Sign of the (hard) times

December 23, 2009

The heady days of unrestricted golf course development in in the Coachella Valley east of Los Angeles (otherwise known as the Palm Springs area) have vanished, eradicated by a difficult economy that has impacted even the affluent who transformed this desert into a winter wonderland for golfers.

Veteran Desert Sun golf writer Larry Bohannan noted today that more than three years have passed since a golf course last opened there (though one re-opened, Escena Golf Club in Palm Springs, after going dark for two years).

"The problem is that most new courses in the desert over the last 20 years have been driven by real estate," Bohannan wrote. "That is either home sales or condos or time shares or even hotels. When the real estate market started to hit the skids in the desert, so did golf course development."

Bohannan said that several new courses are stalled in the proposal stage, each tied to real estate sales, and predicted that no new courses would open for another five years at least.

Meanwhile, Stone Eagle, a high-end private club in Palm Desert, had a notice of default filed it against it earlier this year, a stark symbol of the decline of affluence flowing into the area.

-- John Strege