Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club in Palm Desert is the Nick Faldo fan's cup of tea

By Judd Spicer, Contributor

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- So, a British Knight designs an Australian-inspired golf course in the desert for an American hotel chain.

Shadow Ridge Golf Club - hole 1
Shadow Ridge Golf Club is one of the Coachella Valley's most challenging golf resort destinations.
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Shadow Ridge Golf Club

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Nick Faldo brings his exacting, often critical eye to West Coast golf for the first time at this Shadow Ridge Golf Course in Palm Desert. Faldo wanted a design that forced a ton of strategic choices and the architect team of Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt delivered for him.

18 Holes | Public/Resort golf course | Par: 71 | 7006 yards | Book online | ... details »

Sound like a joke? Well, Nick Faldo's Shadow Ridge Golf Club is no laughing matter.

Shadow Ridge Golf Club, an amenity of the Marriott Shadow Ridge resort, represents the first American design for the six-time major winner, and it's clear that Faldo wanted to make a statement with the creation.

Influenced by the design elements of the Australian Sandbelt region, the complex hosts 89 bunkers that combine with oft-undulating greens to make Shadow Ridge one of the Coachella Valley's most challenging golf resort destinations.

The spectacular use of foliage for framing and the Santa Rosa Mountain backdrops make this layout a beauty, but at more 7,000 yards from the tips the course is a beast.

Quick tip: If you're a first-timer on these grounds, invest in a yardage book. Scorecards don't display hole images, and the GPS systems offer front, middle and back yardages but no layout. While Shadow Ridge is typically generous off the tee, you'll want further detail to best prep for a host of intimidating approaches and massive putting surfaces that rotate six different pin placements.

Colin Gooch, the head professional at Shadow Ridge, is a proponent of simply finding the greens with your mid- and short irons. Toying with the stout sand and aggressive greenside surrounds will make the intermediate player want to place a few shadows on the scorecard.

"The greens have plenty of subtle undulation, but they can reward and encourage a variety of different approach shots depending on where you are," Gooch says. "They're large greens, but if you miss the putting surface your ball will invariably roll into a tightly-mowed collection area or a greenside bunker. Around the greens, it's almost links style: You can try to hit a flop shot, you can bump-and-run it, you can take a 3-wood and chip it. It gives you a variety of different short-game options."

Shadow Ridge Golf Club: A tale of two nines

Though an eventual respite awaits on the back side, you'll want to arrive early and make use of the superb practice facilities as Shadow Ridge.

"In my estimation the front nine is difficult," Gooch says. "There's a lot more risk-reward involved on the back nine."

The lone par 5 on the front, No. 2, is a monster at 609 yards with water on the right. Enjoy a breather on the next three holes; you'll need it.

"No. 6 could easily be considered a par 5; it's about 490 yards from the back," Gooch says. "Then at No. 7 you have a 220-yard par 3; it's uphill and you see more sand than green. It's just heavily bunkered and a very undulating green as well. It's a very difficult hole.

"You have another intimidating tee shot at No. 9 with water all down the left and bunkers on the right. On your approach, you've got water in the front and an hourglass-shaped green."

For those feeling the desert heat at the stage, know that Faldo sheaths his sword after No. 10. The par 4s become more forgiving and a pair of playable par 5s couple with duel par 3s in the final eight holes.

The homestretch is readily entertaining. Set among the tasteful Marriott villas, the final three holes feel like stadium golf, with resort lodgings lining the fairways.

Shadow Ridge Golf Club: The verdict

Akin to most golf courses in the Palm Springs region, Shadow Ridge is generous from the tee box. But your approach skills will be consistently tested just as your short game will receive a thorough review, thanks to bold bunkering, challenging collection areas and undulating greens.

While myriad desert courses aim to exhaust down the stretch, Shadow Ridge offers some ease in the final eight holes, which is an ideal layout for the player who finds his stroke later in the round.

Shadow Ridge Golf Club: Instruction

The Faldo Institute at Shadow Ridge is among the most respected learning centers in the Valley. Practice facilities on the grounds are exceptional, replete with driving range, short-game area, chipping green and large putting surface.

"I've gone through their Faldo Institute a couple of times," says Michael Coy of Huntington Beach. "I've had primarily brush-up lessons on everything for swing to short game and driving. It's all been good."

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Good Article

    Ryan Malone wrote on: May 11, 2012

    This was a very good review. I will find myself playing this course next weekend and was able to find very little information on the course, so this was helpful. Thanks.