Best of the Coachella Valley: Five must-play golf courses in the Palm Springs region

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.

Judd Spicer is an award-winning, veteran freelance writer hailing from St. Paul, Minn. After 12 years of covering MLB, NBA, NCAA and the active golf landscape of the Twin Cities, he relocated to the Palm Spring, Calif. region to further pursue his golf work and Champions Tour dream. Sporting measured distance off the tee, Spicer refers to his pitching wedge as his "magic wand." Follow Judd on Twitter at @juddspicer.
Default User Avatar
Commented on

Going to be in the Palm Springs area in mid January. Would like to play two courses that are reasonable but fun. Heard some courses this time of year in Palm Springs are 5 hour or more rounds. Not bringing my clubs. Would like to pay $75-90, plus rental. Your suggestions are appreciated.Thank you, Brian

Default User Avatar
Commented on

how are the courses in mid September? I was planning on bringing my grandson to play golf.

Commented on

I've been out there a few times around that time for the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship at PGA West & La Quinta. That's before overseed season ramps up, so you should have pretty solid bermuda grass conditions. Temps may be in the 90s-100s.

Commented on

My wife and I were planning a trip to Palm Springs to relax and golf in mid May. I was wondering about course conditions
that time of year. Someone told me that the courses were transitioning at that time and they might not be the best.
I would appreciate your opinion.

Commented on

A year ago I looked at some review data for Palm Springs and May had good conditions but June's had really fallen off. I think if you go in the first half of May, the conditions should still be pretty solid. The good news is green fees and hotels are greatly discounted by then.

Commented on

Thank you. Looking at May 13 to 18 so hopefully it's still good at that time. We are traveling from
Florida so I don't want to be disappointed.

Default User Avatar
Commented on

I asked Troon Golf, who manage Indian Wells, Classic Club, PGA West and a couple others, and they said:

Course conditions throughout the month of May are typically dictated by the weather. However, the rye grass usually holds up very nicely until mid-June.

Related Links

Palm Springs is one of 10 municipalities that encompass the golf-rich Coachella Valley. Home to nearly 125 golf courses, this area of California presents no shortage of stellar public plays. Judd Spicer offers up a city-by-city breakdown of the Coachella Valley's golf courses for golfers of all levels.
3 Min Read
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 U.S. by Golfweek, and you can play one former PGA Tour venue for less than $60. That's amazing, as is muni golf in the Coachella Valley. Jason Deegan has more from southern California.
2 Min Read
If you're flying into San Francisco and making your way toward San Diego for four or five days, what golf courses should you play? That's what one reader from Maine wanted to know, and Mike Bailey offers up some advice for affordable golf as well as bucket-list choices.
3 Min Read
The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, Calif. is one of the top resorts on the west coast, and it's also a lot of fun. While visitors are encouraged to venture out into the greater Palm Springs area, you could just park yourself at the JW Marriott, which pretty much has everything covered. Mike Bailey offers up 10 things he really likes about the JW Marriott.
3 Min Read
More from the author
5 Min Read
March 3, 2017
It's not as well known as Riviera Maya or Cabo Del Sol, but Mazatlan has a trio of great value resort golf courses and a laid back ocean vibe.
3 Min Read
March 2, 2017
Located 30 minutes from the heart of Mazatlan's tourist activity Estrella Del Mar Golf & Beach Resort is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. course that makes for the destination's top tee time.
4 Min Read
May 24, 2016
For some variation in your Palm Springs itinerary, blow on over 10 miles to Desert Dunes Golf Club, a re-polished gem that's finding new life in recent years.
4 Min Read
April 1, 2016
A match of classic, SoCal cool and contemporary resort amenities make for a choice stay-and-play at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego.
4 Min Read
February 10, 2016
Set amid southern California's placid Temecula Valley wine country, the 27 holes at the Temecula Creek Inn offer a vintage diversity to all golfers. And it's just a three-minute wooded walk from your bed to the first tee.
2 Min Read
November 6, 2015
The prettier of Primm Valley Golf Club's dual Tom Fazio designs, the Lakes Course proves an engaging round that will test the irons throughout, and it proves a worthy stop for all comers. It's also a bargain. "If you took this course and put it right in Vegas ... they could charge five times as much for the greens fees," one local golfer said.
6 Min Read
September 6, 2022
Portmarnock Hotel, Galgorm Castle, Rosapenna and Slieve Russell pair well with spellbinding links like The Island and St. Patrick's Links.
5 Min Read
September 12, 2022
Silverado is primed to host the 2022 Fortinet Championship this week.
5 Min Read
September 25, 2022
The USGA knocked it out of the park with a new event, unique championship venues in 2022.
9 Min Read
September 18, 2022
The PGA Tour stalwart and 2017 PGA Championship venue gets its first taste of international match-play intrigue.
Load More
Now Reading
Best of the Coachella Valley: Five must-play golf courses in the Palm Springs region