Palm Springs golf for less: Enjoy this desert vacation destination without breaking the bank

By Katie Denbo, Contributor

Palm Springs golf is both popular and infamously expensive. Some bargain hunters challenge the desert heat in the summer, when green fees plummet. But many courses offer tee times for less than $100 even in the prime-season months of November through April. This means you can enjoy Palm Springs-area golf courses like Indian Canyons Golf Resort, Escena Golf Club and Eagle Falls G.C. without breaking the bank.

Eagle Falls Golf Club
Eagle Falls Golf Club is one of the newest courses in the area and a great value when paired with lodging at Fantasy Springs.
Eagle Falls Golf ClubIndian Canyons Golf ResortMountain Vista Golf ClubEscena Golf Club
If you go

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -– For decades, Palm Springs and its surrounding area has served as a celebrity safe haven, a buddies' golf trip destination and couples' getaway hot spot.

Boutique hotels in Palm Springs beckon travelers to stay in their historic rooms, and some of California's finest restaurants have staked their claims along Coachella Valley's main thoroughfares.

With more than 100 golf courses in the small but quickly growing area -- framed by the San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and Santa Rosa mountain ranges -- golf is both popular and infamously expensive for travelers and snowbirds alike, especially in the cool winter and spring months. Extreme players and bargain hunters challenge the desert heat in the summer, when green fees can plummet to 20 percent of the prime-season rate. But many properties offer play for less than $100 a round -- including cart -- during the coveted prime-season desert months of November through April.

This means golfers can enjoy the Palm Springs golf oasis without breaking the bank.

Golf in Palm Springs proper

Coachella Valley's golf reputation has extended beyond Palm Springs in recent years, with areas like La Quinta, Indian Wells, Palm Desert and Indio experiencing recent construction of big-priced properties for deep pockets. History takes us back to Palm Springs, though, where a great mix of old and new is up for play at a fraction of the cost of other locations.

Indian Canyons Golf Resort in Palm Springs oozes Old Hollywood for a modest price. Formerly Canyon Country Club -- the haunt for famous names such as Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Walt Disney and Frank Sinatra -- the 36-hole Indian Canyons opened its doors to the public in 2008 and remains very much a tucked-away flag because of its past exclusivity. William P. Bell's North Course at Indian Canyons is tight and strategic at 6,906 yards, while the South Course was redesigned by Casey O'Callaghan and LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott in 2004. It tops out at just more than 6,500 yards. Prime tee times from Christmas through mid-April cost upwards of $110, but cap out at a budget-conscious $95 from October through December. While you're there, take a look at the eye-catching Walt Disney Fountain, donated by Disney himself. This floating flower between the ninth and 18th holes shoots water more than 100 feet high.

Escena Golf Club, one of Palm Springs' best values, reopened in late 2009 after a closure of nearly two years forced by the economic downturn. The Jack Nicklaus design was the first public course to open in Palm Springs proper in 20 years in 2005, and now it's back and playable as ever, stretching as long as 7,152 yards from the back tees. Escena G.C. offers a terrific value for such a new property. Its design was inspired by the classic, early 20th-century golf courses of the area and features native species like Mexican fan palms and sparse landscaping, making it great for finding errant shots if the ball doesn't hit the wide fairways. A modern clubhouse, recently completed, offers libations and dining for after a round of golf.

Stay-and-play golf options in nearby Indio

Some of the best golf deals in the desert come by combining a lodging and golf package, especially true if you're looking for unlimited golf at a fraction of the price. Escape heat and high prices by taking refuge at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, complete with gourmet dining, a concert showroom, lounge, bowling, gambling and a value golf course. Desert resident and former European Tour pro Clive Clark designed the resort's centerpiece, Eagle Falls Golf Club, which opened in 2006. The Indio property is the newest golf course to open in the desert, and during its prime November-to-April season, green fees, including cart, cost only $75 on weekdays and $95 on weekends. Summer rates runs $39 to $49. Resort guests can save further, as can holders of the Fantasy Rewards players club card. Eagle Falls' style is Irish-links reminiscent, with its long, native grasses and wide fairways, but fast TifEagle greens and vibrant landscaping provide quality conditions and a nice way to spend a peaceful day.

Not far from Indio, Indian Palms Country Club and Resort offers 27 holes of golf from $25 to $80. Designed by Jackie Cochran and Helen Detweiler, Indian Palms is a true resort golf property. Yardages on its three combination golf courses stretch as long as 6,572 yards. And while mature trees line fairways and water features enter play on 15 holes, the golf courses provide a good but leisurely test that don't leave players feeling beaten up. Indian Palms offers some fantastic stay-and-play deals for those in search of a good value. Some come at less than $100 for golf and lodging. On-site dining and an extensive practice facility is also available.

More Coachella Valley golf options

Mountain Vista Golf Club at Sun City Palm Desert is one of the desert's best values. At their highest, green fees are only $85 and drop to as low as $30 during summer months. Located in the growing city of Palm Desert, Mountain Vista is somewhat of a local secret. It includes 36 holes of the Billy Casper-designed golf -- the Santa Rosa course and San Gorgonio course. Both golf courses feature crisp, green fairways, water and wide landing zones. Santa Rosa measures 6,720 yards, while San Gorgonio, though shorter, is actually the more difficult -- thanks to tighter driving holes and more bunker coverage around the green complexes.

If you're looking for a couple different golf options at one property, Cimarron Golf Resort in Cathedral City offers its regulation Boulder Course and the short, 18-hole Pebble Course. Designed by John Fought, Cimarron's Boulder Course stretches to 6,768 yards. With a resort rate of only $39, it test players repeatedly without breaking the bank. It was named one of Golf Digest's best places to play in 2003 because of its green complexes, and it ranks as a local favorite for great value. Cimarron' Pebble Course, a 2,956-yard par-58 facility, runs $19 and provides a good opportunity to work on the short game. Cimarron also offers On the Rocks restaurant, named the best place to watch a sunset in Palm Springs.

Katie DenboKatie Denbo, Contributor

A past editor and publisher of FORE Magazine, Katie Denbo is PR and Marketing Manager for the Pebble Beach Company. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and has traveled to golf resorts and properties all over the western U.S and Canada. Follow her on Twitter at @kdenbo.

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