Looking beyond Palm Springs' resort palaces reveals reasonable budget hotels
PALM DESERT, Calif. - Jack Brogan steps out of his hotel room door, walks the six steps to his car, golf shoes already on. Brogan's ready to roll, no resort room fuss in the way.
His wife Irene is steps behind him, their friends Margaret and Bill Thompson are right across the sliver-sized parking lot separating their rooms. In a matter of moments, they'll all be getting into a Cadillac, heading for the prestigious Indian Wells County Club, free Best Western breakfast in their bellies.
That's right, Best Western.
In a Palm Springs area that in many ways gave birth to the concept of the high-end resort, the Brogans and Thompsons have found golf happiness in a more low-key venue.
The two golf-centered couples from Vista, Calif., tried the Palm Springs luxury resort thing of course. They've stayed at the places where Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope used to roam, long before plush became trendy. They've checked out the newer Coachella Valley palaces of pampering.
They've decided the Best Western Palm Desert suits their purposes just fine.
"It's very centrally located," Margaret Thompson said.
"It's got a free breakfast," Margaret's husband Bill quickly added. "A big breakfast."
You will not find a rushing, gushing faux waterfall at the Best Western or any ornate rock formations. Forget the trendy restaurant in the lobby or the Tommy Bahama store.
This is for the golf minimalist in you. And even high falutin' Palm Springs is finding there are many of you out there.
"We're getting more and more golfers," said Barbara Lyons, sales and marketing director at Best Western Palm Desert. "They're spending all day out on the course and figure they don't need that expensive resort room."
Who needs a gold-plated and marble bathroom if they're only spending minutes a day in it?
Non-bank-account-busting hotels in the greater Palm Springs area appeal to the diehard golfer as much, if not more, than the penny-pinching hacker. These are often digs for golfers who are playing 36 holes a day, here for golf and little else. At a place like Best Western Palm Desert, there's no walking through a labyrinth resort, checking the map to relocate your car. The car's parked right outside your room door.
There are a host of these accommodations along Highway 111, the lifeline of the Coachella Valley. Combine the lower-priced hotels with some reasonable, high-quality courses and Palm Springs of all places can turn into a cheap golf trip.
"It's one of the least expensive golf vacations we can take," Irene Brogan said.
What in the name of Robin Leach is going on!? Is Palm Springs taking on a Myrtle Beach vibe?
Not exactly. For budget conscious does not necessarily mean Spartan or cheesy. Best Western Palm Desert actually has its own tennis courts just like the big buck resorts. They may not be the nicest tennis courts in all of Palm Springs, but they'll still do for a game.
The hotel's getting converted for wireless Internet access in all its rooms, a service it will offer for free while resorts with much higher room rates charge an additional fee. Ruth's Chris steakhouse is right across the street from the Best Western, negating the need for that fancy restaurant.
"That's big for our guests," Lyons said of the Ruth's Chris. "Our location in general is key."
That's because Best Western Palm Desert is right in the heart of Highway 111, near every fast-food chain and grocery store option you could imagine. The golf courses are just as easily accessed.
Sometimes budget means convenience.
Of course, it pays to choose wisely if you're stepping away from the established resort powers. Sometimes finding a better deal doesn't mean going with the nearest Best Western or Comfort Inn. There are places like the Indian Wells Resort Hotel offering you much of that big resort feel and a taste of Palm Springs history for a fraction of the price.
"You can get a very reasonable deal at Indian Wells Resort, even during high season," said Tim Hurja, who runs a hotel and golf packaging company that puts Palm Springs trips together.
That can sometimes means $115 a night when Palm Springs is at its peak season hottest.
This for a hotel lined with black and white photos of all the stars who stayed there during Palm Springs' heyday. The bartender at Indian Wells Resort's Jake's Lounge is a tall, white-haired, dignified fellow who carries himself with the air of an old-time gentleman and has the stories to match.
The pool is vast and stands at the center of the hotel. The rooms are large, many being suites with separate sitting areas.
Perhaps, best of all, Indian Wells Resort Hotel can get you on the Palm Springs institution Indian Wells Country Club.
This is a stay on the cheap? In Coachella Valley, it can be. Looking beyond the resorts with the mega driveways can bring you into a whole new unexpected world.
The thread count on the sheets are not going to be so super high. There will probably be one of those polyester in-between blankets on the bed.
None of this means you can't make your own glitz at these more reasonable hotels. The mountains still loom overhead and you just may find your buddies steps across the parking lot.
"Let's go golf," Bill Thompson said.
The doors to the Cadillac swung closed. Just another glamour couple with some free breakfast in their bellies.
January 2, 2006