Developed by the City of Palm Desert, the Desert Willow Golf Resort offers two 18-hole public access courses: Firecliff was first to appear when it debuted in 1997, followed a year later by Mountain View. Both layouts were designed by architects Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, with input from PGA Tour professional John Cook.
The Firecliff course extends to just over 7,000 yards from the back tees, featuring more than a hundred bunkers and waste areas, along with numerous water hazards. Its younger sibling, Mountain View, is a little shorter and a bit more forgiving, providing the perfect foil for the tougher Firecliff layout.
Highlight holes on the Firecliff include short par fours at the 331-yard 6th (played to a peninsula green) and 332-yard 15th (protected by a waste area to the right of the fairway) as well as an impressive par five closing hole, where water cuts diagonally across the hole then runs along the right side of the fairway to the home green.
One of the real virtues when Desert Willow opened in 1997 is that it provided a legitimate quality daily fee option for those in the greater Coachella Valley to enjoy. Sadly, much of the quality golf -- then and even now -- lies within gated communities.
When I first played the course -- not long after it opened -- I was blown away by the clear connection to the desert landscape. Unlike, so many other courses in the immediate area, which were, and remain, vastly over-watered and clearly manufactured to the point of absurdity -- Firecliff embraced more of a feel found at layouts in the Scottsdale / Phoenix area.
Credit Dr. Michael Hurdzan and his then partner Dana Fry, with a consulting effort from John Cook, in providing for a quality mixture of holes.
In returning to the course in the years since I've been bewildered that so much plant life has been allowed to grow. The authentic desert "look" I first encountered has been choked back with native areas that are overgrown and likely tied to excessive usage of man-applied water. The original vistas are now hemmed in with corridor landing areas similar to what many of the classic courses did years ago when planting an inordinate number of trees.
The layout is still quite good -- one needs to work the ball at different times in the round and the greens are varied in terms of configuration and internal contours. Credit the design team for a solid mixture of hole types so that no discernible pattern is provided.
Is Firecliff at the six (6) golf balls level? Not from the collection of courses I have played globally and from the sheer array of various courses I've played throughout the Coachella Valley. Cannot stress it enough but the overall golf experience would be enhanced dramatically if the encroachment is pulled back showcasing what made the course so special initially.
M. James Ward
The golfing experience is amazing. The course layout is excellent, the views are spectacular, course conditioning superb, and plenty of beautiful plants with so different animals to see and come across, e.g. humming birds, roadrunners, foxes, diverse colorful birds, etc. Just a must play in the Palm Desert area. Non-resident golf rates go lower after noon.