Desert Springs Resort and Spa is a golf oasis in Palm Desert

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

Golfing at Desert Springs

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- As the late afternoon sun dropped behind the Santa Rosa Mountains, four golfers pounded away at range balls on the spacious practice tee. Just a chip shot away, dozens of guests were relaxing by one of the Coachella Valley's largest pools. Attendants served frozen concoctions and the sounds of laughter and splashing rose up to meet the unmistakable noise of clubs striking balls.

"Just another end to another day in paradise," the deeply tanned gentleman in the small building by the driving range said.

What better place to end a day than the Desert Springs Resort and Spa.

In a Valley filled with hotels, motels, inns and villas, this mega Marriott is the undisputed champion of full service resorts. The 450-acre oasis in the desert is home to two 18-hole Ted Robinson designed resort courses and an 18-hole putting course. Over 35 acres of manmade streams and lagoons meander through the property, including a lake that extends into the hotel's lavish lobby.

Desert Springs Resort and Spa opened in 1987 when bigger was better. Some 16 years later, it still remains one of the largest resort and conference complexes in the Southwestern United States. Say hello to 884 rooms, five restaurants, specialty shops and boutiques and over 51,300 square feet of conference space. Just beyond the resort's air conditioned hallways sit 20 tennis courts, nine swimming and whirl pools and a state-of-the-art spa and fitness facility.

Finding the opulent, sprawling J.W. Marriott Desert Springs Resort is easy. It's the leaving that is the hard part.

The Golf Adventure

Marriott Desert Springs The resort's Palm and Valley courses are unmistakably Robinson in look and feel. The California based designer and his son have a unique style that lends itself to resort golf. Tee boxes are almost always elevated to take advantage of the surrounding views. Fairways funnel tee shots back towards the landing areas and greens are surrounding by stately palm trees and extravagant water features.

If it sounds too player friendly to be true, it is.

"Ted has two or three design concepts that favor the player, but he protects his courses from long hitters with moguls called badlands at the ends of the landing areas," says Tim Skogen, Desert Spring's director of golf.

Unlike most resorts that feature one "resort" course and one "championship" course, both the Palm and Valley courses are designed to put the average golfer at ease. The Palm plays to a slope of 130 from the 6,761-yard black tees and the 6,627-yard Valley to a 127. Remarkably, both courses fit into a 252-acre tract of land smack dab in the middle of Palm Desert.

"Part of the beauty of the design is the economy of space," Skogen says.

View to Santa Rosa Mountains The Valley Course is routed around the exterior of the resort property and features the best views of the towering Santa Rosa Mountains. The Palm Course plays closer to the resort, and in one case, right in front of it. The 162-yard, par-3 third hole is situated at the entrance. Skogen says the hole is a bit of a knee-knocker for most guests -- the tee shot is all carry over a patented Robinson lagoon and there are typically plenty of spectators.

"I've even heard of people stopping the car to watch," he says.

Most who have played the Palm, though, will attest that the real drama comes on the famed 18th hole. Considered one of the better finishing holes in the Coachella Valley, the 432-yard par-4 is a water-soaked, dog leg left that usually plays dead into the stiff desert wind.

"There are some tough holes. But the overall intent here is for you to walk off the course feeling good about your game and your round," Skogen says.

Dining and Entertainment Adventures

Palms Course Chef Thomas Homer's Northern Italian cuisine is the main draw at Ristorante Tuscany. But the restaurant's baked cibatta bread with marinated roasted peppers has its own cult following. Save room for one of the robust entrees and desert on the patio by the fire pit. Ristorante Tuscany also has one of the area's most extensive wine lists, and tastings are available upon request.

If it's seafood you crave, the SeaGrille provides an atmosphere straight out of the Rat Pack days. From its velvet curtain entrance to its live jazz and world famous martini bar, SeaGrille would have met with Sinatra's approval. The entrees cover a variety of different coastal regions. The setting by the lake and the view of the mountains makes SeaGrille one of the most popular hangouts at the resort. On the other side of the resort, the offerings range from Japanese at Mikado to Mexican with a California twist at Colibri.

Evening entertainment comes in two flavors at Desert Springs: trendy and fast-paced at Costas Nightclub, or laid back and low key at the Atrium Lounge. The Oasis Bar and Grille by the main pool is also a popular gathering spot. Enjoy a juicy burger and a cold drink while chilling out to the sounds of calypso music Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m.

Awards

Overall Service: Mobil Four-Star and AAA Four Diamond property.
Golf Facilities: Gold Tee Award, Meetings and Conventions
ACE Award, Successful Meetings. Ranked as one of 75 top golf resorts in America, Golf Digest.
Women friendly golf course, Golf For Women Golf Magazine, Silver Medalist.

Vitals

Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa
74855 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert, CA, 92260

The Deal

Golf packages: includes Resort View room, 2 rounds of 18-hole golf, range balls, bag tags, golf club valet service and breakfast for two. Dec. 27 - May 25 ($459), May 26- June 28 ($299), June 29 - Sept. 4 ($119/169), Sept. 5 - Dec. 25 ($350).

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.


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