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Palm Springs golf goes natural with home-free courses

By S. Adam Cardais,
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Green is the only thing you'll see when playing Palm Spring's real-estate-free SilverRock golf course. (Chris Baldwin/GolfPublisher.com)

Back in the 1960s, when golf courses across the country went into a frenzy of lining their fairways and greens with condos and homes, Palm Springs set the pace.

Today the Southern California desert mecca could be considered "the king of the golf-course condo," as TravelGolf.com senior writer Chris Baldwin put it. It's nearly impossible to find a course that doesn't resemble a residential neighborhood.

But if you're a purist looking to pit yourself against nature sans the sounds of lawnmowers and afternoon barbeques, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Palm Springs has several uncorrupted tracks, and they're all a pleasure to play. Here are three of the best.

Desert Dunes: This Robert Trent Jones Jr. design is only 15 minutes from downtown Palm Springs, but it may as well be in a world of its own.

"The mammoth clubhouse looks like somebody's 1970 ski lodge, but there isn't another building around. As far as the eye can see," Baldwin wrote in a GolfCalifornia.com review. "That isn't just unusual in Palm Springs golf. It must be against the golfing-meccas charter."

Fitting in isn't one of Desert Dunes' aspirations. The course shares little in common with other desert designs, full as it is with thick vegetation grown with the express purpose of inhaling golf balls. It also stands out from the Palm Springs crowd for affordability: In a town where green fees often hit the three figures, this club charges around $50 during holiday season.

SilverRock: Opened in 2005, this Arnold Palmer design is not easily forgotten.

"SilverRock is as determined to leave an impression as a comedian is to get a laugh," according to Baldwin's review. "[It] goes for the gusto hole after hole after hole, alternately taking you in with the scenery and leaving you wobbly kneed over your next shot."

More than 7,500 yards of sand-filled terrain, SilverRock is gaining a reputation as one of the toughest tracks in a town known for raising the color indicator on those thumb-press stress evaluators to the black. Despite some conditioning flaws, SilverRock is well on its way to becoming one of Palm Springs' best.

Classic Club: Opened last year, essentially to help host the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, this par-72 course measures a serious 7,305 yards from the black tees. It was designed by the Arnold Palmer Company and has a rolling terrain filled with pine, olive and pepperwood trees.

There are no houses on it yet, though it is near a major highway. Several elevated tees provide exceptional views of the surrounding mountains.

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