An introduction to Palm Springs

If you’re looking for the best private golf courses in Palm Springs, you’ve come to the right place.

The city of Palm Springs in California is an immensely popular tourist destination located in Colorado Desert’s Coachella Valley. It was in the early twentieth century that Palm Springs rapidly became a resort destination. There were numerous hotels and golf resorts sprouting up all over the place.

The city is blessed with over 350 days of sunshine per year. Arguably one of the benefits of being in a desert location. In the early days this really was a Hollywood A-listers destination. But today you’ll find people here to enjoy the outdoors, families and of course, golfers. 

Incredible scenery surrounds Palm Springs with four magnificent mountain ranges looming ominously on the outskirts. This wild outdoors is what attracts so many hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Places like the Tahquitz Canyon within the San Jacinto Mountains, is really popular. Throughout your hike you come across a wonderful waterfall. 

This list covers the best golf courses in Palm Desert and Palm Springs.

See also: What are the best public golf courses in Palm Springs?

The best private golf courses in Palm Springs

BIGHORN Golf Club (Canyons & Mountains)

BIGHORN golf club - Photo credit Channing Benjamin
Photo credit Channing Benjamin

Right on the Pines to Palms Highway, just before you ascend up into the Santa Rosa mountains, is the uber-exclusive BIGHORN Golf Club. This is one of the highlights amongst many of the golf facilities here in Palm Springs and Palm Desert.

There are two golf courses at BIGHORN. The first is the Mountains Course, which opened in 1991 and was designed by Arthur Hills. Over the years Hills has designed and renovated a whopping 400+ golf courses. His work has taken him all across the U.S. but also internationally. 

The second course, the Canyons, opened for play in 1998 and was designed by the legendary Tom Fazio. This is another golf course architect whose stellar career has taken him all over the world. 

Both courses are top class and it is difficult to pick one as the leading light. The site gently ascends up into the mountains and throughout there is both desert landscape, verdant valleys and water hazards. 

There is also one of the most outstanding clubhouses ever built. So impressive, it is rumoured to have a price tag around the $70 million mark! A special club with two top class golf courses.

Stone Eagle Golf Club

This club’s location is on the fringes of Palm Springs and Palm Desert up in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. It is possibly the best golf course in the area, the private Stone Eagle Golf Club.

The course was designed by Tom Doak. Doak is an architect with a reputation for crafting outstanding layouts working seamlessly with the natural environment. Movement of earth is really at a minimum to preserve the natural terrain and elevations. 

At Stone Eagle, the course was routed through essentially the most barren of rocky landscape. This wild landscape is visible along the fringes of every fairway. This is definitely not a course to be having an off-day from the tee. There are dramatic elevation changes and both fairways and greens are rarely flat.

There is a slight oddity here, and that is the fact there is a 19th hole. No, I’m not talking about the clubhouse. I’m talking about a superb 151 yard par 3 which is an absolute peach. It was designed to either settle unfinished bets, or can be used as a warm up hole. Either way, it is a dramatic little par 3 which is a whole lot of fun.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Temecula, California?

Vintage Club (Mountain & Desert)

Vintage Country Club, Palm Desert, California - Photo credit Adam Harrison - resized
Photo credit Adam Harrison

This is by far and away one of the most exclusive country clubs in the country. Even on their website they state they are ‘ultra-exclusive’. 

The Vintage Club is tucked away at the base of Eisenhower Mountain in a natural cove. We’re right within the golfing heartland of Indian Wells.

There are two outstanding golf courses onsite, both designed by the father and son duo of George and Tom Fazio. 

Like at Bighorn, there is much debate as to which of the two courses here deserves the plaudits. As much as I enjoy a Top 100 ranking, maybe, just maybe, they’re as good as each other?

Regardless of where you stand with this, in 2015 both courses enjoyed significant investment. The project to remodel was overseen yet again by another father and son combo, Tom and Logan Fazio. They did such a good job on the Mountain course, it was voted ‘2015 Best New Redesign’ by Golf Digest. 

The club was recently recognized as the n#1 club in California. It was also considered the third most prestigious private country club in the country by Platinum Clubs of America.

The Vintage Club really does set the standard. This is without doubt the pinnacle of what is to be expected from a private golf club. 

Eldorado Golf Club

An iconic course in Indian Wells at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Eldorado has a rich and fascinating history. 

The 792-acre fruit-growing plot of land was actually won in a poker game. The winner was a man called Farmer Page (not an actual farmer!), with the land eventually becaming Eldorado Country Club.

Bob McCulloch was commissioned to design the original layout. Not long after debuting, the course was chosen to host the 1959 Ryder Cup. It was the legendary Sam Snead who captained the US team who saw off the British 8.5 to 3.5. 

Over the ensuing years it was also the host venue to the Palm Springs Invitational Golf Classic. None other than Mr. Arnold Palmer won here, a record five times.

Fast forward to today, and the course we have now is fundamentally a different course. Tom Fazio was engaged to upgrade and modernise  it, to which he then proceeded to demolish the course to completely rebuild it. 

Extensive water features and sizable landscaping were added, fairways were completely rerouted, bunkers rebuilt, literally everything. The course today is in pristine condition, as you would expect from a supremely private member’s club. 

See also: What are the best public golf courses in San Diego, California?

Tradition Golf Club

Photo credit Channing Benjamin

As a Platinum Club of America, you can be assured of playing an absolute peach of a golf course. You also know you’ll enjoy premium service and amenities at Tradition Club.

The experience starts as soon as you turn into the drive. With mature palms lining the elegant avenue, you get a sensation you’ve arrived at somewhere special.

Like many of the courses within Palm Springs and Palm Desert, there is an omni-present backdrop of towering mountains. Regardless of whether you’re on the front or back nine, the mountains are a constant. Another constant is the natural desert landscape which contrasts the beautiful wildflowers and indigenous vegetation. 

Tradition Club was designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay and opened for play in 1997. The course features dramatic elevation changes, stunning water features, bunkers with Augusta-like white sand and rapid greens. The condition here is impeccable and the fairways are carpet like. 

Unfortunately the only way to play is being a member’s guest. 

The Madison Club

The Madison Club - Palm Spring - Photo credit Travis McAlister
Photo credit Travis McAlister

Madison Club is the modern interpretation of one of California’s classic old school country clubs. It is one of the most exclusive country clubs and private residential communities in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area.

The club prides itself on the first-class service and top class amenities. But most importantly, the superb Tom Fazio designed 18-hole championship layout. 

The course is in immaculate condition. When teeing off or hitting approach shots, you’ll be circumnavigating gently rolling fairways or greens with subtle elevations.

We’re right in the desert, dry Coachella Valley. Yet despite this, there is ample water with many holes literally flanked from top to bottom by water. 

The clubhouse is wonderful and the proshop is full of top range premium brands. Even on the driving range you have Pro V1 range balls. This is a first class club, but uber private.

See also: What are the best public golf courses in Los Angeles, California?

The Quarry at La Quinta

Yet another course nestled deep into the foothills of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains. The Quarry course is literally surrounded on all sides by barren desert land. 

On this wonderful plot, the task fell to the reputable Tom Fazio, to work seamlessly with the existing topography. He was tasked to design a course that was both intriguing and challenging. All this and still make the course accessible to all levels of golfer!

Elevation changes play a massive role in the ongoing challenge. This is particularly noticeable as the course ascends over 300 feet throughout the 18 holes.

As an abandoned mine it is not unsurprising to have these elevation changes. But Fazio masterfully ensured many of these preexisting features were strategically included in the layout.

There is an abundance of lush scenery. Native plants as well as small creeks run through the site ensuring the course has become a sanctuary for wildlife. If you get the chance, you really have to play here.

PGA West (Nicklaus Private)

PGA West, Palm Springs, California - Photo credit Jason Dawson
Photo credit Jason Dawson

The PGA West golf complex is a mecca of golf. There are nine golf courses all operated by the same management company. Five are resort courses open to the public (see the La Quinta Resort (Mountain) review above) as well as four members only courses. 

One of these members-only courses is the outstanding Nicklaus Private course. A good many years ago it was ranked as one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the World.

Times have moved on a bit and this may no longer be the case. But at least this gives you an idea of how highly regarded and rated this course was.

From the back tees the Nicklaus Private course stretches to just under 7,000 yards. Not ridiculous in the modern day, but the slope is 146. This is definitely one of the more challenging courses on offer in Palm Springs. 

There are elevated tee boxes, sunken fairways, hugely contoured greens and sharp doglegs. On top of that, there is a huge amount of water. One of the great golf courses in Palm Springs.

What is the best golf course in Palm Springs?

The best golf course in Palm Springs is the superb Quarry course at La Quinta. It is located in the San Jacinto and Santa Rose Mountains and was designed by the legendary Tom Fazio.

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