Nestled in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, surrounded by the Santa Rosa Mountains, the PGA West golf facility in La Quinta extends to around 2,000 acres, encompassing half a dozen 18-hole layouts that have all been in operation since the late 1990s.
Designed by five different golfing greats – Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf and Greg Norman – these six courses are served by three clubhouses, with the Private Clubhouse serving members who play the Palmer, Nicklaus and Weiskopf Private courses.
The Nicklaus Private course was unveiled in 1987 and it was used between 2008 and 2014 as one of the venues for what was formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic event on the PGA Tour’s early season calendar. Rated the toughest of the three private courses at PGA West, this Golden Bear design offer golfers a really captivating game of golf.
Notable holes on the front nine include the 414-yard 2nd (which is routed around the Coachella Canal) and the strongly sand-protected 167-yard 7th, The 530-yard 16th (where the green is very narrow and distorted) and the 455-yard water-fringed 18th are the pick of the holes on the inward half.
Be forewarned -- the Nicklaus Private is not meant for those with double-digit handicaps. The course has plenty of hard edges to the actual layout. What I mean by that is crazy bounces can happen and it pays to favor a conservative style for the purposes of one's sanity and your ball budget.
There's little question the Nicklaus Private has a far different look than all the other layouts at this massive complex. The contrasts are noticeable and the routing is quite good -- constantly moving one around and forcing to deal with different wind directions when present.
The tee-to-green dynamic is the heart of the layout. Unfortunately, the greensites, while good, do not have a range of situations from bold to subtle.
This is one of those courses that can clearly create major separation based on one's handicap and for that reason I see the lack of elasticity being one of the drawbacks for what is a course that clearly doesn't suffer fools gladly. Be forewarned.
M. James Ward