Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta gets tougher for the Skins Game

By Larry Bohannan, Contributor

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Gary Panks designed the Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta, a public-access golf course in the desert of Southern California, to be a test of players of all skill levels. What Panks couldn't have known was that among the players testing his course would be three of the top players on the PGA Tour and the best woman golfer in the world.

Trilogy Golf Club - Palm Springs valley golf course - Skins Game home
Three of the top players on the PGA Tour and the best woman golfer in the world are set to test Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta.
Trilogy Golf Club - Palm Springs valley golf course - Skins Game home
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That's what will happen Thanksgiving weekend though, as Phil Mickelson, Mark O'Meara, Fred Couples and Annika Sorenstam descend on Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta for the $1 million Levitra Skins Game.

When Panks first started designing the Trilogy course, part of an active adult community about 20 miles from downtown Palm Springs, the concept of a nationally televised event on the course wasn't even a vague idea. The Skins Game was in the middle of a five-year deal at Landmark Golf Club in nearby Indio.

But when tournament producers TWI and ESPN Regional Television opted out of their Landmark deal a year early, Trilogy developer Shea Homes jumped at the chance to showcase their new community for five hours on national television. That also meant Panks' original design was in for some modifications. Panks says the changes he and his staff made on the course since the May announcement of the Skins Game move were going to be made to the course eventually, anyway.

"It's only specific for the Skins Game in the timing it was done," Panks said. "Most of the things we wanted to do. You have to realize the golf course was designed over two years ago. With the improvements in the equipment and the distance all golfers are hitting the ball now, we knew we wanted to add some new tees. We're just adding them a little sooner than we had anticipated."

Most of the changes for the Skins Game will be invisible to the public-access players who play the course before or after the Skins Game.

Most notable for the pros will be a series of new tees on six holes that have added more than 150 yards to the course, pushing the yardage to 7,085 yards. Ironically, some of those new tees won't be played for the Skins Game in an effort to keep the course more competitive for Sorenstam, said ESPN Regional vice president and Skins Game producer Chuck Gerber.

"I think I'm consciously thinking of balancing the golf course with the test of golf that it is," Gerber said. "When you put Annika on a golf course that is 7,100 yards, she's at a disadvantage of having to play a long iron or a fairway wood into every par-4."

The changes that will be noticed by the regular players of Trilogy are added fairway bunkers on holes where Panks believed the wide fairways of Trilogy were perhaps too wide, even for the average player. On the par-4 second, which will play as the 11th hole when the course's nines are flopped for the Skins Game, Panks added a large bunker to protect the right side of the fairway. With a new tee on the whole, Panks believes the new bunker will stop the long-hitting Couples and Mickelson from firing directly at the green. The effect will be to create a subtle dogleg on the hole and force golfer to hit to the left off the tee.

At the 12th hole, now the third for the Skins configuration, a new bunker will be a target for the longer hitters, Panks hopes.

"Twelve plays 375 from the back tees. There a fairway bunker out there, and if you play the next tee up and play it at 340 or 345, it's a 300-yard carry to carry that bunker," Panks said. "And if the wind conditions are correct, you might be able to drive that green, which should be interesting."

Of course, the 300-yard carry is only a concern for the Skins Game players, not the average golfer. But the bunker is another example of something Panks wanted for the course on a day-in, day-out basis, he said.

"When you get through a design, you build a golf course, you say, oh, I wish I had put a bunker there," Panks said. "There were two places, on the second holes and the 12th, so we put those two bunkers in."

Even with the added tees and the new bunkers, Panks knows that the Trilogy course is going to yield plenty of birdies and maybe even an eagle or two for the Skins Game foursome. Gerber believes birdies are better television than pars, and Panks understands that his Trilogy course was never intended to host a U.S. Open or to bring the best players in the world to their knees.

"If they come in 2-over, I've made the golf course way too difficult," Panks said. "These guys can take the most difficult courses in the world and shoot 7 or 8 under. We're not going to defend par with our golf courses. We're trying to make them enjoyable for everybody, including the pros."

Places to stay

The J.W. Marriott Desert Springs hotel in Palm Desert is centrally located between La Quinta and Palm Springs. The full service resort houses fine dining, one of the Valley's largest pools, a state-of-the-art spa and fitness facility and two Ted Robinson designed resort courses, the Palm and the Valley. Desert Springs is about 20 minutes from the Trilogy at La Quinta.

Larry Bohannan, Contributor

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