Jack Nicklaus Tournament Golf Course At PGA West

By Robert Glickman, Contributor

On the way to PGA West, heading south on Jefferson Avenue, one can't help but notice the awesome view with the surrounding La Quinta and Santa Rosa Mountains, their jagged edged peaks climbing up to crystal clear blue skies, framed by giant palm trees. This is my favorite part of the Coachella Valley. And oh, by the way, the golf isn't too shabby either!

As you enter PGA West and drive by the gates of this prestigious golf and tennis community, a feeling comes over you as you read the names associated with these neighborhoods and golf courses, names such as Palmer, Nicklaus, Weiskopf, Dye, and now Norman.

You'll sense that you've entered sacred grounds and that you're in for a unique golfing experience. There can't be anywhere else like this on earth that brings these golf legends together to form this master-planned community also known as " The Western Home of Golf in America".

Follow the signs that lead to the massive clubhouse that is shared by both the Nicklaus Tournament and TPC Stadium (Pete Dye) courses that are open to the public year round. KSL Properties who owns and operates a total of nine courses here (along with several other prestigious properties around the country) and the legendary La Quinta Resort and Club, have done a spectacular job adding to what Landmark Land Company started in the early 80's.

What a gorgeous sight looking out of the clubhouse's giant windows down to the golf course.

If you've never been here or haven't seen it lately, you'll be amazed at all the growth with more courses (recently opened Greg Norman Signature Course) and homes being built. There is still time to get in on what seems to be a great investment on a golf course home, stop by the real estate office inside the clubhouse for more information.

Many major golf events have been played on these courses from the "Skins Game" to the PGA Tour Qualifying School. It was down the street at the Palmer Private Course last year that I witnessed David Duval sink an eagle putt on the 18th green to shoot 59 and capture the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in dramatic fashion. It's inspiring to come and play where the pros and legends of golf have played before you.

What a gorgeous sight looking out of the clubhouse's giant windows down to the golf course and surrounding desert landscape with its abundant Date palm, Mesquite and Acacia trees.

During the winter months as courses must be over-seeded with Rye, the Bermuda grass goes dormant and turns almost white. What they do here to give the courses a distinct look is to leave a lot of this dormant Bermuda bordering fairways and around bunkers, which really accents the deep rich green of the Rye fairways and greens.

This is definitely a golfer's dream where you can take lessons at the Jim McLean and Dave Pelz (just down the road in La Quinta) golf schools or hit as many complimentary range-balls as you like before teeing-off. Just be prepared for one of the most dramatic, challenging rounds of golf that only Jack Nicklaus could offer.

I've also played the famously difficult Stadium course here and feel the "Nick" can play pretty comparable in toughness and challenge. They really compliment each other well.

This par 72 layout uses five teeing grounds for every type of golfer, from the Tournament at 7,204 yards to the Ladies at 5,023 yards. We decided on the Regular tee at 6,061 yards to make for a more enjoyable round, which turned out to be a good idea. This golf course is tough enough without trying to be macho and playing it from the blue tees.

First off is a classic Nicklaus golf hole named "Jack's or Better" this slight dogleg left plays 349 yards. Tee off over a waste area dotted with clumps of Fountain grass to a rolling fairway with bunkers on both sides. You'll notice how Jack uses lots of mounding here and sharp angled edges on the fairways that lead down to grass and/or sand bunkers which makes hitting the ball straight all the more important.

The green on this hole looks as if it sits atop a table with sand traps right and left down below it. Anything short here and your facing about a 15-foot wall to get your ball over and up onto the putting surface. This is quite a prelude to what's in store. Jack how could you do this to us so early on!

The 3rd ("Pyramid") is an interesting par 3 playing 155 yards. As you look at the hole you'll see a large mound behind the green that definitely resembles a pyramid. The sloping green is enormous with sand traps everywhere, pin placement dictates what type of shot is needed to get your ball close on this well-protected green.

No. 5, is a short but tricky par 4 aptly named "Wishbone" due to its split fairway. With a deep bunker running up the middle to an elevated shallow green, I think the right side is the smarter play, it gives you a better angle to the steep-faced target. Don't go long here either, there are giant golf ball eating bushes behind the green!

Another great par 3, No. 8 ("Lilly Pad") is 132 yards and all carry across a lake that surrounds the peninsula green. This gigantic putting surface has sand traps all around and can play to a 2 or 3 club difference depending where the flag is.

We come to the toughest hole on the course, No. 9 (Jack's Revenge). This breathtaking par 4 at 383 yards is a killer. A slight dogleg right to a rolling fairway with large mounding on both sides.

Your second shot can be very demanding over a large lake front left of the saddle-shaped green that is shared with #18. Keep it right here if you ever want to see your ball again!

No. 11 ("Moguls") is a fun par 5 that doglegs left over a group of enormous mounds, try and boom one over them to shave off some yardage and go for it in two. Just stay clear of those massive sand traps short left of the deep narrow green.

My favorite hole on the course is No. 15 ("Long Island"). This is a beautiful par 5 that plays only 472 yards but has an island green that is a tough target even with a short 3rd shot approach over the water. Keep it right off the tee since the fairway slopes down to the lake on the left.

For those brave enough to try and reach this green in 2, there are sand traps in front and behind to catch your ball. I recommend a little course management here and take 3 shots to get to this little target.

By the time you've reached the 18th "Bear Trap", you might be calling Jack something other than his given name. Especially after looking down the fairway of this finishing par 4 hole. Keep it left here off the tee, with a giant waste area in front and that large lake right side leading all the way up to and in front of this elevated tiered green.

A sharp edge runs up the right side of the fairway and leads down to a thin strip of sand before reaching the water hazard. Quite a tricky second shot here with the green situated off to the right and raised up over the water.

There are a couple bailout bunkers on the left to grab shots from those who don't have the you- know- what's to go for pin. Make a 4 here and it will help ease the pain of those other bigger numbers made earlier. What a fantastic finish to an incredible golf course!

Now it's time for a well-deserved beverage and lunch inside the elegant clubhouse, you'll find anything a golfer could want in here. The golf shop is stocked with fashionable golf attire for men and women with names like Polo, Ashworth, Cutter & Buck, and of course a large display of Nicklaus wear.

If you're planning a trip to this golf paradise, the Coachella Valley, treat yourself to something special, come to PGA West and play the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, I highly recommend it. Golf packages are available through KSL at the La Quinta Resort and Club.

PGA West Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course
56-150 PGA Boulevard
La Quinta, CA 92253
Web site: www.pgawest.com

Robert Glickman, Contributor

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