The Golf Club at Terra Lago: A unique mesh of resort and rustic play near Palm Desert

By Judd Spicer, Contributor

INDIO, Calif. -- With a spread of diverse, sprawling terrain, the two courses at The Golf Club at Terra Lago offer some of the most unique grounds in the Coachella Valley.

The Golf Club at Terra Lago - South Course - hole 3
The Golf Club at Terra Lago offers some of the most unique golf in the Coachella Valley.
The Golf Club at Terra Lago - South Course - hole 3The Golf Club at Terra Lago - North Course - hole 18The Golf Club at Terra Lago - North Course - hole 3The Golf Club at Terra Lago - North Course - hole 8
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North Course at the Golf Club At Terra Lago

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The Golf Club at Terra Lago boasts two 18-hole courses, the North and the South, that provide some of the most stunning and unique views of the Coachella Valley. Terra Lago's North Course is the longer of the two at 7,060 yards, which is partly a reflection of the dramatic elevation changes that the golf course tumbles across.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7060 yards | Book online | ... details »

South Course at the Golf Club At Terra Lago

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There are two 18-hole courses available called the North and the South. At 7,044 yards, Terra Lago's South Course is just barely shorter than the 7,060-yard North Course but they are equally challenging. The South is known for having one of the club's most unique and memorable holes, the par-4 second.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7044 yards | Book online | ... details »

Director of Golf Jim Goss says the driver is a golfer's key weapon on Terra Lago's South Course.

"If you're not hitting your driver well, you're going to struggle," Goss says.

Course knowledge is also a huge asset on the South. Though well marked, the first-time South player will struggle with approaches that find an inopportune shelf of the putting surface.

"The greens aren't that big," Goss says. "On a couple of the holes, you'll get shots into them where you have a shallow landing area to deal with. So you've got to be precise with your approaches, and you're not necessarily able to run-in a shot, so you've got to land them there. Those types of target-golf tiers: You miss them and you pay the price."

Such tough approaches combine with deep bunkering and ample waste areas to give the South some serious teeth. Landing areas from the tees are namely generous and opportunity exists for creativity around well-cut green surrounds. Yet, all told, the inaccurate player will find constant trauma.

Though the oft-rustic desert surrounds provide personality throughout, the South really does play best on the initial nine.

The 412-yard, par-4 second hole will be noted by all for its dual boxcars that stand atop the canal running the length of the hole. But kitsch aside, carrying the water on the approach truly requires a studied second shot.

The front ensues with the 540-yard, par-5 third hole, which is beautifully carved through rocky terrain. This impressive three-hole run concludes with the 201-yard fourth hole, a par 3 that offers an elevated tee shot through rocky crater surrounds.

The Golf Club at Terra Lago's North Course

If you have one day to play at Terra Lago, opt for this half of the Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley-designed property. Combining rusticism and a resort-style finish, Terra Lago's North Course is surely a top-10 track in the region.

Though the rocky cut of the front lets you know you're playing a desert course, the mesh of elevation changes and vegetative framing vibes something of a prairie feel.

The opening nine is highlighted by the very playable 363-yard, par-4 third hole, which climbs to the zenith of these ascending grounds and offers an elevated view of the entire area. Two holes later are back-to-back par 5s, which demand a combined 1,152 yards of accurate play through carved fairways.

The turn is fairly benign for three holes before the monster 232-yard, par-3 13th appears. The wake-up call is well-timed as a host of water challenges await.

The 334-yard 14th hole features water and inspired bunkering on the right as well as a green surrounded by water. While the putting surface sees a constant attack of wedges, know that overly aggressive shots will result in a drop.

After the 183-yard 15th presents a shared lake with its predecessor, a string of host favorites guide you home.

"Probably the three best holes on the courses are Nos. 16-18," Goss says. "The 16th is a fantastic par 4 with a dogleg right and a lot of length. No. 17 is a long par 5 where you get a chance to go for the green with a really good drive, but the green is shallow so you can't run it up."

An apt final salvo is fired on the 476-yard No. 18. The par 4 charts as the No. 4 handicap, though short hitters will be praying for par as the approach is all carry over the afore-noted lake water.

The Golf Club at Terra Lago: The verdict

The Golf Club at Terra Lago's courses are unique, says Steven McEnearney of Minneapolis. "The South is a little easier on the finish, but the North is a lot more challenging on the last five holes. Both are a lot of fun and challenging in their own way."

Though the South charts as the tougher of the two courses, the North is the more engaging track. If playing the former for the first time, know that course knowledge is a must for scoring; well guarded, elevated and multi-tiered greens will find birdie opportunity scarce for anything off-line.

The North is an exceptional mix of elevation change, desert carving and resort-style closing holes. If you're prepping a Coachella Valley golf getaway, include this in your tee times -- this is truly one of the area's most unique and entertaining layouts.

The Golf Club at Terra Lago: Instruction and facilities

Practice facilities include driving range, multiple putting greens and practice bunker. Instruction is available and, from November through April, the "Extraordinary Golf" school offers multiple, on-site programs.

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.

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