A Palm Springs playpen: Westin Mission Hills Resort gives you golf and more games

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Pulling into the driveway of the Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa, you get the idea it's going to be just another nice hotel. The driveway isn't particularly long or ostentatious by modern resort standards. The waterfalls and shooting fountains are almost reserved and dignified (what's resort about that?).

Gary Player Signature course at Westin Mission Hills
Westin Mission Hills puts you right in the heart of play with courses like Gary Player Signature.
Gary Player Signature course at Westin Mission HillsPete Resort Course at Westin Mission HillsWestin Mission Hills resort
If you go

Of course you couldn't know at that moment that whoever designed Westin Mission Hills likes to play as much as Tom Hanks' character in "Big."

The Palm Springs area complex is often advertised as a golf resort. Which is very true. If the golf was any closer, the 18th green of the Pete Dye Resort Course would play out in the living room of your golf casita.

Throw in a Gary Player Signature Course - that's no throw in - a quick courtesy van shuttle ride across the street and you're talking about being able to book your tee time for 9 a.m. and hitting the snooze till 8:45. If you so dare.

Who needs a warm-up that a 9:15 a.m. Budweiser couldn't cure?

As golf playgrounds go, Mission Hills is about as convenient as a diner. Without the charming "Whatcha you want honey!" waitresses.

The shame comes in Westin Mission Hills Resort being typecast as a one-trick playpen.

Name the sport and this place has it. There are so many lighted tennis courts that you're liable to think you've stumbled upon a separate community center in an evening stroll around the grounds. The basketball courts actually have nets and not as many cracks as a broken car window (which if you ever stayed at a resort you know is no small feat for something you don't have to pay to play).

That's the beauty of Westin Mission Hills. It's an equal play opportunity resort. If you like to play golf and your spouse wants to take a long bike ride, you'll find the paths here. Even if exercise without a motorized vehicle may sound awfully foreign to most U.S. golfers.

Of course, if you want to spend as much on your other recreations as you do golf, there's the new spa that seems to be the prerequisite of every resort these days, but hasn't hit all of the Palm Springs Valley yet.

"You need the spa to even be in the conversation these days," Mission Hills Director of Golf Ryan Wilson said. "We're even seeing a lot more guys who are booking golf and spa packages - groups of guys who are golfing together and then getting their spa treatments after the round."

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Crazy-Eyed Killa needs his pampering too.

Westin Mission Hills gives you this and the famous Westin Heavenly beds (warning: babies as young as two months can become hooked and fussy at the introduction of anything else).

Many of the rooms are larger than even typical resort accommodations. A number have separate living room areas and either outdoor balconies or patios. They also possess much higher ceilings (one of the most underrated hotel features) than even the average big hotel room. You're not going to feel claustrophobic in this setup.

"It's like having my own condo," one exceedingly chipper guest greeted walker-bys of his patio one morning.

Not quite. But you do get maid and room service.

Westin Mission Hills runs about $200 per night and up in high season (January through April), about $200 less than the same type of accommodation would cost you in Phoenix-Scottsdale.

There are some quibbles with the place. There's only one restaurant that's really on site, Bella Vista, and it charges $35 to $40 per entrée. The only other option is a bar lounge with a very limited appetizer/sandwich menu (or the sky-high restaurant selections served in the bar). Westin Mission Hills could use an in-between restaurant on site.

Even those spending $200 per night don't want to be dropping $200 every night on dinner.

There's a more casual restaurant just down the road in the Westin villas area, but that defeats the walking to dinner from your room pleasure. You might as well as well just take one left turn out of the hotel and drive up to the nearest major street with a ton of tasty cheap Mexican places in strip malls.

Out in Rancho Mirage, Westin Mission Hills isn't very close to downtown Palm Springs' restaurant and shop row or La Quinta's golf wonderland.

But there is an outdoor mall, The River and a casino (Agua Caliente) a few turns away.

Overall, this is one of the better places you can stay on a Palm Springs golf vacation. Especially if you want to play everything.

Traveler's tip

If you're allergic to pets don't be shy about requesting a room change. Some of Westin Mission Hills rooms carry much more pet dander odors than others.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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