Category: Palm Springs

February 24, 2011

Ask Travelin' Joe: Grand Caymans, Tampa and Palm Springs

Posted at 3:05 PM by Joe Passov

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Worldwoods Dear Joe,
First off, I love reading your articles. I am heading to Tampa to visit a buddy who recently moved. Any recommendations for nice places to play? We are looking to play 36 one day and 18 the following.
Neal Shaughnessy
Chicago, Ill.

The ultimate 36-hole day in Tampa is the Copperhead and Island duo at Innisbrook Resort ( Copperhead has played host to the PGA Tour since 2000 and Island is where Phil Mickelson captured the 1990 NCAA Championship. However, access is only guaranteed if you book a stay.

For purely public putters, take the 50-mile drive north to World Woods (352-796-5500, and revel in one of the greatest golf playgrounds on the planet. Tom Fazio designed both courses here, Pine Barrens (pictured), which checks in at No. 18 in our Top 100 Courses You Can Play, and Rolling Oaks, which rolls out width, hardwoods and hazards that conjure up Augusta National—at least somewhat. Best of all, World Woods’ 36-hole rates form one of golf’s best bargains. In mid-summer, it’s only $94 to play them both, while even in the height of prime time—now—it’s only $178. Toss in a 9-hole executive course and the greatest practice facility in golf, a 22-acre, 4-sided wonder, and you’ve got one superior day of golf.

For one final round near town, tackle the TPC Tampa Bay ($99-$159; 813-949-0090, in Lutz, the popular site of a Champions Tour event since 1992, whose flattish terrain is laced with lakes and wetlands.

One of the best values around is Bardmoor ($60-$90; 727-392-1234,, former home to the PGA/LPGA Mixed Team Championship, where you can walk in fairways once trod by Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples and Tom Kite for $60 after 1 pm.

Hello Joe,
Longtime reader of your articles, first time to ask for your help. Going to the Grand Caymans in two weeks with my clubs and a buddy and was told there isn’t any real golf down there. Since I didn’t set up the trip, I need your help to find some courses, if any, to play. Have you been there and are people steering me wrong?
Jeff Lee
Blue Bell, Pa.

As with so many islands in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman is less than grand when it comes to golf. Simply put, it’s a mixed bag. If you crave the novelty of teeing it up amid balmy breezes and eye-catching scenery, Grand Cayman works fine. If you’re seeking quality and quantity—and value, for that matter—go elsewhere.

Start with the North Sound Club ($175; 345-947-4653, in the Governor’s Harbour area. Formerly known as the Links at Safehaven, the island’s only championship course is a 6,605-yard, par-71 1994 Roy Case design that’s flattish, hazard-laced and possessed of sterling sea views. However, conditioning is hit-or-miss, which is little solace for folks forking over $175, and it’s a brute when the wind blows. If you like iguanas, pay the late twilight rate of $55 and play until dark.

Other than the Ritz-Carlton’s private Blue Tip, a handsome Greg Norman 9-holer that’s exclusive to hotel guests, your other golf option is Britannia Golf Club ($65-$150; 345-745-4653,, a one-off from Jack Nicklaus that introduced the world to the concept of the Cayman ball. The idea was to build a short course that could play like a championship test, providing you were using a special ball that only traveled half the distance of a regular ball. It proved to be an idea whose time never arrived.

Today, the course plays as a regulation nine-holer Monday through Saturday, and is converted to an 18-hole executive job on Sunday. Both versions have their merits, specifically challenge and aesthetics, but again, it’s awfully pricey for what you get.

Dear Joe,
I’m going to Palm Springs for a long weekend in February. I am going to get one round of golf in. Where should it be?
Matt Anderson
Chicago, Ill.

Earlier this month, I recommended La Quinta Resort’s Mountain and Dunes courses (, PGA West’s Stadium course ( and Desert Willow’s Firecliff course ( Each is special—but pricey.

If I had to recommend one value course that comes with all of the classic Palm Springs markings, go with Escena ($60-$95; 760-778-2737, This 2005 Nicklaus Design creation is a joy to play from start to finish, with just enough lakes, bunkers and stirring shots to spice the play—plus glorious mountain backdrops throughout—but without too much heavy lifting in terms of forced carries and lost balls.

(Photo: LC Lambrecht)

February 03, 2011

Ask Travelin' Joe: Arizona, Palm Springs, Boca Raton

Posted at 1:20 PM by Joe Passov

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Dear Joe,
I will be visiting Sun City West (Ariz.) and am looking for some courses to play within 30 miles and at a walking rate of under $40/round. With Sun City West being a retirement community, will they frown on a young 31-year-old walking in to play as a single?
Travis Olsen
Portland, Ore.

They'll frown on you, young whippersnapper, if you attempt to purchase property at your age. You still have to be 55 to do that. The good news is that golf options abound. Start with Sun City South ($35; 623-876-3015, After playing it three weeks ago, I can say unhesitatingly that Sun City South is the best value in the Phoenix metro area. Architect Tripp Davis and his associate Gary Brawley transformed a mature, though tired 48-year-old layout into a strategic gem that's pure fun. Skillfully placed bunkers have created superb risk/reward opportunities, notably on the 2nd and 12th, a pair of beguiling short par 4s; the trio of par 3s asks for nothing less than crisply struck irons and the green complexes on the back nine would be right at home on a northeastern Golden Age classic. All this for $35? That's enough for anyone to feel young again.

Another option is an old favorite, Hillcrest Golf Club ($30-$49; 623-584-1500,, a 1978 Jeff Hardin/Greg Nash design that played host to the Champions Tour in its early days. It's more Florida golf than Arizona, with wall-to-wall grass, lakes, sprawling bunkers and towering palms -- and even some elevation change, but from start to finish the fun factor and the value are first-rate.

Hey, Joe,
I'm headed out to Palm Springs, Calif. I am a bit overwhelmed by the number of places to play. I am only there for two days, so I will probably get three rounds in. Any suggestions?
Robert Rutter
Chicago, Ill.

One of golf's great buffets is the Palm Springs area, and if you're willing to pay the freight, there are indeed dozens of premium choices. Since you want to squeeze in 36 in one day, I would do La Quinta Resort's Mountain and Dunes courses ($59-$189; 760-346-7060, It helps that they're side-by-side, thus acing the convenience test, but they're also outstanding Pete Dye tests that dish out all the sharp-edge, railroad-tie banked hazards by the double bogey-ful. Notably though, the aptly named Mountain touches rocky slopes on both nines, with a stunning stretch at 14 through 16. Palm Springs is so much about the mountains and there's no public-access course with better in-your-face interactions.

As a third option, it's hard to pass up the rigors of PGA West's TPC Stadium course, but if you don't feel like getting beat up that bad, try Desert Willow's Firecliff course ($70-$185; 760-346-7060,, a fabulous Hurdzan-Fry design that features gigantic, attractive sprawls of sand and strategically deployed water hazards. The $150 mid-day rate in high season is acceptable for what the course delivers.

Dear Joe,
Do you prefer Boca Raton Municipal executive or Red Reef executive?
Long Island

I've got to admit, Travelin' Joe is stumped on this one. I played my fair share of executive courses years ago, but I haven't sampled these two pint-sized Florida spreads. From a cursory glance at the scorecards, it looks like Boca Raton Muni's executive job is the better test, but Red Reef features more eye candy. Both share a web site ( and a price tag ($16.25 for outsiders to walk nine holes, $25.75 to ride), but other than that, I'm clueless. Readers who want to weigh in the comments section below, please be my guest.

November 10, 2010

Ask Travelin' Joe: Charleston and Palm Springs

Posted at 1:25 PM by Joe Passov

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Dear Joe,
I've got a meeting to attend in Charleston and have time for one round. I'm a modest 19 handicap, so I think I'll pass on Kiawah's Ocean Course, but it would be great to play along the water somewhere.
Doug Schoenstein, Parma, Ohio

To the north, my pick is Wild Dunes Resort's Links course ($120-$145; 843-886-2180, in Isle of Palms, an early Tom Fazio design that celebrates its 30th anniversary this fall. Its par-5 closer along the Atlantic has been restored, returning the course to "must-play" status.

Down south at Kiawah Island Resort, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Turtle Point ($180-$224; 843-266-4050, sports a stretch of holes (14-16) where you can hit a beachcomber if you yank a shot.

Hi Joe,
My husband and I are looking for a golf trip for our 10th anniversary. We have played in Charleston, S.C.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Ponte Vedra, Fla., and we'd like to try Palm Springs, Calif. We're both 20-handicap golfers and would like to play some medium-difficulty courses with possibly one "big name" layout in the mix. Recommendations?
Heather Smith, Philadelphia, Penn.

Make your trophy course La Quinta's Mountain ($59-$189; 760-564-7610, In typical Pete Dye fashion, it can play as tough as old beef jerky, but choose the proper tees and this is pure fun, particularly the unforgettable stretch of 14 through 16 that hugs the mountain.

Another track worth your time is the Celebrity at Indian Wells Golf Resort ($65-$165; 760-346-4653,

For a great value, try Escena ($40-$85; 760-778-2737,, a wide, scenic, five-year-old layout from Nicklaus Design that's near the Palm Springs Airport.

The ultimate golfer's holiday gift? How about tournament trip to southwest Ireland, my favorite international golf destination? Sign up for the Great Irish Links Challenge (, the first edition of which takes place May 22-25, 2011. A field of 600 golfers will compete at three venues: Ballybunion, Lahinch and Doonbeg, which rank among the greatest links courses on the planet. Three rounds, with a title at stake. Now that's a stocking stuffer!

January 07, 2010

Ask Travelin' Joe: California, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Palm Springs

Posted at 1:22 PM by Joe Passov

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Dear Joe,
We live in rainy Northern California. Do you have any ideas for the following criteria: 4- to 5-hour drive from the Bay Area, pet-friendly accommodations, warm weather, good practice facility, reasonable pricing? We want to jump in the car with the dog, drive a few hours, practice for two to three days and drive home.

V. Shellenberg
Via email

Cruise down the 101 to the town of Nipomo, just south of San Luis Obispo, where you'll find Monarch Dunes (805-343-9459,; $30-$78). Part links in the dunes, part parkland in the Eucalyptus trees, this collaboration from architect Damian Pascuzzo and six-time PGA Tour winner Steve Pate aces the scenery, variety and playability tests from start to finish. With Kemper Sports in charge of management and course conditions, a fine practice range and a new 12-hole Challenge Course that features par-3s ranging from 82 to 242 yards, Monarch Dunes should deliver just what you're looking for.

Rover can join you at the Best Western Royal Oak Hotel (, 805-544-4410), 26 miles back the way you came in San Luis Obispo. Best of all, the forecast from January 7 through the 15th touts sunny skies and daytime highs ranging from 65 to 71 degrees.

Hi Traveling Joe,
I am going to San Juan, Puerto Rico and need to find a couple of golf courses on the island. What do you recommend?

Bob Barth
Via email

If you like bells and whistles, you'll get fired — up — for Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico (787-657-2000,; $140-$180). The closest championship golf to San Juan (14 miles east), the 36 holes here still lack some maturity, but as a PGA Tour stop the past two years, they boast plenty of eye candy and challenge.

Among the better bargains on the island is Dorado del Mar at the Embassy Suites (787-796-6125,; $55-$120), a hilly 1998 Chi Chi Rodriguez design 45 minutes west of San Juan that features iguanas, swaying palms and a terrific 10th hole, a 525-yard par-5 that overlooks the Caribbean Sea.

Hi Joe,
I'm heading to the Palm Springs area in late January with some buddies to play as much golf as possible. If you had to choose between the two courses at Desert Willow or the two at Indian Wells, which would you recommend?

Alan Z.
Via email

Sorry to straddle the fence on this one, Alan, but it's nearly impossible to choose between Desert Willow (760-346-7060,; $95-$185) and Indian Wells (760-346-4653,, $130-$155). Both are similarly priced, impeccably groomed, offer terrific facilities and boast staggering mountain views. I'll pick Desert Willow's Firecliff course over its sibling Mountain View and call Indian Wells' Celebrity and Players a toss-up.

Firecliff offers bunkering that's so dramatic, it once made the cover of Smithsonian magazine, while Mountain View is the most forgiving of the four, if that's important to your group. Celebrity is a tad too tight in spots, but the shaping and landscaping is off-the-charts, while the aptly named Players, a John Fought re-design, offers the best test of shotmaking of the four. Pick any one — you cannot go wrong.

March 26, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Scottsdale, Memphis and Palm Springs

Posted at 10:35 AM by Joe Passov

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Hello Joe,
I'm heading to Scottsdale in mid-April for a quick five days to get reacquainted with heat and sun. I'm staying at the Westin Kierland. We've been to Scottsdale a few times and have had the opportunity to play most of the great courses -- both Troon North courses, Grayhawk, TPC Tourney Course, We-Ko-Pa, Las Sendas, Wildfire, SunRidge, Eagle Mountain, Estrella -- all great tracks. Do you have any gems that are in the area that we should be looking at? We would love to tackle something new. We really enjoy your column. It's given us great advice on numerous courses.

Burlington, Ontario (-27 degrees)

Andy, you've played almost as much golf in my hometown as I have! Here are a few more new ones you should try. First, if you were willing to drive out to Estrella and Las Sendas on opposite ends of town, try a few more terrific layouts on the Phoenix outskirts.

First is Gold Canyon Golf Resort's 's Dinosaur Mountain course (480-982-9449,; $130-$150 in mid-April) 45 minutes east of Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport. Some swear that this Ken Kavanaugh design is the equal of anything in Scottsdale, while others claim that houses have detracted some from the aesthetics. Undeniably, however, you'll get a fistful of in-your-face encounters with the Superstition Mountains. Bring your camera and your course management skills.

It's a 50-minute trek from the Westin Kierland, but Southern Dunes Golf Club (480-367-8949,; $99-$109 April 6-May 3) is worth the journey. Managed by Troon Golf, this one-time private men's club where members included Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Jones boasts a Schmidt-Curley design that's rife with superb mountain vistas, imaginative green complexes and bold bunkering.

Recently restored Papago Municipal (602-275-8428,; $84-$109) in Phoenix, home to this week's LPGA event, offers 7,300 yards of desert-parkland mix, albeit with minimal facilities for now.

Finally, don't neglect your own hotel's three nines. Kierland's holes (480-922-9283,; $140-$215, with Twilight rates from $85) don't have the space, terrain or drama to be top-tier, but for location, service and fun factor, Kierland's a good choice, especially the Acacia nine.

Hi Joe,
I am traveling to Memphis for a conference, but would like to get in a few rounds of golf. Any suggestions? Our group is not opposed to traveling and would be willing to make a day trip for a good course.

Jason Davis
Via email

You'll more likely to find a vegetarian ordering seconds at one of Memphis' to-die-for barbecue joints than locating a great public course in the area. That said, you won't starve. Start with the spicy, tender, dry-rub ribs at Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous and don't leave town without sampling the sweet-smoky sauce slathered on the meats at Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Q (the original Interstate on 3rd Street is still supreme).

For golf, I recommend Cherokee Valley Golf Club (901-525-4653,; $39.75-$55.75), 25 minutes away in Olive Branch, Mississippi. A handsome hilltop clubhouse overlooks a variety filled-layout that weaves through forest and wetlands. Both nines end with memorable uphill tests.

If you're looking to mix golf and gaming, a half-hour south and slightly west of Memphis is a handful of good tracks in Mississippi's Tunica area. Best of the bunch is the Links at Cottonwood (662-357-6079,; $69-$79), a mostly open, extremely playable 6,989-yard Hale Irwin creation that features a watery closing stretch and a solid quartet of par-3s. Afterwards, Harrahs Tunica and the Sheraton Tunica offer riverboat gambling at its finest.

Roughly 80 miles east of Memphis is one of the state's best values, the Bear Trace at Chickasaw (731-989-4700,; $25-$35), a 7,118-yard Jack Nicklaus state park design, but budget cuts may force this one to close after March 31, so if you're thinking about making the journey, call ahead.

Dear Joe,
A friend and I are going to Palm Springs with our families at the end of March. We need some reasonably priced but compelling courses. Also, my kids (12 and 14) will play with us at least once -- they are good for their ages. Any suggestions for family golf?

Rob Ball
Via email

Late March is hopping once again in the desert, as Palm Springs has lifted its 20-year moratorium on college spring break partying. The cone of silence remains in place, however, in the tonier suburbs, so don't fret.

Trilogy Golf Club at La Quinta
(760-771-0707,; $60-$109) should be a lot of fun for your brood. There's enough golf from the tips at 7,174 yards to have tested the pros for four Skins Games (2003-2006), including the memorable 2005 edition with Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Fred Couples and Fred Funk. So, with this Gary Panks design, you get famous footsteps, a fair price, plus wide fairways and a plethora of flowers, water hazards and mountain vistas. The similar looking homes framing fairways are a drawback, but mostly this is a treat for all.

If you and your kids want to try a more ambitious layout, shoot for SilverRock Resort (760-777-8884,; $165) also in La Quinta. This stunning Arnold Palmer track co-hosts the PGA Tour's Bob Hope tourney and its design sports hazards and mountains galore -- but its six sets of tees make it playable for nearly everybody. Also, play after 1:00 p.m. and it's $95 through April 30.         

January 29, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Phoenix, Palm Springs and Miami

Posted at 8:29 AM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
We're coming down to the Phoenix area to catch the FBR Open, and we're staying to play golf for a week. My group is mostly low handicappers, between 3 and 10, and we've got a few top courses lined up. We've got one free day and would like to fill it with one more round. Do you have one hidden gem -- quality and price -- that you can recommend?

Sandy Laird
Englewood, Colorado

The best new course you can play in Phoenix isn't new -- but it is newly public. Southern Dunes Golf Club (480-367-8949,; $49-$119) in Maricopa, 25 minutes south of Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport was a private men's club for its first six years of existence, where members included major championship winners Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Jones.

Unfortunately, it's an hour from Scottsdale, on the "wrong" side of town, so the business model didn't hold up -- but the course sure did. This big, bold layout might be the very best work that Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley have done, with broad, sweeping, fescue-framed fairways, deep, artfully contoured and strategically placed bunkers and masterfully crafted undulating greens.

Toss in unobstructed mountain and desert vistas, Troon Golf management and a green fee that's less than half of some of Scottsdale's trophy courses, and you have what I consider to be Arizona's best value.

Hello Joe,
I live in the Seattle area and I am planning a trip at the end of January. I'm kicking around Palm Springs or the Dallas area. Is there something in either of those areas that is both nice and economical? We're a group of six and looking for a package similar to what you would find at the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama. We did that last year but ran into some unfriendly weather. However the tracks and unlimited golf were incredible. We're all low handicappers and looking for a challenge if there is one. I'm also considering Horseshoe Bay in the Austin area.

Jeff Jones
Seattle, Washington

Intriguing options, indeed, but let's break it down. First, you won't find anything remotely resembling the Trent Jones Trail anywhere -- it's one of a kind, even among other Trails. Now, if weather is an issue and you guys are good golfers, I'd forego Dallas and Austin this time around and stick with Palm Springs.

You'll find plenty of affordable, quality public golf in both Texas destinations, but in late January, you're looking at average daytime highs in the upper 50s in Dallas, lower 60s in Austin. Pay the freight and enjoy the 70- to 75-degree sunshine that Palm Springs has to offer.

One option is the Golf Package at Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, Villas and Spa (760-341-1000,, which includes golf at Indian Wells Golf Resort, lodging, full breakfast, a sleeve of logo balls and yes -- a GOLF Magazine subscription. Both Indian Wells courses are once and future Skins Game hosts, and you can't go wrong picking either the Clive Clark-designed Celebrity Course or the John Fought-crafted Players Course, each a sturdy, gorgeous test. Package prices start at $331 per person, per night, through February 28th.   

Dear Joe:
We are going to Miami in March. Where would you recommend we play? We played Doral Blue last time.

Chris Kennedy
Omaha, Nebraska

Nothing like starting at the top and working your way down. Fortunately, it's not much of a stumble. Doral's Gold course (800-713-6725,; $175) features strategic bunkering, flat fairways with landing zones shrunk by March winds and water on 16 holes -- in other words, a similar experience to the Blue -- for roughly half the price.

For the ultimate in pampering, check out Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club's Soffer course (305-932-6200,; $250), complete with waterfalls, tropical vegetation and forecaddies, but you've got to stay there to play there.

For something new, try Normandy Shores Golf Club (305-868-6502,; $90-$160), a 68-year-old muni in Miami Beach basking in a 2008 Arthur Hills extreme makeover. A great location, risk/reward holes and Sunshine State scenery adds up to pure fun. 

Ask Travelin' Joe

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at


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