Living La Quinta
With five strong golf courses, fine dining and countless other diversions, California's La Quinta Resort & Club has something for everybody
His name is Jim Mahoney, but he could easily be called Mr. Palm Springs or Lord of La Quinta. Wearing a bright green sweater, yellow pants, a green glove and green-and-yellow golf shoes, he is roaming the La Quinta Resort & Club's practice area puffing a giant cigar. He'll play this morning and again tomorrow -- and the next day, and the next. "This is heaven down here," says Mahoney, a 79-year-old retired PR man who has represented everyone from Gable to Sinatra to the Stones. "It doesn't get any better than this."
He makes a great point. Guests at the club (laquintaresort.com, 800-598-3828) can choose from five courses, two of them on-site and three only a 10-minute shuttle ride away at the affiliated PGA West resort. The story goes that when Pete Dye designed the Stadium Course, ranked 89th on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses, he was asked to create the toughest course in the world. He came pretty close (it's fourth on our list of America's 50 Toughest Golf Courses). The Stadium Course also has hosted the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School and has three finishing holes that are among the most difficult you'll play. Players have come to that stretch two shots under the cut line to get their tour card and have gone home having missed it by eight. Woody Austin achieved instant legendary status by going birdie-birdie-birdie in 2002 to get his card back. Amateurs are more likely to go sleeve-sleeve-sleeve.
There is much debate over La Quinta's next-best course. In truth, all of them are strong. The Mountain Course is another Dye design that takes you through and around the Santa Rosa Mountains. The Nicklaus Tournament Course has also hosted Q school. The elevated greens require hitting approach shots from the correct position of the fairway. The Norman Course is more open, with less undulations than the Nicklaus Course, and is best played when conditions are hard and fast so you can hit shots that roll onto the greens. The Dunes Course isn't the typical diabolical Dye design. It's the sort of course where you can bring kids or other less-experienced golfers.
The courses of La Quinta and PGA West have undergone a $7.5-million renovation. At the Stadium Course, for example, workers have removed thousands of bushes originally placed as wind buffers. But the courses might be just the beginning of the face-lift. "We're looking at every inch of the property," says Davis Sezna, president of La Quinta Resort and PGA West.
Green fees at all the courses are $185 on weekdays and $205 on weekends, except for the Dunes, which charges $140 and $150. Same-day "replay" rounds cost just $49, including cart.