Desert Willow Golf Resort's Mountain View brings mellow good times to Palm Springs
PALM DESERT, Calif. - If you call a golf course an "easy course" these days, it's almost always taken as an insult. It's like branding someone half a man or saying someone possesses all the self-control of David Hasselhoff.
Forget the backhanded compliment. It's more like a full-force slap in the face.
Well, Mountain View is definitely the easy course at the Desert Willow Golf Resort. And you know what? That's all right.
In fact, it's better than just all right. Sometimes you want a round that gives you a fighting chance. Sometimes you want a course that provides a nice rhythm for casual conversation - an easy talking course if you will.
Desert Willow's Mountain View brings that and some things you don't expect. This is technically a municipal course. Only that's the only way it's muni - in technicality. Desert Willow is owned by the city of Palm Desert, in the Palm Springs region.
But so much money has been poured into it and so much emphasis placed on its course conditions that it's about as close in spirit to your average muni as an African lion is to Garfield the Cat.
"I've played almost all the courses in the (Coachella) Valley, and these two don't have to take a backseat to any of them," Desert Willow regular Dick Green said.
Firecliff is the showy course at Desert Willow, the one that the huge picture windows and the outdoor patio of the elaborate clubhouse look out on.
Mountain View has half as many bunkers as Firecliff and even less than half its profile.
Yet it's a Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry design, too. Like Firecliff, it's also more of a new-age Scottsdale look than an old traditional Palm Springs one with palm trees galore.
Some days you want a lot of drama in your golf. Some days you don't.
Mountain View isn't going to make you run through a year's supply of golf balls. This bad golfer lost one.
Water is featured on seven holes. Just usually not in Herculean forced carries. Take No. 6. This short par-5 (476 yards from the backs) has water running along its right side. You have to clear a little wet stuff from the tees too (though there is a bailout left for the truly squeamish). Yet the only water that poses a real threat on this hole is the tiny stream running near the green.
This little sliver of water can mess with your mind on that second shot.
One of Hurdzan and Fry's best touches at Mountain View is making sure the little creeks they put in actually run. This rushing water that will carry your golf ball away is used to great effect on several holes - including No. 18, an interesting par-5 finisher, with its green stuck out on a near peninsula in front of a larger one of these Hurdzan creeks.
It's all the more impressive when you consider that this used to be a big, dry, flat piece of desert land. Firecliff has more elevation changes, but Mountain View can have you shooting slightly down or up at greens with mountains looming in the background.
Then again, you might not love these greens by the turn.
They have some deceiving slopes, and, on this play, different greens seemed to be running at different speeds. Mountain View's greens weren't like the greens on Desert Willow's practice range. Putting sometimes seemed more like a game of craps.
"I just can't get a read on these greens," 4-handicapper Jason Redden mounded after another far-off miss.
This was hardly all by Hurdzan design.
Still, even on a day when Mountain View's greens were uncharacteristically off, no one in the foursome left upset with the course. You're going to have a good time here, even if you hit them more sideways than straight.
Instead of the "easy course," maybe Mountain View should go by the "good-times course."
"Firecliff wins all the awards," Desert Willow General Manager Gary Piotrowski said. "But a lot of our residents would rather play Mountain View."
Desert Willow's Mountain View: The verdict
In a region full of resort courses, it turns out that the high-end muni boasts one of the most playable tracks. Desert Willow Mountain View isn't turn-off-your-golf-mind easy.
There are still 98 bunkers scattered around this 6,913-yard course. And, even on their best day, the greens can give you a brain cramp.
Yet the fairways are wide and green, the views could make for nice postcards, and even golf geeks are liable to leave pleased.
Or just geeks in general. One of the cool things about Desert Willow is how it pays attention to the details. To make sure you don't mess up the course, golf carts are programmed to automatically shut off if you drive within 30 feet of the green or anywhere on the fairway of a par-3.
Yes, golf Big Brother is watching you. But it's fun. Like Mountain View.
Palm Springs area hotels
Rancho Las Palmas is an underrated resort in Rancho Mirage that gives you that retreat setting while being in the heart of it all. In this case that means right across the street from The River, the outdoor mall with an actual flowing water body that people in the desert swoon over. Even better, it's close to the high-end shops of downtown, including jewelry legend Tiffany.
Best of all is a pool scene with shooting water streams for the kids and plenty of nanny babes lounging around in hardly anything.
Palm Springs area restaurant tip
Desert Willow's restaurant is actually a good near-bargain spot for lunch. The lemonade is memorable (how many times can you say that?), and you can get big sandwiches for around $10.
Desert Willow did around 90,000 rounds in 2006.
May 21, 2007