The PGA Tour’s CareerBuilder Challenge event (once known as the Bob Hope Classic) used both the Nicklaus Tournament course (featuring two island greens) and Pete Dye’s TPC Stadium course at PGA West to co-host the championship in 2016.
Daniel Wexler commented as follows in the Palm Springs Area Golf Guide: “Also opening in 1986 was the Nicklaus Tournament course, another big (if occasionally overcooked) facility which would surely garner more attention were it not situated immediately adjacent to the Stadium.
Water is actually used somewhat sparingly here (it meaningfully affects only six holes) though with the exception of dry entries like the 549-yard 4th, the 364-yard split-fairway 6th and the 528-yard 11th, it is the primary factor on most of the layout’s more memorable tests.”
Not to be confused with the Nicklaus Private course right next door in the PGA West complex, the Nicklaus Tournament course is open to the public and shares its clubhouse with the Stadium course. (Nicklaus Private, on the other hand, shares its clubhouse with the Palmer Private and Weiskopf Private courses. Got it? Good.) Of the three courses I played at PGA West (the other two being Stadium and Palmer Private), I put Nicklaus Tournament squarely in the middle in terms of my ranking. It’s better than most resort-style courses, but not quite world-class.
I did enjoy this course a bit more than most other Jack Nicklaus designs that I’ve played. There are some particularly good risk-reward opportunities on nearly all of the par fives and many par fours, and with enough creativity and visual deception on most of the other longer holes to make them interesting as well. The hole corridors were wide and fairly forgiving with most holes featuring mounds that guide balls back into the short grass. With one exception at #8, however, the par threes were a bit underwhelming.
Holes I liked: #5, a fun short par four with a split fairway; #8, a par three over a pond with a deceptively oddly-shaped green; #9, a long dogleg right par four that features a pond playing somewhat against the grain, long and left on one’s tee shot; #11, a reachable par five with a wide fairway and small green that allows for myriad options on one’s approach; #15, a long par five featuring a very narrow green on an island; and #16, a quirky and well-bunkered long par four.
Frankly, the beautiful climate in the Coachella Valley in early spring is sheer perfection for golf; 90 degree highs with very low humidity and nary a cloud in sight frankly could not be more pleasant. The low humidity provided a bonus on this day, as while playing #18 I elected to try and hit my ball that was nearly completely submerged in very shallow water down the right side of the hole. I did manage to advance it about 20 yards into the rough, but at great cost to the dryness of my shirt and shorts. Fortunately, due to said lack of moisture in the air (and Nike Dri-Fit fabric), I was completely dry by the time I walked off the green having salvaged a bogey. Try that on a soggy Midwest summer day, I dare you!
Played March 14, 2014
I can’t believe how low on this list the Nicklaus tournament course appears. I actually preferred it to the PGA West Stadium course. Best of the public offerings at PGA West.
The Nicklaus Tournament course opened in 1987 and is well known to golfers world wide as it hosted a number of events over the years which were televised. Most notably it co hosted the Bob Hope Classic (now called the Career Builder Challenge), and prior to that the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in 1992 & 93. It continues to be the bi annual host to the final round of the PGA tours Q school.
The course is somewhat forgiving off the tee, with difficult approaches protected by sand and water. Although the Tournament course is a little overshadowed by the more famous Stadium course, they have a lot of similarities. And like the Stadium course it is the water holes that stay in the memory banks.
PGA WEST- Nicklaus Tournament Course should be a mainstay of any golf trip to Palm Springs. Don't miss it!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.