Palm Springs: Golf and Glamour
California’s Coachella Valley, from Palm Springs to Indio, is known to have the highest concentration of golf courses in the country. With nearly one hundred twenty courses in a relatively small area, many call it the “Golf Capital of the World.”
by DON AND ANN JACKSON
PHOTOS courtesy of: Desert Springs Resort, Rancho Las Palmas Resort, Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
Palm Springs itself may have an illustrious history of celebrity residents and international name recognition, but the premier golf courses, resorts, and shopping today are found in the newer cities of the valley, like Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and Rancho Mirage.
Where to play:
Most every type of golf course exists in this golfer’s utopia. Want to try your hand at a professional caliber course? Be sure to play the famous PGA West in La Quinta (www.pgawest.com). Looking for less expensive public links? Visit the website for the Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities Convention and Visitors Authority (www.palmspringsusa.com), and follow their golf and tennis link to pick out a course that suits your playing level and pocketbook, or send for their free golf guide. Visitors can also find a host of information about events, accommodations, dining, activities, shopping, attractions, and more in the Palm Springs area.
Where to stay:
For a golfing vacation at a resort that includes an on-site, top-quality golf course, you should consider any one of these choices—Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert, Rancho Las Palmas or Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Renaissance Esmeralda or Hyatt Grand Champions in Indian Wells, La Quinta Resort in La Quinta, Doral Desert Princess in Cathedral City, or Fantasy Springs in Indio.
On our most recent trip, we stayed at two resorts. The first four days were happily spent at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage (www.rancholaspalmas.com), recently revitalized by a awe-inspiring $35 million renovation. Back in 1979, when this Spanish estate-style resort was built by Marriott, it became the valley’s first five-star rated property, and the first to stay open year-round when most restaurants and hotels closed for the summer. Thanks to new owners KSL Resorts, Las Palmas has rediscovered its inspiration, emerging with an even more luxurious property. It’s a perfect destination for a family vacation, with something for everyone—27-hole Ted Robinson golf course; tournament-class clay and hard court tennis facilities; crème-de-la-crème spa; and new Splashtopia water park for kids of all ages staying on the property. Dining in their bluEmber restaurant, offering creative California cuisine and live entertainment, is first rate. The River (www.theriveratranchomirage.com), one of the desert’s most popular shopping, entertainment, and dining complexes, is directly across the road.
Our next four days found us at the Marriott’s mega resort, Desert Springs Resort and Spa (www.desertspringsresort.com), where beautiful lagoons, lush waterfalls, and boat rides to your restaurant of choice are highlights. Desert Springs is one of the rare resorts to create a number of highly-rated restaurants within the resort that have withstood the test of time. Tuscany remains one of California’s most critically acclaimed and romantic Northern Italian restaurants, and Mikado is still a popular choice for sushi and Japanese cuisine prepared at your table by chefs performing on the teppanyaki grills. The resort’s 36 holes of golf (also designed by Ted Robinson) are breathtaking waterscapes, and the “nation’s first all natural putting course” is a must-do for families. State-of-the-art tennis facilities include grass, clay, and hard-surface courts. Their dazzling spa recently underwent a remodel, and the upgrades have established it as world-class. Both resorts are also impressive sites for weddings, with breathtaking views and distinctive event spaces.
Where to shop:
El Paseo Drive in Palm Desert (www.theshopsonelpaseo.com) is known as the Rodeo Drive of the valley. No other desert city comes close to matching El Paseo’s many upscale stores, galleries, and boutiques. Our personal favorite shopping stroll is through the Gardens on El Paseo (www.thegardensonelpaseo.com), a dramatically landscaped oasis complex that includes such elite stores as Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, and Cole Haan, and fun boutique shops like Between The Sheets.
What to Do:
Besides enjoying the resorts, there are plenty of adventures and activities that families can enjoy nearby. A major activity in the desert is to attend the many golf tournaments, like the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic (www.bhcc.com) and the Kraft Nabisco Championship (www.kncgolf.com), where great weather and well-known celebrity participants attract extensive galleries. The annual two week-long tennis tournament at spectacular Indian Wells Tennis Gardens (www.bnpparibasopen.org) is one of the world’s top professional events. Four wheel drive tours and mountain hiking are always fun, but our personal favorite in the area is to visit and hike around the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (www.livingdesert.org). Since 1977, this wildlife sanctuary houses many endangered desert animals from around the world. An insider’s tip: Try to show up around 10 a.m. to see the giraffes at feeding time.
For a golf vacation, the Coachella Valley’s golf courses and resorts have reached world-class stature. Now that most hotels and restaurants stay open year-round, the valley is known as a true year-round destination. Final tip: For those of you who can handle the summer heat, packages can be found for around $100 per night at some resorts—as temperatures in the valley soar, green fees and resort rates become more reasonable. SJM
The Jacksons wrote a guidebook to the Coachella Valley in the ‘80s, and Don served as a regional advisor to Zagat covering the valley’s hotels and restaurants for seven years.