PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Matching robust mountain backdrops with palm-lined fairways and rustic desert routings, the Coachella Valley provides an unparalleled golf backdrop for ardent and vacationing golfers alike.
Home to nearly 125 golf courses, there are no shortage of choice public plays across the valley floor. Whether you're a snowbird seeking the idyllic temps of winter's high-season or a deal-seeker aiming for value amid the summer sizzle, here are five prime plays for your desert tee sheet:
Indian Wells Golf Resort (Indian Wells)
Home to a pair of blue-chip plays, Indian Wells Golf Resort hosted the Golf Channel's "Big Break Indian Wells" in 2011 and counts among the top municipal plays in the West.
Stronger players will find a staunch test on Indian Wells' Players Course. Tracking at nearly 7,400 yards from the tips, the John Fought design presents agreeable landing areas matched with the stimuli of forced carry. Beautiful bunkering throughout adds to the test, with several of the 60 sand traps requiring steps to descend to your ball.
For a more benign but equally enticing round, take in the Clive Clark-drawn Celebrity Course, which mixes a wealth of multi-colored flora and an ongoing flow of water (found on 10 holes) running from streams to lakes to waterfalls.
SilverRock Resort (La Quinta)
Host to the former Bob Hope Classic (today's Humana Challenge) from 2008-11, the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course at SilverRock Resort plays across one of the desert's most impressive settings. Routed along the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, SilverRock will appease in terrain alone.
Tipping-out at nearly 7,600 yards, the spread requires continual study of GPS for landing position. Akin to myriad Palmer designs, ample "outs" are available for approaches, however steering toward safe plays often results in testy shots coming back to the hole.
TPC Stadium Course at PGA West (La Quinta)
One of three Pete Dye designs among five prime public plays at "The Western Home of Golf in America," PGA West's Stadium Course is not for the meek. Ever read those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books? Think about those choices and how options of lesser renown resulted in your demise when playing what is aptly reputed among the toughest courses west of the Mississippi.
Bold moguling and ceaseless subtlety of elevation are in play throughout at the Stadium, where finding even lies is a premium. Challenges come throughout the round, and even low-handicappers will struggle for par when trying to get up and down.
An exceptional test for the gifted, but those without a short game need not apply.
Desert Willow Golf Resort (Palm Desert)
A pair of expertly routed Hurdzan/Fry designs grace the manicured grounds, where rustic routing and beatific manicuring make for can't-miss dual plays.
Stronger players will revel in the forced carries, testy bunkering and demanding green structures of Desert Willow's Firecliff Course, while all comers will enjoy the more forgiving, water-laden Mountain View Course.
All should ensure a post-round lunch on the patio.
Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club (Palm Desert)
Nick Faldo's debut American design, Shadow Ridge Golf Club displays a host of engaging par 4s and tough par 3s across the exceptionally sculpted, Australian Sandbelt-inspired terrain. Welcoming landing areas segue to massive putting surfaces, and 89 traps (many of the directional variety) are in play throughout.
Par is possible for those who study ball placement on par 5s and the shorter par 4s, though all players are well-advised to keep the ball in front of pins, as playing back to the hole results in generally "shadowy" scoring.