The Hideaway: Tumultuous beginning levels out for affluent desert golfers

By David R. Holland, Contributor

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The premise was simple. Recreate those golden days of Palm Springs when Hollywood stars and wealthy industrialists flocked to this part of the California desert to get away from it all -- a place to seek solitude and play or relax in a place of beauty and warm winter weather.

Starting in the 1940s stars like Bob Hope, Phil Harris, Danny Kaye, Desi Arnaz and the Marx Brothers came here to escape Tinsel Town and play golf. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a golf enthusiast, also had a home in the desert.

They would have joined The Hideaway.

On February 15, 2004 a long and tumultuous journey will be complete -- The Hideaway, a place that began as Country Club of the Desert, will unveil its completed 36 holes offering the Palm Springs area a full complement of the best golf and service you can find.

Eighteen holes will have Pete Dye's name attached and 18 will have Clive Clark's. Dye Designs' Perry Dye of Denver (son of Pete) did most of the Dye handiwork and David Graham was also called in to do some polishing and soften some penal bunkers and contours. This time in 2002 members were playing nine holes designed by Dye and nine by the former European Tour player Clark.

The Clark layout is the softer of the two 18s with elevated tee boxes and forgiving fairways. The Dye 18 will test the best golfers with challenges on every hole. Off the course members like the Titleist Pro V1s on the range and friendly, knowledgeable forecaddies.

"The Palm Springs area is a special place," said pro Greg Morris, "some club members just keep their golf bags in their cars because they are members at four or five different clubs. But because unparalleled service hits a home run here, we hope some of these golfers will make a single home at The Hideaway."

That's a definite possibility. Morris says only a trio of Palm Springs courses -- The Vintage, The Quarry and The Reserve -- can come close to matching the service you find at The Hideaway.

"I think there are plenty of wealthy golfers who come to this area who are starving for The Hideaway's level of service," Morris said.

The Hideaway is almost 600 acres of dramatic Santa Rosa mountain scenery, swaying palms, banked fields of wildflowers and blue skies. It's an immediate greeting right at your car as a valet takes over and it includes a trademark of The Discovery Land Company's holdings -- gourmet lunch on the 10th tee box.

Discovery Land Company has developed world-class golf communities at places like Vaquero in North Texas, Estancia in Scottsdale, Ariz., Iron Horse in Whitefish, Montana and CordeValle near San Jose.

But the original Country Club of the Desert survived plenty of controversy. Its original developer Jack Franks, allegedly had a mottled past -- Forbes Magazine reported he was found guilty of fraud twice in the 1980s. But amazingly, those early devotees of the project didn't dig into his past. The story unfolded that Franks allegedly took off and a sting lured him back for his arrest.

In November of 2001, Nationwide Realty Investors took over the mess and hired Discovery Land Company to resurrect the property and lead it to its present success story. The San Francisco-based development firm, headed by Michael Meldman, turned The Hideaway into another winner.

The Hideaway's golf memberships are invitation-only, private equity memberships providing an exclusive golf environment of less than 290 members per 18 holes of golf. The views are panoramic as the fairways gently roll and some are lined with water, sand and waterfalls.

The original Clark front nine includes one of Palm Springs most beautiful par 3s. It's 147 yards requiring a tee shot over a lake that is landscaped in wildflowers, a waterfall, and a large green guarded by a slope that runs from front and right to bunkers in the rear. Take enough club on this one or the slope in front will kill any chance for par.

The back nine on the original routing includes Dye's No. 17, a 228-yard par-3 brute. Seems like Mr. Dye enjoys making the 17th tough for tournament play. This one is gut-wrenching. The tee shot must carry water to a huge green that has slopes and swales. The water circles around the left side and continues to the back left. Sand traps to the right and back of the green are for nervous bail-outs.

One can just imagine the members are itching to tackle all 36 holes.

The Hideaway is a private golf community. Sorry, but you must know a member to play. Or you can call if you are sincere about becoming a member.

Where to stay

When you come to check out membership opportunities at The Hideaway stay at Lake La Quinta Inn. This is luxury in a B&B format just minutes from La Quinta Dunes and Mountain Courses and the PGA West courses.

This Inn will spoil you with great breakfasts and themed rooms. One is the St. Andrews Room decorated in Scottish plaids, golf books and wall hangings.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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