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High-flying Palm Springs golf is just a short ride from the airport

By S. Adam Cardais,
Escena Lake View
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A view of the mountains surrounding the Escena Golf Club, a great course located just east of the Palm Springs International Airport. (Courtesy of Escena Golf Club)

For many of the celebrities who vacation in Palm Springs, the desert golf playground is just a short private-jet ride from home. The rest of us, however, are going to be touching down at Palm Springs International on a commercial airliner

But whether you're a famous name with your own plane and an entourage to fill it or just an average duffer, you won't have to travel far from the airport to find great golf. Top plays like Desert Dunes Golf Course and Escena Golf Club are just minutes away.

So if you're passing through Palm Springs and have some time to spare, don't even think of wasting it at the airport. Get out into the fresh air and get your blood flowing again at one of these great courses.

Desert Dunes Golf Course

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Desert Dunes Golf Course is about 10 minutes from the airport. Jones takes a different approach to Palm Springs golf, filling the track with thick flora that can swallow balls like a whale scooping plankton off the ocean floor. Focus is essential here.

Jones' design "has enough desert vegetation to make you think they injected steroids into these bushes," Chris Baldwin wrote in a GolfCalifornia.com review. "They're thick, thorny, twisty, rocky monsters that seem to feed on golf balls."

But there's good news. Not only is this one of the best courses in the Coachella Valley, it's one of the best-priced. In a region where green fees often hit three figures, Desert Dunes charges around $50 during holiday season.

Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort

The La Quinta Resort and Club is only a 30-minute drive from Palm Springs International. La Quinta's Mountain Course is a deceptive Pete Dye design, relatively short (6,758 yards) but packing a serious punch.

The golf course has a daunting 140 slope rating, and the greens, with their small landing areas and severe tilts, can frustrate even the best target golfer. Fortunately, the surrounding views of the Santa Rose peaks make it worth the agony.

Cimarron Golf Resort, Pebble Course

The 3,152-yard, par-3 Pebble Course at Cimarron Golf Resort is only minutes from the airport and a great choice on a layover. Though it's a short track, John Fought didn't design any pushover here.

The bunkering and elevated greens make it seriously challenging, and Cimarron has a lot of variety for a par-3 - each hole has a unique feel.

Escena Golf Club

Just east of the airport, Escena Golf Club opened in November 2006. After taking 20 years from conception to construction, the course quickly won kudos from local golf aficionados.

The 7,173-yard track is a product of the Nicklaus Design team, though the Golden Bear was never actually on site. It's not the most challenging golf course in the area, but it will test your skills when those strong desert winds start playing right into your shots - especially on No. 1, which at 611 yards is daunting enough without the gusts blowing into your face.

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Desert Dunes Golf CourseLa Quinta Resort and Club - Mountain Course
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