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California's High Desert has travelers stopping for quality bargain golf

William K. WolfrumBy William K. Wolfrum,
Westwinds Golf Course
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Westwinds Golf Course is a nine-hole run with great desert scenery. (William K. Wolfrum/WorldGolf.com)

APPLE VALLEY, Calif. -- As long as there's been Las Vegas to travel to, Southern Californians have known about the High Desert. Located off Interstate 15 on your way to Las Vegas from California, the High Desert has long been more a curiosity and sometimes pit stop for gamblers heading to or back from Sin City. Slowly but surely, however, the area is becoming much more.

Located in the western San Bernardino County - the largest county in the United States - the High Desert is on of the fastest-growing in all of Southern California. Anchored by the city of Victorville, which is nearing a population of 100,000 after being at 65,000 in the 2000 U.S. Census, the area also includes Hesperia, Apple Valley, Lucerne Valley, Adelanto, and several other cities of varying size in all directions.

Golf has long had a foothold in this area, and low green fees make it a pleasant place to stay and play for the dedicated duffer. Add to that the fact that you are at approximately 3,500 feet above sea level, and you may see some extra distance to your drives at these High Desert courses.

The best of the High Desert

Green Tree Golf Course has a perfect location - you can see it from the I-15 - as well as a tree-lined, William Bell design that may not throw any complicated looks at you, but will challenge you nonetheless.

"It's supposed to be rated as an easy course," said Darryl Christopher of Apple Valley. "But there's just something about it. It can jump up and bite you."

Overall, the course plays to 6,643 yards from the tips with a 71.3 rating and 123 slope rating. Green fees will top out at less than $40, and the city is planning to build a new clubhouse to replace the current small, outdated one they now have. Good conditioning - especially on the greens - and friendly service make Green Tree a fine play for those looking to experience what the High Desert has to offer.

Hesperia Golf and Country Club is proof that the High Desert has not always been considered a hidden charm in southern California. The Hesperia Open Invitational was once played here, a PGA Tour event once won by Billy Casper. In fact, the course record of 62 is held by the great Gene Littler.

"Not every course has a PGA star like that holding their course record," said course manager Earl Meredith.

And not every course has aged as nicely as Hesperia G&CC has, either. A wide variety of trees create interesting obstacles that go hand-in-hand with areas of barren desert that makes accuracy from the tees a must. At 7,006 yards from the tips with a 131 slope rating, it's a course that will challenge low handicappers, but in an area where seniors dominate the golf scene, the course has done well with creating completely different looks from the white tees to give older duffers a challenge, as well.

A nine-hole course hidden close to the border between Victorville and Adelanto, Westwinds Golf Course more than makes up for its lack of size with breathtaking desert views from many of its elevated tee boxes. Built inside an old (and now closed) Air Force Base), Westwinds gives you a solid nine holes, with diverse tee box options making 18 holes a possibility. The slope rating of 121 shows its worth, and that rating can skyrocket once the desert winds kick up.

Also worth playing

Formerly known as Jess Ranch, Ashwood Golf Club was taken over by Billy Casper Golf and an extra nine-holes were added to this stylish, but small golf course that is the center of a pleasant golf community in Apple Valley. The conditioning is always top notch at this 27-hole course, and while the par 4s are relatively small, well-placed water hazards and bunkers will keep most players honest.

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Green Tree Golf Course

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.

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