Best Public Golf Courses of Palm Springs – LINKS Magazine

There are golf hotbeds around the country and then there are destinations like Palm Springs, Calif., where the label of “Golf Mecca” seems more appropriate. With close to 125 golf courses in the near vicinity, options are aplenty with accessibility extremely high.

Here’s a look at five of the best public courses in the Palm Springs area.

Pete Dye Mountain Course at PGA WEST—La Quinta

Palm Springs

Resting at the feet of the Santa Rosa Mountains, the Pete Dye Mountain Course is one of the most visually stunning courses in the California desert. Designed by Dye in 1981, the layout demands accuracy and proper placement. With close to 100 bunkers trouble lurks everywhere, though overall it’s extremely playable.

The par-three 16th serves at the Mountain Course’s signature hole. Golfers must climb a rock staircase to the tee box set at the base of the mountain to access the back tees, set at 167 yards. The view focuses your eye on a green complex surrounded entirely by rock formations and sand. It’s a desert’s version of an island hole, sans water.

Desert Willow (Firecliff)—Palm Desert


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Considered one of the top values in the Palm Desert area, Desert Willow Golf Resort features 36 holes of pristine golf. The views combined with prime conditions give the feel of a private course, but Firecliff is, in fact, public and was developed by the city of Palm Desert.

The Michael Hurzdan/Dana Fry design opened in 1997, with help from former PGA Tour pro John Cook, and forces players to navigate their way carefully around the golf course’s natural areas. Players who visit Desert Willow best sharpen their sand skills as the Firecliff course features more than 100 bunkers as well as acres of waste areas and water features.

Stadium Course at PGA West—La Quinta

Palm Springs

As the host of the PGA Tour’s American Express (along wih La Quinta Country Club), the Stadium Course provides weekend golfers with the ideal opportunity to play where the pros play. The 1986 Pete Dye design is one of six courses at PGA West and is consistently considered one of the most difficult courses in the desert, topping out at 7,300 yards with a rating of 76.1 and a slope of 150.

The course has hosted many high-profile events in addition to The American Express—the Skins Game was played at PGA West for five years and the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School is a regular at the Stadium Course. Similar to the drama Dye built at TPC Sawgrass, the Stadium course’s intensity reaches a crescendo at the par-three 17th hole. A 168-yard tee shot from the black tees will travel down to an island green surrounded by desert rocks, a small pot bunker, and an inviting pond. No wonder the hole is named “Alcatraz.” 

Escena Golf Club—Palm Springs


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Value in the golf hot bed of Palm Springs is often a tough find, but Escena Golf Club gives golfers more bang for their buck than any other public layout in the area. The 2005 Jack Nicklaus design rests at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains and is lush with natural desert landscape. The course can certainly be challenging, especially from the tournament tees measuring over 7,100 yards, but Escena provides plenty of room for average golfers to rip their driver and hit generous landing areas.

Escena also features one of the most distinctive clubhouses in the desert. The mid-century modern architecture houses the Escena Lounge and Grill with a dog-friendly patio for idyllic outdoor dining with ample vistas of the Coachella Valley.

SilverRock Resort—La Quinta

Palm Springs

Arnold Palmer’s Classic Course at SilverRock is spread out over a massive 200 acres of prime desert real estate. Owned by the city of La Quinta, the desert muni sits in the shadows of the Santa Rosa Mountains and gained notoriety when it hosted the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic from 2008­–2011.

Golfers who tee it up at SilverRock better be able to rip the big stick, as the golf course is one of the longest in the Coachella Valley. The course measures more than 7,200 yards from the silver tees with a rating of 75.0. Eight of SilverRock’s 18 holes feature water hazards which give the golf course an oasis-like feel in the middle of the desert.

What are your favorite public courses in the Palm Springs area?