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Pete Dye, others taking Palm Springs' golf courses to new level

By S. Adam Cardais,
Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort
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Pete Dye designed a deceptively challenging track in the Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort. (Courtesy La Quinta Resort)

Pete Dye isn't the only celebrity golf architect to run amok in Palm Springs.

Dye didn't just meet his mandate in designing the PGA West TPC Stadium Course (he was only asked to create the toughest golf course in the world); his taste for tough seemed to rub off on every other architect in the area.

Robert Trent Jones Jr. manufactured a ball-gobbling monster with the shrubbery at Desert Dunes Golf Club, while Greg Norman challenged Dye head-on with his own course at PGA West.

Whether you're a low-handicapper seeking a test or a masochist in the mood for a good old-fashioned bludgeoning, the celebrity-made courses in Palm Springs will give you what you want. Here's a quick guide to some of the best.

Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort: Dye is up to his usual tricks at this relatively short 6,758-yard track nestled in the Santa Rosa Mountains. The Mountain Course may not look intimidating, but once you tee off it turns into a bully.

While everyone crowed over the mountains, Dye obsessed over making the course drill-sergeant tough," Chris Baldwin wrote in a GolfCalifornia.com review.

The Mountain Course has a 140 slope rating, and the greens, with their tilted surfaces and small landing areas, can frustrate even the best target golfer. But the surrounding mountain views make the agony worth it.

PGA West TPC Stadium Course: Not to overdose on Dye, but the Stadium Course is a must on any list of Palm Springs celebrity tracks. PGA West asked Dye to build the toughest course in the world, and many people think he did too good a job (Phil Mickelson among them).

The 7,261-yard track has a whopping 150 slope rating, the source of much of its cache. It has hosted myriad international events and is ranked among Golf Magazine's "Top 100 Courses You Can Play" in the United States.

Desert Dunes Golf Course: Robert Trent Jones Jr. comes at Palm Springs golf from a completely different angle here. Desert Dunes is full of thick vegetation that can swallow up golf balls, making focus key.

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

Desert Dunes also stands out from the Palm Springs crowd for its affordability. In a town where green fees often hit the three figures, this club charges around $50 during the holiday season.

PGA West Norman Course: Sliver-thin fairways, a never-ending plethora of forced carries and a whole lot of water make this Greg Norman design the second toughest track at PGA West - after Dye's, of course.

"Here's the difference: Dye tries to kill you at TPC Stadium. Norman only wants to beat you to a pulp," Baldwin quipped in his assessment.

But a good beating can be fun from time to time. The 216-yard, par-3 13th is a truly memorable hole with a fairway that bends toward an artificial lake. The surrounding bunkers make accuracy key.

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