An introduction to Palm Springs

In this blog post, we take a look at the best public golf courses in Palm Springs. This is an immensely popular destination in sunny California, maybe something to do with the 350 days of sunshine per year!? 

In the Colorado desert’s Coachella Valley, is where we find the city of Palm Springs. This is one of California’s most popular tourist destinations, and one which was a Hollywood A-listers destination in its early days.

Today the city attracts families and outdoor enthusiasts, whilst golf is very much one of the central attractions. 

There are many great golf courses in Palm Springs, yet this time we’re going to look at those golf courses accessible to the public.

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

Best for…

GroupsLa Quinta Resort & Club at PGA West (Mountain Course)
Value for moneyEscena Golf Club
ClubhouseEscena Golf Club
ViewsDesert Willow Golf Club

The best public golf courses in Palm Springs

RankGolf Courses
1La Quinta Resort & Club at PGA West (Mountain Course)
2Desert Willow Golf Club (Firecliff)
3Classic Club
4SilverRock Resort
5Escena Golf Club
6Indian Wells Golf Resort (Players)
7La Quinta Resort & Club at PGA West (Stadium Course)
8Eagle Falls Golf Course
9Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Club
10Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa
Table showing the best public golf courses near Palm Springs

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1. La Quinta Resort & Club at PGA West (Mountain Course)

Mountain Course, La Quinta, Palm Spring, California
Photo credit La Quinta Resort & Club

The 5* La Quinta Resort and Club is one of the most popular golf resorts in Palm Springs.

There are five golf courses onsite, designed by some of the great names in golf. Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus being two of those greats. 

But the Mountain Course, arguably the finest of the publicly accessible courses, was designed by Pete Dye. 

Dye is the inspiration behind so many great golf courses. These include TPC Sawgrass in Jacksonville, the Ryder Cup hosting Whistling Straits on Lake Michigan and the PGA Tour venue of Harbour Town Golf Links in South Carolina.

The Mountain Course at PGA West is located right at the base of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains. The views are exceptional, rugged and dramatic. 

This track, as to be expected with a Dye layout, is no pushover. Relatively narrow fairways, well-protected greens with pot bunkers dotted all over the place. And despite being in the desert, expect to circumnavigate water on more than a few occasions.

2. Desert Willow Golf Club (Firecliff)

Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Springs, California

Just minutes away from Palm Springs, nestled between Frank Sinatra Drive and Country Club Drive, is Desert Willow Golf Resort. 

There are two championship golf courses onsite, the Firecliff and the Mountain View Course. Both are good fun, but the Firecliff is a step above. Not just a step above the Mountain View course, but without doubt one of the best public golf courses in Palm Springs.

It was designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, and opened for play in 1997, just before the Mountain View course opened. This is exceptional and beautifully manicured golf. 

From the back tees it is a beast at over 7,000 yards. The fairways are generous but any stray shots will be engulfed by native areas of overgrown plant life, various waste areas or water hazards.

The Firecliff course has earned much acclaim, having been ranked by Golfweek Magazine as one of the Top 20 Best Golf Courses you can Play in California.

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

3. Classic Club

Classic Club, Palm Springs, USA

Literally skirting the Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge, is the Audubon-certified Classic Club. This is a pretty special place, an oasis of golf surrounded by desert. 

Unlike the vast majority of public golf courses in Palm Springs, Classic Club is on the eastern side of the Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway. In a way this means it is still close to everything, but not constricted by the formulaic quadrant road layouts.

Classic Club is an Arnold Palmer design, and without doubt one of Palmer’s finest outputs. The condition is exemplary and there are a whooping thirty acres of water hazards on site! 

This means a premium is placed on ensuring you are driving the ball straight. The fairways are generous in places, but with 13 of them featuring water, this is not for the faint hearted. For those looking to avoid the water, the other side of the fairway will be no safer, with rows of bunkers in play.

From 2006 to 2008 the Bob Hope Classic was hosted here, another fine testament to the quality of this public offering.

4. SilverRock Resort

Silverrock Resort, Palm Springs, California

From one Arnold Palmer designed golf course to another, SilverRock debuted in 2005. The course is owned by the city of La Quinta and leapt onto the golfing scene having been chosen as the host venue for the Bob Hope Classic from 2008 to 2011.

The course is sprawled out across 200-acres of rugged landscape with the Santa Rosa Mountains a mere errant drive away. 

Like Classic Club, Palmer has excelled himself here. This is anything but predictable and one of the most enthralling public golf courses in the Greater Palm Springs area. 

It is also one of the longest tracks in the city, with from the back tees the course stretching to just under 7,600 yards. There is plenty of movement and some stunning par-3s ensuring club selection and strategy are critical.

The natural beauty of the site contrasts the massive native bunkers and waste areas that are to be found lurking. A slight oddity is the Coachella Canal intersecting the site. But even this eye-sore doesn’t detract from the awesome golf on offer. 

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

5. Escena Golf Club

Escena Golf Club, Palm Springs, California
One of the most northern public golf courses in Palm Springs, Escena Golf Club is conveniently located next to the Palm Springs International Airport.

A round of golf here is a sensory feast. The towering San Jacinto Mountains on one side, an abundance of palm trees, dramatic waterscapes and all this in a rugged desert landscape. 

Escena is regularly voted as one of the top public golf courses in the region. actually ranked Escena golf club as the 6th best public golf course in California. That might be a little generous, but what can’t be denied is the class on offer here.

It is a Nicklaus Design layout and as you would expect, there is a real strength in the design. Wide undulating greens, pristine water features and strategically placed bunkers all come into play.

If you’re feeling confident, the back tees play to nearly 7,200 yards although there are four sets of tees to choose from. This is a driver’s course, with generous landing areas allowing space to breathe.

Not just one of the best value tracks on offer, but arguably one of the finest clubhouses. The mid-century modern masterpiece is a wonderful place to relax post-round, ideally with something cold to sip.

6. Indian Wells Golf Resort (Players)

Indian Wells Golf Club, Palm Springs, California

This 36-hole golf resort is one of the most popular in Palm Springs and for good reason. 

The location is perfect, right in the heart of everything and a 25 minute drive from Palm Springs International airport. To the south of the resort is the imposing Eisenhower Mountain whilst in the distance you have views of the San Jacinto, Santa Rosa and San Bernardino mountain ranges.

The accommodation onsite is also top class with the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa and the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort good options.Fortunately the golf holds up too, with the Players course just piping the Celebrity course as the one-to-play. 

It was designed by John Fought and opened for play in November 2007 to high acclaim. OF the two courses, it is without doubt the more challenging of the two. For starters it is around 350 yards longer and requires more thought.

The Players occupies far more land than its sister course, but couldn’t be more different. The fairways are wider but there are also vast expanses of waste areas to avoid. The fairways feature far more movement with sizable undulations and classic bunkering prominent throughout. 

Some may recognise the layout having hosted the PGA’s Skins Game and the Golf Channel’s Big Break. This really is the place to come for public golf in Palm Springs.

See also: What are the best golf resorts in Palm Springs, California?

7. La Quinta Resort & Club at PGA West (Stadium Course)

La Quinta - Stadium Course - Photo courtesy of La Quinta Resort & Spa
Photo credit La Quinta Resort & Club

Following on from Pete Dye’s Mountain Course, comes the Stadium Course also at La Quinta Resort & Club. It is yet another Pete Dye designed masterpiece and opened back in 1986. 

It is one of the most challenging layouts in Palm Springs topping out at 7,300 yards and having a rating of 76.1 with a slope of 150. This is no pushover and possibly one of the reasons the PGA Tour chose the Stadium course to host its Desert Classic Golf Tournament.

The Mountain course is definitely a course for low-handicappers and unless you want to have a very long day, it would be one to avoid if your handicap is over 18. 

As you would expect the condition is superb and there are some iconic holes. Personal favorites include the short 2nd hole, a par 4 where precision off the tee is crucial to set yourself up for the right approach to the tricky undulating green. 

Likewise the 17th, named Alcatraz, is a par-3 surrounded by water, a carbon-copy of Dye’s iconic creation at TPC Sawgrass. This is not for the faint-hearted and another where you can follow in the footsteps of the pros.

8. Eagle Falls Golf Course

Eagle Falls Golf Course, Palm Springs, California

One of the newest creations in Palm Springs, Eagle Falls opened for play in 2005 and was designed by Clive Clark. 

This is the same Clark who designed the hugely popular Celebrity course at Indian Wells Golf Resort. Yet with Eagle Falls he’s taken a sizeable step up in quality of output. In the short time Eagle Falls has been open, it has already built up a strong cult following as one of the best value places to play.

Not only is it good value, but it is great fun. There are elevated tee boxes, tiered greens, rolling fairways and sculpted bunkers. Water comes into play on a few occasions topped off by a dramatic waterfall on the 18th. 

It is not overly long, with from the back tees the yardage just over 6,700. It is clear Clark wanted to create something which was visibly appealing and enjoyable for all levels. And he’s done this without compromising on the design quality.

The course is owned by the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino which has a hotel and a number of other facilities onsite.

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

9. Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Club

Shadow Ridge is Nick Faldo’s first golf course design to open in the U.S. and this is a pretty impressive statement. 

This is a resort course located on the grounds of the laid back, condo-style villas operated by Marriott. Yet despite this, at no point do you feel constricted by encroaching residential properties. In fact quite the opposite, there is space aplenty. 

The design of the course was done in partnership with Schmidt & Curley and really paid dividends. On one hand you have decades of golf course architectural experience in Schmidt & Curley. Whilst with Faldo you have the mind and inspiration of one of the greatest golfers to play the sport. 

Faldo shared the fact he was inspired by the great sandbelt courses of Australia to create Shadow Ridge. As such there are vast contoured bunkers and lots of them! On nearly every hole you need to plot your way through them.

There is a real diversity of holes and this keeps things interesting. Likewise, greens are often well-defended putting a premium on your approach play. 

10. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Golf 1, Palm Springs, California

Not far away from the popular Indian Wells Golf Resort, is Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa. 

This is yet another incredibly popular choice for golfing trips to Palm Springs. It mixes luxury accommodation with top class amenities including a 20,000 square foot spa, 23 tennis courts, a lazy river…you name it.

From a golf perspective there are 27-holes on site designed by Ted Robinson. Robinson is well-known for some of his other projects including The Phonenician in Scottsdale, Arizona and Whistling Rock in South Korea.

The three loops of nine are called the North, South and West courses. Each features palm-tree lined fairways, stunning mountain vistas and gently rolling terrain. This is classic California desert golf. 

The 6,400 yard layout winds its way through the elegant resort whilst at no point becoming too challenging. Six lakes come into play adding to the overall setting. This is good resort golf.

What is the best public golf course in Palm Springs?

The best public golf course near Palm Springs is the Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Spa PGA West. It was designed by Pete Dye and is located in the foothills of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains.

How many public golf courses are there in Palm Springs?

In Palm Springs there are 2 public golf courses. But when people refer to Palm Springs, they inevitably mean the Greater Palm Springs area, which is home to around 90 golf courses of which 41 are accessible to the public.

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