister courses at Desert Willow Golf Resort project beauty from the safety of the tee boxes.
But get too close to the impeccably-carved waste areas, and the rustic routing will jump up and bite you.
Among the most popular dual-course public facilities in southern California, the Firecliff Course and Mountain View Course at the municipally-owned Desert Willow sport the flora of a painter's brush. Replete with color and thorn, few golf courses in the Coachella Valley can match their texture.
"Even though everything is growing wild, there is a system to it," Bruce Nation, director of sales and marketing at Desert Willow, said of the well manicured grounds.
Commensurate in water features and bunkers, both courses employ the desert carving as delineation of where not to be.
"It gives you an idea, a road map to where you want to hit the ball," Nation said. "It's nice to be able to shape the ball around the way the desert waste areas cut in. If you hit in there, though, it can be a challenge to get out."
Yet to enter the bunkers is not to necessarily panic.
"When you get in there, go ahead and get the club into it and see how it reacts," Nation said. "If it sinks you know you're going to have to pick it clean. If it's kinda firm, you still have to pick it, but you have a little more margin for error."
Mountain View is Desert Willow's most playable option
While the skilled flock to the formidable Firecliff, players aiming for a more congenial round will be well served by the Mountain View.
"On Mountain View, you don't have nearly as many forced carries as you'll see on Firecliff," Nation said. "You don't have to hit the ball 200 yards to get to the fairway on Mountain View, and I think that's a plus for the higher-handicappers. There's only about 100 yards difference in length between the two courses, but you might feel that Firecliff is a lot longer because of those carries."
Coupled with the ample green of friendly fairways on Mountain View is the opportunity to enjoy windows toward sizable greens.
"It gives you the opportunity to hit different kinds of shots," Nation said of approaching pins. "If you can't drop it in there and stick it close to the pin, it's nice to be able to bump it up. Especially when you get around the greens, it's nice to have a window to go through."
While vistas abound on the aptly-named track, Mountain View highlights on two spirited runs.
Tipping at just 374 yards, the two-tiered green of the par-4 fourth hole hosts an equal share of birdies and doubles.
"Number 4 is one of my favorite holes," Nation said. "It's a short par 4 that doglegs left. It's a pretty driving hole, you're a little elevated from the tee and it really identifies the desert landscaping. The fairway is big, but it doesn't necessarily look that way from the box. If you can hit a decent drive it's a pretty ease hole."
After the brawny 227-yard par-3 fifth, the short par-5 sixth mixes right fairway hazard and green-fronting water with its diminutive yardage.
"The sixth was my favorite hole," said Ryan Sprague, a high-handicapper from Columbus, Ohio. "The water location and all the trees -- it just seemed different from all the other holes."
Rounding home, the bunker-laden, 386-yard 16th requires skilled shot making throughout.
"It's one where you can hit driver, but then again if you hit driver you might also be in trouble," Nation said. "There are a lot of bunkers on the left with O.B. on both sides."
With a waste area across the deep fairway, accuracy is demanded on the 342-yard 17th before the par-5 finisher serves as a culmination of Mountain View's mix of beauty and manageable peril. With water along the right of the fairway and ample bunkering along the left, a sound tee shot is followed by a study of water running through the deep fairway before fronting the kidney-shaped green.
Desert Willow Golf Resort's Mountain View Course: The verdict
For what the burly Firecliff Course presents in muscle, the Mountain View counters with equal parts mirth and mercy. Though mid-to-high handicappers will find landing areas in the fairways generally benign, all players will find challenge in navigating about the hazards on par-5 second shots and most approaches.
Instruction and facilities
The grounds offer full practice facility and instruction is available to players of all levels via the Palm Desert Golf Academy on site.