Places to Play: Classic Club, Palm Desert, CA
Most of the many websites you can visit by doing a search of “golf in Palm Springs” will suggest that the area has well over 100 golf courses. I have no reason to disbelieve that number, but if anything, my guess is that it might be low. It seems every brick-walled and gated community is hiding a golf course inside, most of which you can only see from the air if you fly in to this oasis in the desert.
The aerial photo here was taken a few days ago by yours truly, unfortunately on the way OUT of town. It shows the course that has now entered my ongoing personal log of courses that I’ve played in my lifetime, at position number 307. That is NOT a ranking number, by the way, just a chronological spot. The course itself, called the Classic Club, would rank WAY up there in my rankings, and in fact, is now my #2 on a list of 12 courses that I’ve had the pleasure to play in Palm Springs, spread over five visits in 25 years.
For the record, #1 for me in the area remains Bighorn Golf Club, a mountain course on the south side of town, where they played The Skins Game for many years in the 90s.
But the Classic Club is not far behind, and it has its own pedigree, having been the host club for the former Bob Hope Desert Classic tournament for three years, about a decade ago. Designed by the Arnold Palmer Golf Design Company, The Classic Club is just a beaut, and should be on any golfer’s Coachella Valley itinerary.
And that’s saying a lot, because there’s probably no other golf destination with as many fine or just plain outstanding courses as Palm Springs. I’ll mention a few of those in a minute, but first let me give you more about the Classic Club.
While my airplane photo suggests it could be halfway to Arizona, in fact, the facility lies very centrally at the top end of Cook Street in the municipality of Palm Desert, just across the main highway that takes you to Los Angeles on the west, and Phoenix to the east.
Complimentary valet parking enables you to take a few minutes on arrival, and tour the very sumptuous Tuscan Villa clubhouse. There’s a handsome dining room that promotes itself as Bellatrix, an indigenous luncheon and dining experience, which clearly has a regular non-golfing clientele, judging by the elegant patrons we noticed there after our morning round.
The practice range, a short walk away from the clubhouse, was recently voted Best Range in the Valley, or something like that. No mistake there… you hit off grass, not divot holes… and the putting green would be welcome at Augusta, I’m sure.
The Classic Club is a daily fee facility, and that’s a good thing because it would be a shame to keep this course hidden away from appreciative local players and visitors to the area. The course measures over 7,300 yards from the tips, but since you and I know virtually nobody who plays the full course, I’m happy to report that my sons and I had a swell time playing the 6700-yard Blue tees and 6200-yard white tees, respectively. None of us played our best, but we didn’t care – we were too busy enjoying the scenery.
What’s so remarkable about clubs like the Classic, and other desert masterpieces like Shadow Creek in Nevada, is how you can lose yourself in the shades of green and ponds and surrounding vegetation, even though you know you’re in a completely man-made park in the middle of arid plains. But when man makes up his made to create something special, it’s pretty commendable what they can do with a bulldozer and some earth. My boys and I were struck that the Classic Club had no palm trees on the golf course – just a variety of mid-size pines – but generous fairways, playable rough, and lots of water, especially on the back side. It all made for a very attractive experience.
And in our view, excellent value for the price (which included a towel to take home, and a $15 voucher for refreshments on the course or in the clubhouse.)
The Classic Club is part of the extensive network of courses in the Troon Golf empire, so you can feel quite assured that it’s a first class facility. It’s not inexpensive (fees range from $109 -$150 per person at this time of year).
You can read and view more about the Classic Club at www.classicclubgolf.com.
Now, to be fair to the rest of the Palm Springs area, there are dozens of excellent public and resort courses to play. You’d undoubtedly be familiar with many of them: Mission Hills, Indian Wells, PGA West, La Quinta, Desert Willow. One of my recent favourites, by the way, is a Nicklaus design called Escena Golf Club, near the airport.
If you’re heading to Palm Springs, though, my advice is simply to visit one of the online booking services. They have ample choices, and honestly, take your pick.
It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.