Back on the prowl: Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon west of Palm Springs
BEAUMONT, Calif. -- Mirroring the ebb-and-flow of those that stalk the fairways, golf courses themselves are not immune to experiencing highs and lows in our fickle sport.
Yet in the case of Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon, the Schmidt/Curley-designed dual course facility is seeing its game peaking. Enduring several ownership changes since opening in 2000, the grounds are playing with a renewed polish since the Morongo Band of Mission Indians acquired the club in 2011 and reinvested $1.6 million into the facility, nearly a third of which went to course upgrades.
"We've improved 150 percent, and we've still got 50 percent to go," said Tukwet General Manager Brad Stormon. "By this time next year, this should be the best golf course from here to Palm Springs."
Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon: Champions Course
As home of the Southern California PGA, Tukwet hosts myriad annual events (more than 150 in 2011), the vast wealth of which are played on the Champions Course.
"The Champions Course is a little bit more open, but you have to hit all the shots on the golf course," Stormon said. "The fairways are fairly spacious, yet if you get off the course you pay for it because there's a lot of natural brush out there along with a lot of depression areas. The subtleness of not hitting the ball in the right area really comes into play."
Though the course as a whole plays very fair -- misses equal messes out here. Greenside bunkers play with aggressive faces and firing past the oft-undulating greens will result in a chain of testy chips.
"You can score if you're playing the golf course the right way," Stormon said. "If you're going after every single shot -- it's gonna eat you alive."
Said scoring opportunity is more generously offered on the initial nine; the Champions' back side presents sharper teeth, highlighted by an excellent four hole stretch that begins on the 607-yard, par-5 11th.
"On No. 11, you may have the toughest second shot on the course," Stormon said. "There's a parallel creek going across, and if you hit it left off the tee and into a bunker -- you've got at least 160 yards just to get across the creek. That hole probably eats up more good players than any other hole."
The 424-yard, par-4 No. 12 ensues as an exceptional hole with a dramatic drop in elevation on the approach. Tip: Despite the descent, know that this alluring challenge still plays its yardage.
Though charting as the No. 16 handicap, the 380-yard 13th has undoubtedly seen its share of foils. A tight, intimidating tee shot over desert scrub to a well-guarded green awaits the aggressive, and it's advisable that the prudent player employ a mid-iron to an out area on the left before lofting a low-iron with your approach.
Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon: Legends Course
The Legends is the more serene of the two courses, and players that appreciate nature and solitude will relish the mounds, hills and nature of these untamed grounds. Well-masked tee shots are prevalent throughout, toying the newcomer into sensing that landing areas play tighter than they truly are.
Preceding a beautiful though namely benign back nine, the Legends' front plays to high form beginning with the 432-yard par-4 on hole three. A slight dogleg left requires an engaging draw from the tee before the player encounters an elevated green.
The slight but exceptional following hole has surely seen its share of victims.
"No. 4 can play at 110 yards from the white tees or 155 yards from the back tees, and it's all over a barranca," Stormon explained. "So you've got to man-up a little bit; even if you've got a wedge in your hand, you better hit it good."
The 515-yard, par-4 No. 5 is the top handicap hole and a true test. An elevated tee shot asks for fade before a downhill second shot pinches a smaller green between forward and rear greenside bunkering.
Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon: The verdict
"It's elevated out here in Beaumont, so the weather is cooler in the summer," said regular visitor Bill Strange, of Redlands.
Players in steamy summer climates will be well advised to heed Strange's words: Though fewer than 30 miles from Palm Springs, temperatures can prove 20 degrees cooler here. Moreover, players from any destination that haven't visited Tukwet for a spell should indeed consider a revisit -- this place is on the uptick.
A full practice facility is offered, and private instruction is available to players of all levels. Sans GPS, the courses are marked by sprinkler heads, yet some searching is sure to ensue. First-timers will want to inquire about yardage amenities.