The golf course at SilverRock Resort may be the prettiest girl in the desert. (Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor) Skilled players will revel in the test of Desert Willow Golf Resort's Firecliff Course. (Courtesy of Desert Willow Golf Resort) The Celebrity Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort is one of two new, upscale resort courses built by the city of Indian Wells near Palm Springs. (Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor)

California's Coachella Valley reigns as the municipal golf capital of the world

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Free valet parking. The PGA Tour. Big-name architects. Trendy clubhouses.

Sound like municipal golf to you?

With places like SilverRock Resort, Indian Wells Golf Resort and Desert Willow Golf Resort, the Coachella Valley can easily claim to be the municipal golf capital of the world. All three clubs feature courses ranked among the top 50 "munis" in the United States by Golfweek.

When the city of La Quinta -- named after its famous historic golf resort -- decided to build a course, it didn't hold back. Arnold Palmer's SilverRock Resort, which opened in 2005, hosted the former Bob Hope Classic from 2008-2011.

"They (city officials) wanted to build a course with two criteria," SilverRock General Manager Randy Duncan said. "They wanted the PGA Tour. We got that. They also wanted a course for residents that is affordable. I'd say $55 is very affordable for what we have."

Playing a former PGA Tour venue for less than $60? That's just ridiculous.

Municipal golf mania actually started in this ritzy enclave of the California desert nearly five decades ago when the city of Indio built one of the country's longest par-3 courses (now lighted for play at night). The construction of Desert Willow's two courses in the 1997-98 essentially created a government-subsidized country club, setting the bar higher than ever. Soon after, the communities of Palm Desert and La Quinta followed similar blueprints.

Desert Willow Golf Resort

The service starts the minute golfers pull up to Desert Willow Golf Resort, which is owned by the city of Palm Desert but operated by KemperSports. The valet service is free of charge. Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry -- with an assist from pro golfer John Cook -- created two different courses, the more challenging Firecliff and the player-friendly Mountain View. Both are equally beautiful with virtually no housing to spoil the backdrop of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Better golfers will appreciate Firecliff's nuances, the heavier bunkering, the longer carries off the tee and the more interesting green complexes.

SilverRock Resort

The SilverRock Resort golf course, a behemoth at 7,578 yards, is blessed with the one of the best natural settings in the Valley. Visually, she's the prettiest girl in the desert. Some of the holes skirt the rocky edges of the mountains. Morning shadows have been known to create frost delays in the cooler winter months. Hopscotching over water (ponds and canals) and sand (deep bunkers and desert) give SilverRock a target-golf appeal.

Indian Wells Golf Resort

Indian Wells Golf Resort, managed by Troon Golf, is the only municipal complex with two courses ranked among the top 25 nationally by Golfweek. Not Torrey Pines near San Diego. Not Bethpage State Park in New York, either. Indian Wells' Celebrity Course and Players Course were showcased during "The Big Break" on the Golf Channel. The Clive Clark-designed Celebrity Course, which opened in 2006, twice hosted the PGA Tour's Skins Game as well. John Fought added the Players Course in 2007. The opulent 53,000-square-foot clubhouse houses the IW Club, a fantastic venue for a meal, banquet or wedding. The free valet service is also just the beginning of an experience that exudes luxury.

Feb 13, 2014

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.