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The best courses you can play in Palm Springs

October 13, 2022

As golfers, when we get within a couple weeks of a long-awaited golf trip, we tend to anxiously reload the long-range forecast to make sure rain and cold won’t dampen the fun. Except if that trip is to Palm Springs. Averaging over 350 days of sunshine each year, the California desert’s predictable warm, dry and sunny conditions make it a popular destination for golfers. The only worry is just how hot it will be.

More than just near-perfect weather, Palm Springs offers tremendous views of the San Jacinto Mountains, which climb to over 10,000 feet and provide a picturesque backdrop for the quality desert golf. Unlike Arizona’s desert golf, where cacti-ridden sand captures nearly every shot that misses the fairway, Palm Springs’ take on the style is slightly more generous. Though the desert is present, the landing areas are often wider, with rough and bunkers grabbing wayward shots. 

To help you plan your next golf getaway to the desert, we’ve selected the best courses you can play in Palm Springs. This collection of must-plays includes past and present PGA Tour hosts, a unique under-the-lights muny and multi-course resorts that offer stay-and-play packages.

Scroll on to learn more about each course and read reviews from our course-ranking panelists. We hope you enjoy our searchable course database, Places to Play, our new hub for course reviews, experts' opinions and star ratings.

PGA West: Stadium Course
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PGA West: Stadium Course
La Quinta, CA
Originally private, the Stadium Course (the original 18 at PGA West) was among the rota of courses for the old Bob Hope Desert Classic, until some pros, objecting to its difficulty, petitioned to remove it. (It’s now back.) It's Pete Dye at his rambunctious best, with a finish mimicking his later design at TPC Sawgrass: a gambling par-5 16th (called San Andreas Fault), a short par-3 17th to an island green and an intimidating par-4 18th with water all the way to the green.
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PGA West: Nicklaus Tournament
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PGA West: Nicklaus Tournament
La Quinta, CA
This Jack Nicklaus-designed course annually hosts the first PGA Tour event in the continental U.S. each calendar year, along with PGA West’s Stadium Course and La Quinta Country Club. Surrounded by picturesque desert mountains, the championship venue is equipped with two island greens and challenging cavernous bunkers.
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PGA West: Pete Dye Mountain
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PGA West: Pete Dye Mountain
La Quinta, CA
This esteemed Pete Dye design weaves in and out of the picturesque Santa Rosa Mountains, which provide ample elevation changes and stunning visuals. The signature 16th hole—a downhill par 3 played to a trademark island green—is practically cut out of the mountainside.
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Desert Willow Golf Resort: Firecliff
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Desert Willow Golf Resort: Firecliff
Palm Desert, CA
One of the most underrated courses in the desert is the Firecliff course at Desert Willow. Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry designed 36 holes (including the Mountain course) on this flat desert floor in the Coachella Valley and moved enough earth to create some interesting holes that frame the surrounding mountains. Playability for all handicap ranges is strong, but even for the better players, the Firecliff course is a intriguing and fair test of golf.
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Classic Club
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Classic Club
Palm Desert, CA
This Arnold Palmer-designed layout used to be in the rotation for the Bob Hope tour event. Water comes into play on 14 of the 18 holes, and many holes have fairways that slope toward the water hazards, so driving the ball is at a premium. The facilities are top-notch at this Troon-managed club—including a 63,000-square foot, three-floor Tuscan-inspired clubhouse.
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Escena Golf Club
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Escena Golf Club
Palm Springs, CA

Conveniently situated next to the Palm Springs airport, Escena Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus design with tremendous views of the San Jacinto Mountains. There are a variety of holes moving in each direction with generally wide fairways and large, gently sloping greens. The strikingly modern clubhouse is the perfect place for a post-round drink and meal overlooking the mountain backdrop.

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SilverRock Resort
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SilverRock Resort
La Quinta, CA

SilverRock, formerly in the rotation for the Bob Hope tour event from 2008-2011, is set hard against the Santa Rosa Mountains in La Quinta. Water comes into play on more than half the holes on this desert layout, requiring quality ball striking. The close proximity of the mountains and the picturesque water hazards make SilverRock a uniquely scenic course.

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Indian Wells Golf Resort: Celebrity Course
Indian Wells Golf Resort is a 36-hole facility that previously hosted a season of Golf Channel’s Big Break series and as well as the Skins Game, an unofficial PGA Tour event last held in 2008. The Clive Clark-designed Celebrity course opened in 2006 and features undulating fairways, meandering streams and pristine ponds that are often connected by flowing waterfalls. A few tee shots, particularly on the back nine, can be quite demanding with narrow corridors and well-protected fairways.
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PGA West: Greg Norman Course
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PGA West: Greg Norman Course
La Quinta, CA
The Greg Norman course at PGA West is a challenging layout where the 102 bunkers provide much of the defense. As is typical of many Norman designs, the fairways are guarded not by thick rough but by sandy waste areas that often allow for a recovery shot, provided you don’t find one of the lingering bushes. Water comes into play on half of the holes, and in nearly every instance it is on the right side.
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PGA West: Pete Dye Dunes
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PGA West: Pete Dye Dunes
La Quinta, CA
Despite being in the desert, the Pete Dye Dunes course at PGA West has a links feel, with fescue-covered mounds lining many holes. At just over 6,500 yards from the tips, the course is relatively short but features narrow fairways that demand accuracy. Though not as challenging as some of the other layouts at PGA West, the Dunes course shares the scenic mountain backdrop that characterizes Palm Springs golf.
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Indian Wells Golf Resort: Players Course
Indian Wells Golf Resort is a 36-hole facility that previously hosted a season of Golf Channel’s Big Break series and as well as the Skins Game, an unofficial PGA Tour event last held in 2008. The Players course offers wide fairways but small, demanding greens protected by expansive bunkering. There is an exciting risk/reward opportunity at the short par-4 11th, where longer hitters may try and drive the green that is closely guarded by water on both sides.
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Mission Hills North: Gary Player Signature
Just a few miles from the Palm Springs airport, Mission Hills North features a Gary Player design with beautiful views of the nearby San Jacinto Mountains. The course presents wide fairways and few doglegs, allowing players to shape the ball whichever way they prefer. Though water comes into play on 11 of the 18 holes, there is often room to bail out away from trouble.
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Indian Canyons Golf Resort: South Course
Originally opened in 1961 as the private Canyon Country Club, the now-public Indian Canyons Golf Resort is a 36-hole facility set at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. Over the years, celebrities and politicians have played at Indian Canyon, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan. The property is surrounded by mountains on three sides, often shielding the courses from the wind. The South course has relatively wide fairways guarded by numerous bunkers that often have tall faces. There are plenty of palm trees lining the fairways that can cut off angles for approaches to the small greens.
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Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club
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Marriott's Shadow Ridge Golf Club
Palm Desert, CA
Six-time major champion Sir Nick Faldo had a hand in designing Marriott’s Shadow Ridge and has said of the course: “The fairways are typically generous, but our bunkering style is impressively bold.” The deep bunkers play a central role at Shadow Ridge as they not only line many fairways, but they’re often placed in the middle of the landing areas, forcing players to pick a side. This challenging resort course finishes with a strong par 4 bisected by a creek, requiring quality shots to avoid trouble.
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Heritage Palms
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Heritage Palms
Indio, CA
One of the more player-friendly options in the Coachella Valley, Heritage Palms offers expansive fairways that play through a residential community. The landing areas are generally large with a few low-lipped bunkers scattered throughout. Water comes into play on a few holes, including on the risk/reward par-5 17th, where a lake guards the right side of the landing area on the second shot. The strong finishing two-hole stretch concludes at the par-4 18th, where a creek guards the right side of the fairway before flowing into a greenside pond.
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Shadow Hills Golf Club: South
Just off I-10 in Indio, the South course at Shadow Hills offers six sets of tees ranging from 4,800-6,800 yards. The scenic layout—an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary—is lined with many deep bunkers and features intriguing greens, some of which have subtle breaks while others have more prominent slopes. In addition to the 18-hole South course, Shadow Hills has a par-3 track—the North—with four sets of tees available.
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Desert Willow Golf Resort: Mountain View
Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry designed 36 holes—the Firecliff and Mountain View courses—on this flat desert floor in the Coachella Valley and moved enough earth to create some interesting holes that frame the surrounding mountains. Mountain View, though slightly easier than Firecliff, offers similar fairway contouring and challenging green surrounds that make both courses must-plays in the California desert.
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Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort: Resort Course
Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort is a 36-hole facility conveniently located just a few miles from the Palm Springs airport. The Ted Robinson-designed Resort course is a playable and scenic layout with wide, rolling fairways. Though water comes into play on at least six holes, the landing areas are generous, often leaving plenty of room to hit driver. The signature par-3 8th—perhaps the most demanding hole on the course—plays over water to a tiny green set beside a creek.
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The Lights at Indio Golf Course
The Lights at Indio is an 18-hole par-3 course that is fully lit at night, allowing golfers to play well past sunset for a unique experience. The holes range from 110 to 240 yards, with seven holes measuring over 160 yards, providing more variety than a typical par-3 course. Though the municipal layout is relatively straightforward, the ability to play under the lights makes this a must-play in the Palm Springs area. The course also offers FootGolf, a golf and soccer combo where players kick soccer balls into 21-inch diameter cups. The Lights at Indio is designed to accommodate both golf and FootGolf simultaneously.
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Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa: North/South/West
There are three nines at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort, which can paired together in a few different ways depending on the day. All three nines are lined with palm trees and play over gently rolling terrain with dramatic mountain vistas. There are six lakes in play throughout the three nines, which serve as the courses' primary defense. Still, though, the resort course is quite playable for all handicaps.
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