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.
Palm Springs is not blessed with many public courses but the two at Indian Wells are amongst the best. The Celebrity designed by Clive Clark is the shorter of the two and is fun for golfers of all abilities. The Players is longer, more demanding and has more risk and reward holes. What is unusual is how undulating The Players is which you don’t get a feel of until you get out onto the course. The opener is a good par 5, teeing off from an elevated tee the hole gets tighter as you near the small tiered green and a hazard lies in wait for the pushed approach. Hole 2 is mid length par 3 to a green well protected by bunkers. The 3rd is a fun short par 4 which is drivable with the right wind, a bunker 30 yards short of the green is deceptive as it looks green side….the green slopes heavily from back to front. Hole 4 heads in the same direction as three although slightly longer with an elevated green which adds a club to the approach. The 5th is an excellent par 4 with hazards both left and right off the tee. The tee shot is relatively tight but once the fairway is found a mid iron is needed to find this long tiered green guarded by a deep bunker on the right and huge run off on the left. Hole 6 has water down the left which pushes the player to the right side of the fairway leaving a longer approach. The 7th is straightaway par 5 which is reachable if you hit a good tee shot. Hole 8 is a very nice par 3 slightly elevated with huge bunkers on the right and a huge drop off on the left….this green also runs slightly across the player which adds to the difficulty. The 9th is another par 5 which is again reachable although the approach is tight as the green is small and water awaits the pulled shot. 10 plays downhill with cross bunkers set at around 260 yards to stop the player hitting a driver….if the player leaks the tee shot to the right side of the fairway the bunkers block the view of the green. The 11th is a fun short par 4 with water in play on the left and the right….this also has an undulating green. 12 is a shortish par 3 which plays slightly downhill with bunkers left and a run off on the right. 13 is another good hole playing uphill with bunkers right ready to collect the pushed tee shot. The second shot is rarely played from an even lie and the green is again well protected by bunkers. Hole 14 is an excellent par 5 playing from and elevated tee the player should favour the left side of the fairway which will leave a shorter second to a narrow green with another huge run off to the right. 15 plays back down towards the clubhouse and has a semi blind second shot as does 16 a well bunkered par 4 with an approach which requires some thought as the green is set well below the golfer. Hole 17 is a fun short par 3 over water with a green that gets narrower from right to left…if the pin is on the left it plays a club longer. The finisher is a cracker, a long par 4 with a generous fairway and a green guarded by a large hazard….the hazard eats into the green as it moves right which again makes choosing the correct club difficult. Both courses at Indian Wells are fun to play and always in decent condition….well worth playing if you’re in Palm Springs.
Indian Wells Golf Resort is a 36-hole facility in the Palm Spring area. Originally constructed in the 1980’s with two Ted Robinson courses, the facility was completely overhauled and in 2007 the Celebrity course designed by Clive Clark opened.
The Players Course was designed by John Fought and is quite different to the Celebrity Course. The course occupies more land, is longer and wider, and features classic bunkering reminiscent of the Melbourne Sandbelt. There are large expanses of exposed sand, and desert grasses- The Players Course has a vastly different feel to it’s sister course! According to the locals the better players prefer this course, although more visitors play The Celebrity Course.
Notable holes include: hole 6 – a long par 4 arcing around a water hazard the entire length of the hole, hole 16 – a beautifully bunkered par 4, hole 17 – a picturesque par 3 guarded by water and hole 18 – a strong par 5 with a green protected by wetlands and impressive bunkering.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
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