Indian Wells Golf Resort originally boasted a couple of Ted Robinson-designed courses (The East and The West) which were set out in the mid-1980s across land once owned by Bob Hope’s sons, with both layouts sharing fabulous views of the Santa Rosa Mountains.
Twenty years later, the golfing component at the resort underwent an extensive makeover when all thirty-six holes were replaced by two new 18-hole courses. The first to appear was Clive Clark’s Celebrity course in 2006, followed by the Players course a year later.
Designed by John Fought, the Players course lies mostly to the north of the grassed-over Whitewater drywash which runs through the property, playing longer and tougher than its slightly older stablemate.
Highlight holes include par fives at the 552-yard 7th and 626-yard 9th on the front nine, whilst the water-laden short par four 11th and semi-blind, right doglegged 13th are among the more memorable holes on the inward half.
It's hard for to reconcile how the Players Course gets so little attention. Architect John Fought is quite talented and his work at other locations has produced some seriously good design. The Players Course is one of two courses at the municipally owned layout. The Celebrity Course got the initial fanfare since it served as a host site for the now defunct Skins Game Matches.
The course opened in November 2007 and when played from the Cabernet tees the course weighs in at over 7,300 yards and to a par-72. The level of design details is quite extensive and Fought has made it a point to never provide for pedestrian holes. The Players Course has various options when playing holes but there's never a dull moment or one where the situation is simply not doable unless your name is Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka.
So much of the golf that occupies the broader Coachella Valley is a comparable to the hamburgers at McDonald's. The product is simply to have more holes -- not necessarily better ones.
The opening hole is a par-5 and for many the thought of making a quick birdie will enter one's mind. Fought created a sloping fairway from left-to-right which is well defended by two bunkers in the drive zone. A solitary bunker guards the right side of the green. Strong players might be able to reach the green in two blows, but for those who can't -- the possibilities for a hitting a wedge approach close is present.
But be forewarned -- what the Players Course may provide at the 1st it can easily take it back and more so at the long par-3 2nd. Long par-3's are often eschewed by many architects but Fought demonstrates how such holes have a clear place in truly identifying the gifted ball strikers and all the pretenders.
Fought excels in constantly moving hole types around -- there's also the overall "look" the course conveys. Fought has created a slew of different bunker types -- they weave with different shapes and the placements can be quite vexing. A good example is the excellent cross bunker at the 10th. Players have to be keenly aware of placement -- getting the right angles into the flags -- because knowing how to work the ball from either side and with the correct trajectory are constant items at the Players Course.
For those enamored with sampling courses from the extreme back tees -- be forewarned. The Players Course is unforgiving with errant tee shot play. There's sufficient room in the fairways but constant foul balls are quickly rejected. The key when playing is know your limitations -- Fought's design does reward quality play -- he does not give it away with mediocre or worse executions.
The Indian Wells Resort is a remarkable complex and often times it amazes me how other locations in the Coachella Valley reap more attention. The Players Course certainly delivers and if you call yourself a serious golfer be sure to head here when in the area. You won't be disappointed.
by M. James Ward