PGA West Meets Norman: Venue now "Shark Infested" With Norman's New Desert Layout

By David R. Holland, Contributor

Just after the bulldozers had left, but before the grass was planted, Dave Doerr surveyed the new PGA West Greg Norman Course and came to a conclusion.

Well, actually he came to a conclusion then he switched tunes.

"I thought it was going to rival the PGA West Stadium Course for toughness," said Doerr, Head Golf Professional. "But the very first time I played the course I changed my mind. It is a very playable layout, but the playability will also be changing constantly as the vegetation matures."

Doerr should know. He also did a stint as the head pro at the Stadium Course. But there is no denying the Greg Norman Course is different from anything else in the Palm Springs area -- that was the whole idea.

"And the membership of PGA West likes that," Doerr said.

"We sought to create a championship course that is totally different from the others at PGA West, but it complements the group as a whole using a least disturbance approach," said Norman. "I believe that making the best use of the existing landscape not only produces an aesthetically pleasing course, but reduces maintenance costs for years thereafter."

What you have is a "desertscapes" design. There are no palm trees -- the standard for Coachella Valley golf. The 122 bunkers are filled with crushed marble sand that's so brilliant white you might need to borrow David Duval's sunglasses.

The fairway boundary or "rough" is decomposed granite or DG, a tan-brown colored substance that is crunchy and like hardpan to hit recovery shots from. They shipped in 65 tons of this material that will really scratch up a new golf club.

The secret is to keep the lower body still and pick the ball clean when hitting out of this stuff. If you take a mighty swing with busy foot work most likely you are going to slide around in the DG.

"The key reason we used the DG was because it has no dust and doesn't blow around in the wind," Doerr said. "The crushed marble is very costly and only the most exclusive courses use it. It's very heavy and a true penalty. You can't go for the greens from most of the fairway bunkers, just put the ball back in play and take the penalty."

Norman's goal was to be environmentally sensitive by recreating a low-lying desert area with dunes and indigenous plants. Most golf course utilize between 110 and 140 acres of turf grass, but the Norman Course has only 62 acres of turf according to Doerr and employs drip irrigation to conserve water.

There's more danger in the DG. Native plants dot the DG landscape and many of these plants have their own drip-irrigation nozzle. Included are desert ironwood, sweet acacia, blue palo verde, desert marigold and feathery cassia. You will also see mesquite and brittle bush around. Some plants or grasses are growing in the "Great White Bunkers" by design. There are 20 acres of wildflowers and nine lakes.

The par-72, 7,156-yard layout isn't a monster at all for the par-3 holes from the middle tees. They measure 137, 144, 192 and 161. There are five sets of tees -- the shortest is 5,381 yards and the middle men's are 6,671 and 6,227 yards.

You can even walk this course, but you have to use a club caddy for an additional $50.

No. 6 is the toughest hole. This 481 yarder from the tips is just long and fairly narrow with lots of irregular edges to the fairway boundaries. The par-5 No. 8 is 617 from the tips and to make it even more of a challenge there's water all along the right side.

The yardage card provided will make you look twice on No. 15, a 431-yard par-4. The card was printed before design was finished and shows a dogleg right. But what you see from the tee are bunkers everywhere in the middle of the fairway, splitting it into a double fairway. In all, there are 16 fairway bunkers and eight of them are right in the middle of the fairway.

On to 16 and you find another par-5 layout with 537 yards to negotiate and water all along the right. The green is long and kidney-shaped curving with the water. That means more than likely your approach has to go over the wet stuff.

The Bermuda greens come in all shapes and sizes, but most are long and narrow. Six have more than 40 yards from front to back but there's not a lot of tiers and hogbacks to frustrate you. They do tend to be firm and approaches can easily bound to the back.

All in all PGA West's newest golf course is beautiful if you have blinders on. Once your eyes wander from the fairways and from the DG all you see is construction. The 7,000-square-foot Golf House is nearing completion. It will be done in Aussie-Norman flare with lots of open-air space. You will even be able to have lunch after or before your round and enjoy Norman's favorite drink -- a "Skarkarita".

PGA West Greg Norman Course
56-150 PGA Boulevard
La Quinta, CA 92253
Phone: 760-564-7170 or 1-800-PGA-WEST

Green Fees: $235. Resort guests $205. Twilight rate is $125 beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Directions: From I-10 take Washington south. Turn left at 50th Avenue. When you hit Jefferson go back south (right turn) and continue until the road dead ends into PGA West at the foot of the mountains. Don't go straight in to the PGA West complex, turn left and watch for the numerous signs.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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