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Turnkey Vacation | Palm Springs

Appeared in Fall 2013 LINKS

By Robin Micheli

You can argue which destination is the true golf capital of the U.S., but Palm Springs’s abundance of varied courses set in beautiful desert scenery—not to mention its warm, dry weather—make it a strong contender. The city lost its luster for a while in the ’90s, but glamor has made a comeback, with new hotels and restaurants drawing stylish crowds. What most visitors think of as Palm Springs actually is several cities that run along Highway 111 through the Coachella Valley, all just a few hours by car from Los Angeles but also serviced by a sleek mid-century airport. The nightlife is largely in Palm Springs proper, but you’ll find most of the more than 120 courses elsewhere—and lodging options everywhere. Desert temps are ideal November through April; avoid October when most courses are closed for overseeding.             

DAY 1  Morning: Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort. The Pete Dye course here (in Rancho Mirage) is a good place to ease into your game since it’s considered more cooperative than many Dye designs. Just be sure to select the right tee. Afternoon: Shadow Ridge Golf Club. Grab a bite poolside or at the café/bar at the Westin before heading to Palm Desert for your next round. At Nick Faldo’s first U.S. course, inspired by Australian Sandbelt designs, you’ll contend with plenty of dynamic bunkering. Off-Course Option: Hiking and horseback riding. A desert safari with Trail Discovery is one of the best ways to take in the stunning landscape of the San Jacinto Mountains, with trails at all levels of difficulty. Or saddle up at Smoke Tree Stables and explore the terrain on horseback.  Evening: Relax into a desert state of mind at Omni Rancho Mirage’s creative farm-to-table restaurant bluEmber. Sit by the firepit on the patio and order from the lounge menu, mountain views and live music included. If you’re feeling lucky, finish your night at Agua Caliente Casino, just eight minutes down Bob Hope Drive. 

DAY 2  Morning: Nicklaus Tournament Course. Three of the six courses at PGA West in
La Quinta are public, so spend a day here, beginning with this second-shot course, where generous landing areas make it a good confidence builder for the serious exam that awaits you next. Afternoon: TPC Stadium Course. Fortify yourself with lunch and a double-green view at Ernie’s Bar and Grill in the clubhouse before facing this famously intimidating layout. Navigating it is like walking through a minefield, but every hole is memorable and any par is a thrill.  Off-Course Option: Shopping. Retailers on Palm Desert’s posh El Paseo Drive range from Gucci to Apple, but for something less homogenous, head to the hip shopping district at Palm Springs’s north end for mid-century-modern furniture and vintage clothing boutiques. Evening: Shanghai Reds. There’s always a crowd at Las Casuelas Nuevas on the main drag in downtown Palm Springs, especially during the lively street fair every Thursday night. But behind it, across a parking lot, this hospitable bar and grill is a local favorite for oyster shooters, the valley’s best fish tacos, and live blues on weekends.

DAY 3  Morning: La Quinta Resort Mountain Course. Along with the challenge, the back nine will treat you to some of the area’s most breathtaking vistas. The signature hole is the 16th, a 157-yard par three that plays from an elevated tee carved from the mountainside over boulder-strewn desert. Afternoon: SilverRock Resort. Stay at the La Quinta for a Mexican lunch on the terrace at the Adobe Grill overlooking a picturesque plaza before making the six-minute drive to the former home of the Bob Hope Classic. The Arnold Palmer design offers 7,578 yards so close to the Santa Rosa Mountains you may spot bighorn sheep in the gallery. Off-Course Option: Guided Tours. Get an eyeful of the Palm Springs area’s extraordinary architecture or its storied Hollywood past with Palm Springs Modern Tours and Palm Springs Rich and Famous Tour. The town is chock-a-block with lavish celebrity pads like the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway. Evening: Melvyn’s. For a unique taste of vintage Palm Springs, this one-time Sinatra hangout at the Ingleside Hotel is a must. Come on a weekend for classic dishes of a certain era, like Oysters Rockefeller, or more modern ones like silken short ribs, but stay for the fascinating bar scene and dancing to live music.

DAY 4  Morning: Indian Wells Resort Players Course. The resort’s Celebrity Course is also demanding and beautifully sculpted, but this one has the edge, with elevation changes and unusual, cavernous bunkering. The food at the clubhouse restaurant is impressive, too. Afternoon: Desert Willow Firecliff Course. Of the two courses at this Palm Desert resort, Firecliff offers the better test and provides a wrap-up to your stay that isn’t too punishing. Natural terrain comes into play here; the desert awaits off-line tee shots. Off-Course Option: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. For incomparable views of the valley—and a 30-degree drop in temperature—ride this tram from the desert floor 6,000 feet up to Mount San Jacinto State Park. In winter you may find snow at the top. Evening: Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant. What’s a golf trip to the desert without a stop at this well-heeled watering hole in La Quinta? The modern American food is excellent, as is the selection of wines. Fire up
a cigar on the patio or take to the pub’s dance floor.

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