Mission Hills Country Club: Unique memberships allow non-members to tee it up

By David R. Holland, Contributor

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- The Lodge at Rancho Mirage sits on a panoramic plateau 650 feet above the Coachella Valley. It's a rugged piece of land where Frank Sinatra and his wife once rode horses back in the golden days of Palm Springs. Needless to say, when developers wanted to build a luxury hotel along these trails, Sinatra was against it -- but developers had one very influential proponent -- Gerald Ford.

This full-luxury resort is part of "The Leading Hotels of the World" affiliation, but also has a special deal for golfers.

"Instead of building our own golf course," said Herbert Spiegel, Vice President and Managing Director, "we decided to buy 50 memberships from Mission Hills Country Club which gives us a certain number of daily tee times for the Dye Challenge."

Mission Hills Country Club includes the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, opened in 1970 and designed by Desmond Muirhead. It has been home of the Kraft Nabisco Championship since 1972, the LPGA's fist major of the year, and is again scheduled for March 22-28, 2004. Last year 13-year-old Michelle Wie received a special invitation.

Membership at Mission Hills Country Club also includes two other courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Pete Dye. Palmer's, opened in 1970, was his first design in the California desert. Dye's offering came in 1988.

Area golfers agree the Dye Challenge is one of the toughest and most scenic in the Coachella Valley -- there are plenty of traps, elevated greens fronted by trademark railroad ties, water on eight holes, rolling greens and contoured fairways. But Steve Smith, Director of Golf for The Lodge at Rancho Mirage, says some of the severe elements of the Dye Challenge have been softened. "They took out some of the mounding and bunkers," he said.

The Dye Challenge has hosted qualifying schools for the Nationwide Tour, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour and the California State Open.

What tourists really like about the deal with The Lodge at Rancho Mirage is they are getting a country club experience. Pace of play is going to be excellent, around four hours, and they are also getting a world-class Dye experience -- target golf and tough golf.

"Every once in a while I will hear someone say they think the Dye Challenge is a miniature version of The Stadium Course," said Smith. "If you hit it off line recovery is more difficult than on the Palmer or Shore course."

Just a few miles away in La Quinta, The Stadium Course is Dye's stern test at PGA West -- the place where he was asked to design the toughest course in the world.

Mission Hills has received a "Silver Medal Resort" ranking in 1996 from Golf Digest and the Dinah Shore Tournament course has been ranked No. 1 in the Coachella Valley by the local newspaper.

Mission Hills Country Club members also have access to a tennis complex with 26 courts, fitness center, junior Olympic pool and spa, croquet courts and a 55,000-square foot clubhouse.

Where to stay

Yes, The Lodge at Rancho Mirage was the site of that much-heralded TV wedding at the end of 2003 -- more than 10,000,000 viewed the festivities on the boob tube. The Lodge was purchased in December 2001 by Vail Resorts, Inc. and is currently the flagship property under the luxury resort hotel brand, RockResorts (RockResorts.com, 888-FOR-ROCK).

The Lodge at Rancho Mirage is the only hotel located atop a 650-foot-high plateau in the rugged foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains overlooking the Coachella Valley. It is 24 acres of luxury with full-service spa and tennis facilities. Accommodations at the hotel include 240 guest rooms with 21 suites and a club level. Call and ask about the Golf and Spa Package.

The Lodge at Rancho Mirage
68-900 Frank Sinatra Drive
Rancho Mirage, Calif. 92270
(760) 321-8282
(866) 518-6870

Where to dine

The Mirada Restaurant and Pool Bar at The Lodge at Rancho Mirage offers the Palm Springs' area only dining on a cliffside. Cuisine was created by a Californian. Not to miss is the Friday night Seafood Buffet, Saturday night "Prime Rib" special, and the Champagne and Jazz Sunday Brunch.

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment