Indian Canyons Golf Resort: Rat packing and shot making in Palm Springs

By Judd Spicer, Contributor

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- A measure of equal parts desert lore and new golf history, the dual courses at Indian Canyons Golf Resort prove a cooing couple.

Indian Canyons Golf Resort
Indian Canyons Golf Resort: A potent pair amid the ever-present San Jacinto Mountain surrounds.
Indian Canyons Golf ResortIndian Canyons Golf Resort - South Course - 9thIndian Canyons Golf Resort - South Course - 18th
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South Course at Indian Canyons Golf Resort

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Nestled at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, Indian Canyons Golf Resort offers two championship courses with stunning views. The two golf courses, North and South, have completely different layouts but they are both sheltered from the wind thanks to the surrounding mountains. The South Course is the shorter of the two, making it the more player-friendly course. That is not to say it is not a challenge though.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 6582 yards | Book online | ... details »

North Course at Indian Canyons Golf Resort

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Indian Canyons Golf Resort boasts two championship courses, the North and South. The courses are surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains, providing scenic views while also sheltering them from the wind. The North Course is the longer of the two. It has a classic layout that was designed by William Bell. Thousands of trees blanket the course, including palms and olive trees as well as several varieties of native trees.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 6943 yards | Book online | ... details »

Matching the old-school SoCal design of the North Course with the nouveau, resorting style of the South, the two tracks are a potent pair amid the ever-present San Jacinto Mountain surrounds.

Indian Canyons Golf Resort's North Course

Opened in 1961 as Canyon Country Club, Indian Canyons' North Course, a Billy Bell design, was the first 18-hole course in the Palm Springs area and attracted an elite tee sheet in short order. A veritable Hollywood handbill walked these grounds, with surnames the likes of Hope, Disney, Gable, Sinatra, Gleason, Benny and Berle all enjoying the desert escape.

Through time this is where Presidents took respite, where the Rat Pack played cards and where celebs bought homes along the fairways. Today the classic track allows the public player to serve as the star for a round that maintains relevance as an example of well maintained, straight-away, palm-lined play.

"There aren't many blind shots; everything is right in front of you," said Todd Connelly, general manager at Indian Canyons Golf Resort.

True to Connelly's words, aside from some subtle green undulations, what you see is namely what you get at the North. Nearly every pin is viewable for the box, and the attractive, mature palms serve as fairway guides throughout.

More an amalgam of consistency and history than an anticipation of signature holes, the North does maintain its teeth. Ensuring the course's viability, history buff Connelly went to the archives to recreate Bell's initial design intents.

"We believe it was 28 bunkers that were taken out over time -- and that's a lot," Connelly said. "And if you look at the bunkers that were removed, they were all really important in how they protected the golf course."

With bunker recreations most visible on holes 5, 12 and 17 (a trap, as lore goes, that Sinatra lobbied to have removed), the Augusta White-filled hazards add some serious palate pop to the mountain and palm surrounds.

To take a history lesson home, players will observe the fountain on the tricky, par-5 18th, which was donated by Disney.

"It's a risk-reward par 5 where you can hit it on the green," Connelly said. "The way it was designed, is that you hit a great drive, and then you're faced with laying-up with a short iron or just flat-out going for the green. And if you're laying-up, the neck before the green is so tight that there's still a good chance of hitting into the water; so if you are laying-up, you have to lay way back. If you're not a big hitter, you've got to think about the 18th, or you're going to make a number."

Indian Canyons Golf Resort's South Course

Originally built by Bell as the resorting sister track to the formerly private North, Indian Canyons' South Course enjoyed a total overhaul at the talented hands of Casey O'Callaghan and Amy Alcott in 2004.

Sporting 850 palm trees, the course combines continual beauty with perpetual playability. Of these wealth of palms, more than 500 are the indigenous, Washintonia filifera variety, which the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians used for sustenance throughout history.

Yet as the bearded, native Washintonias serve as guides throughout, ample sustenance isn't necessarily required to put up a South score.

"If you don't try and overpower the course, you can score out here," Connelly said. "Just take what it gives you, instead of taking driver out on every hole."

With a host of engaging, shorter par 4s and a series of reachable par 5s, the grounds are indeed getable for the prudent player.

The overt routing and depth-perception provided by the Washingtonias becomes evident on the 516-yard, par-5 third.

"The wash runs all along the left-hand side, the huge mountains there, and then the Washingtonias guarding the green," Connelly said of no. 3. "And if the pin is back right, you've got to hit over the Washintonias or try and cut it in."

The short, par-5 ninth sports an excellent backdrop coupled with reachable, right lake water distanced 260 yards from the tips. The drink runs all along the right, then elbows inward for the approach.

Notable holes fill the back, starting with the long, 217-yard, par-3 12th with water and bunkering to the right. On the diminutive, ensuing, par-4 13th, water again plays to the right before the elbow-in feature again appears coming to the green

The 321-yard, par-4 no. 16 counts among the desert's most engaging holes. Asking for an iron from the tee to play short of a lake-guarded green, the studied approach plays over the drink and a bunker to an undulating green.

Indian Canyons Golf Resort: The verdict

Of the desert's wealth of multi-course facilities, the complement of classic and new styles balanced from one side of the street to the other (literally) at Indian Canyons count the locale as a must-visit.

Both tracks offer a high-degree of playability and signature Palm Springs beauty, combined with some of the region's richest golf history.

Full practice facility and restaurant is located on the South side, while the North offers a putting and chipping green.

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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