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Palm Springs' toughest golf courses will have you begging for mercy in southern California

By S. Adam Cardais,
PGA West - Stadium golf course - 17th tee
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The tee shot on the 17th at the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., can be a bear. (Mike Bailey/TravelGolf)

Picture Palm Springs and images of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin drinking martinis out by the pool at the Indian Wells Resort Hotel are often the first thing to come to mind.

But Palm Springs isn't all poolside drinks and golf courses fit for a Sunday afternoon stroll. This playground to the royalty of Hollywood's golden age has welcomed a few tracks with some serious bite over the last few decades.

"This isn't old Hollywood's Palm Springs anymore," Chris Baldwin wrote in a story for GolfCalifornia.com. "Sure, you can still find those nice and gentle courses with Palm trees galore, wide fairways and mountains at a safe distance. But in the 21st century, the Palm Springs valley has enough score crunching beasts to lay claim as one of the most He-Man (and Wonder Woman) golf destinations anywhere."

The PGA West TPC Stadium Course is without a doubt the toughest, but it's got company. Here's a quick guide to the most difficult courses in Palm Springs:

TPC Stadium Course at PGA West

Is PGA West's TPC Stadium Course the hardest play in Palm Springs? Try the hardest course, period! When designing the Stadium Course, Pete Dye was told to craft the most difficult course in the entire world. Many people think he did.

The 7,261-yard track has a slope rating of 150. But the course is more than just a bruiser. It's also a Palm Springs classic, hosting myriad international events and finding a place among Golf Magazine's "Top 100 Courses You Can Play" in the U.S.

"A dozen golfers could play it and come up with a dozen different holes that destroyed their scorecard while making them smile," Baldwin wrote. "Dye is at his best here in remembering that theater should not be sacrificed just for sheer difficulty."

Greg Norman Course at PGA West

Not to be upstaged by Dye, Greg Norman took his own shot at making the universe's most torturous golf course here. The PGA West Norman Course's sliver thin fairways, portfolio of forced carries, and never ending supply of water will beat you to a pulp, which is one reason many people hate this track: Some say it's simply too hard.

Norman's course does, however, have its moments. The 216-yard, par-3 No. 13 is a truly memorable hole with a fairway that bends toward a man-made lake. The surrounding bunkers make accuracy key.

Desert Dunes Golf Course

Desert Dunes Golf Course, a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design that stretches to nearly 7,000 yards, has a slope rating of 142. The course brings a different style to Palm Springs golf. It's full of thick, bountiful vegetation just waiting to eat up golf balls, making focus essential.

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

It's true you might get hurt playing Desert Dunes. But at least you won't feel any pain when the bill arrives. Greens fees are some of the lowest in Palm Springs.

SilverRock Resort's Arnold Palmer Classic

Designed by Arnold Palmer, SilverRock Resort weighs in at a whopping 7,553 yards. Though it was only opened in 2005, and had its share of initial conditioning problems, SilverRock is already gaining a reputation as one of Palm Springs' best, and toughest, tracks. It's got more sand than Miami Beach, so make sure to bring your wedge.

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Desert Dunes Golf Course
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