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Three courses and 18 holes: The best on-course restaurants in Palm Springs, California

Judd SpicerBy Judd Spicer,
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Escena Lounge & Grill
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Escena Golf Club's clubhouse and restaurant: One of the Coachella Valley's most engaging scenes. (Courtesy of Escena G.C.)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- The modern player has expectations and appetites that go beyond a tee-to-green experience. A stellar meal, a sound deal and the feel of personalized service are just as important to most golfers (especially vacationers) as the condition of a club's greens.

To experience the full flavors of a Palm Springs-area golf day (or eve), here are four on-course dining establishments that are highly recommended pairings with your round:

Bellatrix at the Classic Club

The Classic Club was built to host a PGA Tour event, so it comes as no surprise that the clubhouse and restaurant that overlooks the course is nothing short of spectacular.

The Classic Club is the desert's most popular locale for group golf events, and its Bellatrix Restaurant mirrors the grandeur and attraction of these grounds. Open daily for lunch and Tuesday through Saturday for a "casually elegant" dinner setting, the views from the patio are exceptional, while the handsome indoors welcome golfers and non-players alike.

For Happy Hour (3 p.m. – 6 p.m.), take advantage of the $3 pints and an awesome cheeseburger from the $6 "Bar Bites" menu. In the eve, the Short Rib Papradelli, Seared Scallops and Pan Seared Monkfish are all highly recommended. Pair your meal with one of the area's most extensive wine lists, which boasts better than 150 selections by the bottle, highlighting California vineyards.

Escena Lounge & Grill

"Guests can enjoy great food, awesome entertainment and really, really good golf," said Escena's Executive Chef Oscar Ayala. "What more can you want? It's the whole package here."

The setting at Escena's excellent, mid-century, modern clubhouse and restaurant give off a unique desert cool that translates well to Ayala's platings. Live music and Happy Hours (Tuesday through Saturday, starting at 3 p.m.) paint one of the Coachella Valley's most engaging scenes, located at Escena Golf Club.

"I do some American fusion, but with a South American flair," Ayala said of his menu. "We keep the morning golfers with the breakfast and lunch menu, and then in the evening, we go a little further, a little more upscale."

Breakfast guests rave about the Huevos Rancheros, while lunch diners crave a post-round club sandwich on the patio. In the evening, start with an inventive cocktail from the bar's specialty menu before seguing to the chef's entrée recommendation:

"The Halibut is one of my favorite dishes on our dinner menu," Ayala said. "And it's also one of our most popular."

Club House Grille at Indian Springs Golf Club

The hymn has become as familiar to the desert airwaves as the sound of the night wind whipping through the palms: "There actually is a free lunch."

For an enjoyable round coupled with a casual setting, check out the Club House Grille at Indian Springs Golf Club, where a complimentary lunch from a select menu is included with your green fee. The immaculate setting, exceptional service, daily Happy Hour, patio seating and rows of flat screens make this an ideal choice to match sunny attitudes with a sunny day.

Morgan's in the desert at La Quinta Resort & Club

Few restaurants in all of California can provide golfers the tee-to-table experience offered by Morgan's in the desert at La Quinta Resort & Club.

"We're really big on sourcing our ingredients, and the Coachella Valley is such an amazing agricultural center that almost everything is grown locally as far as vegetables and fruits," said Morgan's James Beard award-winning Executive Chef Jimmy Schmidt. "We work with a lot of local farmers that grow for us directly and give us the first of their pick. We get the best of the best."

Open for dinner daily, a few of Morgan's in the desert's locally sourced ingredients include: figs, peppers, olives, almonds, sweet corn, prize-winning chickens, along with elements from Morgan's own on-site gardens. A relationship with local 4-H clubs further Morgan's communal flavors, partners and education.

With a background in nutrition and sporting sustenance, Schmidt's celebrated cooking philosophies and commitment to sustainability translate well to on-course management.

"Foods that have really big flavors and taste great are also high in nutritional elements, too. Our whole focus is delivering great nutrition and great flavor. They go hand in hand. Ideally, you won't just have a great meal with us; you'll also have great nutritional value when you're out playing golf."

The pioneering chef is a firm believer that good golf is born of good eating.

"Golf requires your mind, your body and your focus," Schmidt said. "What we do with the food is to replenish the nutritional values that you need for your muscles after 18 holes but also all the amino acids that are necessary for focus and your brain. You'll probably play some of your best golf after eating with us."

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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.

 
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