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PGA West (Nicklaus Tournament and Private)

In the heart of the spectacular California desert, a unique club enlisted some of golf’s biggest names to put together an unparalleled lineup of courses, including a pair of gems from Jack Nicklaus

By: Tom Dellner

Appeard in 2011 Nicklaus Premier Clubs

To the uninitiated, PGA West is synonymous with the club’s iconic TPC Stadium course, the infamous test of golf designed by Pete Dye, who heeded developer Ernie Vossler’s directive to create the most difficult course west of the Mississippi. The club gained notoriety soon after opening in 1986, thanks to the Skins Game (especially with Lee Trevino’s hole-in-one on the island-green 17th, “Alcatraz”) and the controversy surrounding the players’ successful petition to have the course removed from the rotation of the Bob Hope Classic, simply because it was too difficult.

But anyone who has been to this desert oasis can tell you there is far more to this acclaimed club than Dye’s creation. For one, the Stadium is no longer a one-dimensional leviathan; the layout has matured and is now one of the game’s great all-around tests. It also has re-established ties with the PGA Tour, which holds the final stage of Qualifying School there every other year. 

What’s more, the club boasts perhaps the greatest variety of memorable, varied golf available to a single membership. Marking its 25th anniversary in 2011, PGA West offers six layouts from the game’s most acclaimed designers. In addition to Dye’s TPC course, there are the Arnold Palmer Private, Tom Weiskopf Private, Greg Norman and two Jack Nicklaus-designed courses—the Nicklaus Tournament and Nicklaus Private.

If six courses aren’t enough, the club offers a membership option that provides access to three additional La Quinta gems: the Citrus and a pair of Dye-designed courses, Dunes and Mountain, at the neighboring La Quinta Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort.

These desert tests aren’t cookie-cutter designs, either. Each has been crafted with care with both average golfers and tour pros in mind, which is why three other courses besides the Stadium have hosted PGA Tour events. The Nicklaus Tournament is also used for Q School, while the Nicklaus Private and Palmer Private are popular hosts for the Bob Hope Classic. Members aspiring to play like tour pros can utilize the Jim McLean Golf School, which has two locations, at PGA West and La Quinta Resort & Club.

Whether used for tour events or as venues for friendly nassaus, all six courses share immaculate conditioning, ideal weather and dramatic desert landscape—there are palm trees and snow-capped mountains in every direction. The serenity is unspoiled, as there is never a sense of crowding at this Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Although resort guests can play three of the golf courses, public and private play are integrated without diminishing the member experience. Blocks of members-only tee times are reserved—from first off until 11:00 a.m.—on alternating mornings. 

After golf, members have full access to five clubhouses (the Palmer Private clubhouse, nestled against the Santa Rosa Mountains, is the home base) and six dining options. Whether they are in the mood for barbeque on the deck of the Norman clubhouse while sitting under the star-filled desert sky or a night out at Ernie’s, a high-energy gastro pub overlooking the 9th and 18th greens at the Nicklaus Tournament course, there will be a restaurant that suits various tastes. 

Since members can tee it up on a different course six days of the week, they may want to play tennis on the seventh. The club possesses some of the finest facilities in the West; its 19 courts offer the unique opportunity to play on every Grand Slam surface: hard court, clay and grass. Instruction is provided by Director of Tennis Tom Gorman, a former Davis Cup player and captain. A 3,000-square-foot fitness facility, along with a staff of instructors and personal trainers, will keep you in shape for all this activity. 

Sometimes, there is no substitute for the restorative effects of spending time outdoors in a beautiful environment. That’s just what PGA West provides for its members and residents—on and off the course. 

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