INDIO, Calif. -- With a haughty seven options for gaming across the 40-mile spread of SoCal desert running from Cabazon to Coachella, the avid casino dweller is flush with choices for a Palm Springs-area getaway.
And while three of said properties offer golf to couple with cards, there is but one locale with a course on site. Welcome to the one-stop, stay-and-play (and play) grounds of Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
Located a mere shuttle ride from the resort and casino, the Coachella Valley's newest golf course opened in 2007 and has fast become a popular, affordable play for locals and visitors alike. Eagle Falls has further served as home to myriad events and tournaments, including its role as host to the annual Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational.
For a "resort course," the well manicured Clive Clark design will often play as a greater test than most first-timers may assume. Matching a links-style layout with sizeable greens, unique desert rusticism and manageable distance (tipping-out at 6,715 yards), the ground's aggressive bunkering, subtle elevation changes and impaired views of pins combine to author an astute test.
Moreover: Playing from a namely generous spread of bowled fairways, Eagle Falls proves getable for mid-handicappers (when even lies allow). But play askew? You're dead. The gnarly routing of beatific but burly tall grasses and native plantings simply don't afford for much wiggle room. Plainly stated, Eagle Falls is one of those plays where one unsuccessfully hunts for his own lost ball -- but finds four others in the process.
"The fairways were pretty open for the most part, but if you don't find them, it was pretty tough to find your ball," local high-handicaper Jason Calder said. "But I really like it here. Most courses around here have houses or hotels or something all around the course, but here is nice and open."
The back nine at Eagle Falls rolls out six consecutive par 4s before rounding home with a par 3-4-5 finish.
Prior to the 18-handicap, 301-yard, par-4 15th, the exceptional 269-yard, par-4 No. 11 stands out among the most engaging holes in the entire region. Seducing even medium-length players into rolling an ensuing eagle putt, the 11th sports lake water and dune bunkering along the left-hand side, with said hazards culminating in a sizeable stone wall guarding the green. Flicking a mid-iron to the right side is the play for the prudent, which can still result in a short birdie try for solid wedge players.
The 478-yard, par-5 finisher offers an opportunity to conclude with aplomb. Water guards the left of the deep fairway and massive putting surface, suggesting that par (or better) is in play for those favoring the far right with a studied and patient approach; working the ball even a shade left-of-center will find most dropping four.
Fantasy Springs Resort Casino
The resort's 250-room hotel is surrounded by a host of on-site amenities and is coupled with the 10,000-square-foot gaming floor (and the valley's only Off Track Betting facility for rail birds).
Fantasy matches marquee national acts at the Special Events Center with ongoing, free concerts at the outdoor Rock Yard. For family trips, the on-site, 24-lane bowling alley proves a fine way to entertain the young ones before mom and dad enjoy the casino floor and nightlife.
For dining options, a host of flavors are offered throughout the resort, though the carnivorous will be well-sated with a visit to The Bistro. Seafood entrees and sushi options are in play, but valley visitors should know these are some of the region's best steaks.
For a full tour, start with the Lobster and Scallop Rockefeller before graduating to a dry-aged Filet paired with an Oscar topping. The wine list has an impressive selection of California varietals.