With 124 golf courses, Coachella Valley is a 40 mile desert valley in Southern California bounded on the west by the Santa Rosa Mountains. The village of La Quinta includes PGA West, a semi-private golf club. Known as the Western Home of Golf, PGA West hosts a PGA Tour event each February on the Nicklaus Tournament and Stadium courses.
Five Public Access courses
La Quinta Resort and PGA West offer a rich set of golfing package options as they have the same owner. Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, purchased the properties from the sovereign fund of Singapore in 2018.
Five public golf courses are available for guests of the PGA West club. Three PGA courses – Norman, Nicklaus Tournament and Stadium course. Two courses, the Mountain Course and the Dunes Course, next to the La Quinta resort nearby offer public guest tee times.
Members of PGA West have access to four private courses. The Citrus course near the resort and the Weiskopf, Nicklaus Private and Palmer courses at PGA West bring the total course menu to nine.
PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course
We visit PGA West to play the Nicklaus Tournament and Stadium courses. Sharing the same clubhouse, a cold concrete entrance belies the upcoming experience. Inside, cavernous ceilings frame portraits of past winners of the PGA Tournament held each year since 1960. Originally the Bob Hope Desert Classic, the sponsors have changed but the excitement and quality of the field has not. We “play where the pros play”.
An exceptionally large and well-stocked pro-shop with floor to ceiling glass windows welcomes you. One of our favorite dining views is the patio at Ernies Bar & Grill at the clubhouse. Gorgeous views of both the ninth and eighteenth holes of Nicklaus Tournament course are breathtaking on a warm spring day. Both greens wrap around a large water feature with “PGA West” spelled out as a colorful flowerbed across the pond. Both holes are 431-yard par 4’s with water guarding the narrow greens. It’s a great spot to watch golfers struggle.
Like most of Nicklaus’ courses beauty and drama percolate throughout the course including two island greens – a rare feature. Fairways are charitably wide with 3-5 foot mounds surrounding them. Rough is almost nonexistent – it’s slightly browned out and slightly deeper Bermuda grass. One of thousands of towering palm trees is more likely to be the impediment. The challenge is the approach shot.
Greens are generously large, but hard and fast; shots often roll off them. Elevated greens bring an added challenge when 6-12 foot grassy depressions cause recovery shots to be blind. Water and front-side bunkers that sometimes negate the bump and run shot forcing exact lofted shots.
Most holes are elegantly framed by mountains, palm trees and water. Accentuated by color, lush fairways and greens contrast with browned rough and deep blue water.
The hole at the PGA West Nicklaus Tournament course that stands out for many is number 8, a 143-yard par 3. The eighth plays over water framed by the towering Santa Rosa Mountains in the background. A wooden retaining wall fronts the green. Well-appointed townhomes and villas surround the green. Large bunkers guard it in the back.
Then there’s number 15, a 516-yard par 5. A lake on the left runs much of the second half of the hole narrowing the fairway for the big hitters. Then the fairway narrows. Most players thread a lay-up to the right for a short iron approach to an island green protected by a large front bunker.
The Stadium course at PGA West is difficult and frustrating. Golfers with limited time play the PGA West Nicklaus Tournament course. We believe the combination of challenge, beauty, and conditioning make it the best experience.
Explore other California golf courses from Quintessential Golf Magazine.