Palm Springs: Four great golf courses you can play

By Judd Spicer, Contributor

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- There's little wonder why "snowbirds" flock to the desert with clubs in hand come the New Year. With idyllic temperatures, little threat of rain and an impressive variance of courses, the Coachella Valley is aptly recognized among the top golf vacation destinations in the country.

La Quinta Resort - Mountain golf course
La Quinta Resort's Mountain Course in Palm Springs is aptly named, with spectacular views all around.
La Quinta Resort - Mountain golf courseDesert Dunes Golf Club - 9th holeIndian Canyons Golf Resort - South Course - 9th holeShadow Ridge Golf Club - 8th hole
If you go

And there's no shortage of tee times to be made at exceptional public facilities in the area. Here are four great golf courses (listed in alphabetical order) to consider for your itinerary:

Desert Dunes Golf Club

Host to the Canadian Tour's annual "Desert Dunes Classic," the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design (just one of two in the area) presents one of the most tranquil rounds in the region. While many resort-style courses in the area route through residential or resort lodgings, Desert Dunes Golf Club offers an abundance of nature sightings and quietude.

A dearth of distance (6,876 from the tips) is measured by undulating greens and the threat of powerful winds howling from the northwest. The putting surfaces are kept long with intention, as glassy greens would host a glut of three-putts on a breezy day. Be sure to check the weather report (or the nearby Palm Springs' windmills) to pre-gauge the level of your day's test.

On a calm day, the course is a continual invite to the accurate. Aim for the well-marked 150-yard poles, and enjoy a host of short par 4s upon these serene grounds.

Indian Canyons Golf Resort - South Course

The recipient of a 2004 overhaul, the resulting layout makes the South Course at Indian Canyons Golf Resort one of the most pleasing rounds in the region. Though short on distance at just 6,582 yards from the tips, the South is long on character, playability and natural beauty. Measured at 4,878 yards from the forward tees, it is perennially ranked among the country's top courses for women.

Unencumbered by lodgings or traffic, a player on the South is expertly routed by mature flora that provides direction on fairways and depth perception on approaches. Eight hundred palm trees line the course, with 500 of the bearded, culturally significant Washingtonia filifera among that count.

The collection of readily entertaining, short par 4s (just one more than 405 yards) allow ample scoring opportunity for the shot-maker that has a handle on lofted clubs. Such pleasing playability may be best evidenced on the 345-yard seventh that guides players from all tees to a 110-yard approach shot over water to an undulated green.

Shadow Ridge Golf Club

For the player seeking a more demanding desert challenge, pencil in a round at Nick Faldo's debut American design. While myriad courses in the region seek to soothe the Valley visitor with ample "outs," the approaches that follow generous landing areas can prove a bear at Shadow Ridge Golf Club.

Taking inspiration from the Australian Sandbelt region, Faldo dropped 89 bunkers on these grounds. Though a portion of the sand will be avoided by even a measured tee player, those who belie a strong mid-iron and short game will find scoring a challenge. Putting surfaces are generally sizeable, but striking off-line will find a host of challenging undulations to mix with tightly mowed collection areas and tough greenside bunkering.

The creative player will find a way to get up-and-down, yet those with a poor short game will be lacking pars.

If the track beats you up a little over the first 10 holes, fear not: The final eight do offer a greater degree of clemency.

Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Spa

The purposes for being on a golf course are numerous. If your aim is to find a place that offers a hint of the mysterious, then dial in a round on Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Spa. Though many Valley golf courses place you within the mountain landscape, few tracks wind you around, atop and along the rocks like the Mountain.

The Pete Dye design grabs your attention from the outset with the No. 1-handicap, 205-yard, par-3 second hole that sports water along the entire left-hand side.

The back side on the Mountain presents some of the area's most inspired terrain. A run that embraces the mystical surrounds begins with No. 12 and No. 13 before the next four holes find you enmeshed in rocky solitude. The tough, par-4 14th offers bunkers that steers toward a dogleg right along the mountain, while the ensuing No. 15 presents a lengthy par 5 with ample sand protecting an elevated green.

The Mountain reaches a literal peak at the par-3 16th, with a view that reaches out to the Santa Rosa Cove on a clear day. The pros will tell you that the hole is actually easier from the tips, giving the elevated box a clearer look to the green far, far below.

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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