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The Golf Club at La Quinta in California: Skins Game is gone, but the soul remains

Judd SpicerBy Judd Spicer,
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Golf Club at La Quinta - hole 10
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The 446-yard, par-4 10th hole at The Golf Club at La Quinta offers an inviting, bowled fairway that steers the accurate player away from water on the right. (Courtesy of The Golf Club at La Quinta)

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Tiger Woods once stalked this golf course, as did Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstam and a pair of Freds (Couples and Funk).

It's been a spell since The Golf Club at La Quinta (formerly Trilogy) hosted the LG Skins Game from 2003-06, but the departure of Pros has left an engaging desert golf experience for the Joes.

Vestiges of Trilogy ownership remain in the forms of area signage and clubhouse decal, just as a host of management changes in recent years has found the course often working to establish firmer turf. Yet be assured that these grounds sport a present and future presence strong enough to match the memories of Woods dunking a water ball on the signature 17th in a playoff loss to Couples in 2004 or Funk donning a pink skirt after being outdriven by Sorenstam in '05.

Just as Funk would ultimately go on to win that year's Skins Game -- The Golf Club at La Quinta evidences similar fortitude.

"At one point, it used to be more of a private feel here," says Jerrick Price, first assistant head professional. "We're trying to go a little bit more of a resort. We're trying to make the homeowners feel like they're a part of an exclusive club, but we also want to cater to the outside guest that's coming into the area for a week. The guest that wants to feel, 'Tiger and Annika and Freddy Couples and Adam Scott all played here. We want to play there and see what it was like.' "

Mirroring clubhouse memorabilia tributes to the greats that once played inside the ropes here, the on-course experience pays continued homage with the presence of the "Skins" tees, which play to a formidable 7,174 yards.

"You can really see a humungous difference between those Skins tees and the Black tees -- where you don't even know where they are," Price says. "On the 10th hole, you take a 20-yard jog up a hill to get to the Skins tee."

Those not attempting a Woodsian feat will find an experience offering landing areas that are true to resort-style golf, along with putting surfaces that are generally large and inviting.

"There's some birdie holes but also some difficult holes," Price says. "But it's also a very fair test of golf. There's not a lot of tricked-out play like a lot of these new courses with four-tier greens. This is pretty much a 'get what you see' golf course."

The Golf Club at La Quinta: A par-3 paradise

The Gary Panks-designed track plays most memorable on the slightest holes. This is truly one of the Coachella Valley's most entertaining collections of par 3s.

The 173-yard sixth is a wonderfully scenic little test with water on the right and behind the green. Two holes later, the 226-yard eighth meshes length with an eye-catching downhill attempt at the green.

No. 8 also represents the beginning of an exceptional stretch of six highly playable scoring holes that present a memorable mix of water and postcard mountain vistas.

The 446-yard, par-4 10th offers an inviting, bowled fairway that steers the accurate player away from water on the right.

The ensuing 11th hole appears adorable at just 145 yards from the back tees. The deceptively undulating green, however, is no doubt what separated Skins' participants from finding red numbers. In the four years of the event, no pro ever birdied this hole.

The par 4s at Nos. 12 and 13 flesh out this brilliant run, with the former showcasing fine fairway bunkering amid a rising playing surface. The 417-yard 13th follows with water on the right of the fairway and a continued mountain showcase.

Any player with perked antennae will know that the 210-yard, par-3 17th awaits. The hole is all forced carry over water, though it features a mini bailout area to the right. This challenge counts among the region's top holes and undoubtedly inspires its daily share of collective moans and mirth.

The Golf Club at La Quinta: The verdict

"I play eight or nine courses out here in the Valley and the only one I consider to be better is SilverRock," says Greg L. of La Quinta, Calif.

Cynics may bemoan the lack of GPS and the consistent housing presence -- but those slights will only be voiced by those who stray from the ample landing areas and well-marked fairway poles. The recent history here remains rich, and solid course conditions pay tribute to a wealth of playable, engaging holes with inspired backdrops. The excellent collection of par 3s can be matched by few other courses in the region.

The Golf Club at La Quinta: Instruction and facilities

Practice facilities include driving range, chipping green, practice bunker and putting surface. Instruction is available to players of all levels.

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Judd Spicer is an award-winning, veteran freelance writer hailing from St. Paul, Minn. After 12 years of covering MLB, NBA, NCAA and the active golf landscape of the Twin Cities, he relocated to the Palm Spring, Calif. region to further pursue his golf work and Champions Tour dream. Sporting measured distance off the tee, Spicer refers to his pitching wedge as his "magic wand." Follow Judd on Twitter at @juddspicer.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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