The Palm Springs Desert Resorts are a mecca for golfers, with 115 public, semiprivate, and private courses in the area. If you're the type who starts polishing your irons the moment you begin planning your vacation, you're best off staying at one of the valley's many golf resorts; many offer smart package deals. If, on the other hand, you like to squeeze a round of golf into an otherwise varied trip, you don't need to stay at a hotel with its own links; many courses, of all levels, are open to the public, many in Palm Springs, with others down the valley in Cathedral City, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Indio. Call ahead to see which will rent gear on short notice. To arrange tee times for all courses, call tel. 800/727-8331.
Beginners will enjoy Tommy Jacobs' Bel-Air Greens, 1001 El Cielo, Palm Springs (tel. 760/322-6062), a 9-hole, par-32 executive course that challenges golfers with water and sand traps but fosters a few confidence-boosting successes as well. Generally flat fairways and trees characterize the relatively short (3,350-yard) course. Greens fees are $20, less for a replay.
Slightly more intermediate amateurs will want to check out the Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, 1885 Golf Club Dr., Palm Springs (tel. 760/328-1005; www.tahquitzgolfresort.com), whose two diverse courses both appeal to midhandicappers. The Legend's wide, water-free holes will appeal to anyone frustrated by the "target" courses popular with many architects, while the Ted Robinson-designed Resort course offers all those accuracy-testing bells and whistles more common to lavish private clubs. Greens fees, including cart, range from $69 to $109, depending on the time of day.
The Classic Club (75-200 Northstar Resort Pkwy., north of I-10 at Cook St. exit, Palm Desert; tel. 760/601-3600; www.classicclubgolf.com) is a 7,305-yard Arnold Palmer-designed course that won critical praise from the pros at the Bob Hope Classic in 2007. Greens fees in winter are $129, which includes a cart and a driving range; summer fees are half that.
One of our favorite desert courses is the PGA West TPC Stadium Course, La Quinta Resort & Club, 49499 Eisenhower Dr., La Quinta (tel. 800/598-3828 or 760/564-4111; www.laquintaresort.com), which once received Golf magazine's Gold Medal Award for the total golf-resort experience. It's one of the most difficult courses in the U.S., and greens fees are $199 to $209. Also open for semiprivate play is the Mountain Course at La Quinta, another Dye design that regularly appears on U.S. top-100 lists. It's set dramatically against the rocky mountains, which thrust into fairways to create tricky doglegs, and its small Bermuda greens are well guarded by boulders and deep bunkers. Greens fees for nonguests vary seasonally, from $169 to $179 on weekends, including the required cart. Also at La Quinta Resort is the Pete Dye-designed Dunes Course, the (Jack) Nicklaus Tournament Course, and the (Greg) Norman Resort Course.
A complete golfer's guide is available from the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention & Visitors Authority.
Fairways & Five-Irons, Desert-Style
Two hours outside of Los Angeles in the Coachella Valley, strung like ripe dates from I-10, lie the resort cities of Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and La Quinta. This all-season golfer's paradise boasts more than 100 courses, their lush fairways and velvety greens carved from the arid desert scruff. Both public and resort/semiprivate courses range in difficulty to accommodate low-handicappers and weekend duffers alike, and every imaginable service is available nearby.
In case you'd like to sharpen your game, all the principal clubs have resident pros, and there are several schools and clinics, including the Indian Wells Golf School at Indian Wells Resort (tel. 760/346-4653), or the 1st Tee in Palm Desert (tel. 760/779-1877). If you're looking to pick up new equipment or golf attire, try Lumpy's Discount Golf, 67-625 Hwy. 111 in Cathedral City (tel. 800/553-2117 or 760/321-2437) and 46630 Washington St. in La Quinta (tel. 760/904-4911); and Lady Golf at 42-412 Bob Hope Dr., Rancho Mirage (tel. 760/773-4949).
Many fine resorts offer generous golf packages, among them Marriott's Desert Springs Spa & Resort in Palm Desert (tel. 760/341-2211), Marriott's Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage (tel. 760/568-2727), the Hyatt Grand Champions in Indian Wells (tel. 760/341-1000), and La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta (tel. 760/564-4111).
Tee times at many courses cannot be booked more than a few days in advance for nonguests, but Golf à la Carte (tel. 877/887-6900 or 760/397-7670; www.palmspringsgolf.com) will make arrangements several months earlier or construct a package with accommodations, golf, meals, and other extras. A valuable service for the budget traveler, Stand-By Golf (tel. 866/224-BOOK  or 760/321-2665; www.stand-bygolf.com) helps more than 40 area courses -- including semiprivate and resort courses -- fill their bookings by offering players a last-minute discount of 40% to 60%. You can book some courses in advance, but many tee times are for the same or next day; call between 7am and 9pm daily.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.