The Golf Bucket List
The Stadium Course was a really fun experience with a number of really memorable holes. If you're in Palm Springs, I suggest giving it a try. Bring enough golf balls and take some time to enjoy the views around you. Ernie's is a great place to get a bite or a drink after your round. The clubhouse at PGA West is shared by the Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course, so you're sure to hear a bunch of good golf stories there.
#17, "Alcatraz," Par 3, 146 Yards
This is the famous hole at PGA West and is Pete Dye's West of the Mississippi version of an island green. Compared to TPC Sawgrass, this one is a bit longer, and I believe is a smaller green. However, you're hitting from an elevated tee, so the good thing is that you can see the entire green. There's no bailout on this one. Gotta take a deep breath and go after it!
#18, "Coliseum," Par 4, 405 Yards
18 is a tough finishing hole, especially if you don't have a draw in your bag. Similar to 18 at Sawgrass and Pebble Beach, water lines the left side and goes all the way to the green, so a miss in that direction is deadly. Keep it on land and you can finish strong, but that's easier said than done! Finished with a par here is a great score, and in three tries, I've yet to pull it off.
#15, "Turning Home," Par 4, 436 Yards
The second of three straight holes with no water. However, in all three cases, the sand is punishment enough that it still must be respected and avoided. The 15th is a long par 4 with sand on either side of the fairway, but a good drive can probably carry it all. Lots of sand guards the left half of the hole. Even though it's long, this is a relatively simple and trouble-free hole at PGA West.
#16, "San Andreas Fault," Par 5, 517 Yards
I've played the Stadium Course three times now, and I'm embarassed to say that I've never captured it with my camera, though this picture I found on the internet is representative. The good thing is that it's probably because I've avoided the "San Andreas Fault" on all three occasions, however, I've seen enough people in there to know it well. The "Fault" I'm talking about is a huge bunker on the left of the green that is around 15 feet below the green's surface. If you're in it, you may or may not even be able to hit toward the green with a backwards shot being a consideration. This bunker, in my opinion, makes this a three-shot hole. You just can't take a chance to go at the green and risk a miss left. Plus, a miss right really isn't any picnic either. From the tips, it's 600 yards, so this probably isn't even in question for most, but the 517 yards from the Blues makes it a consideration. If you go for this green in two, you're a bigger man than I.
#13, "Second Thoughts," Par 3, 195 Yards
A good par 3 here. Water goes all the way down the left and is very close to the edge of the green. Bunkers are on the front right, but are short of the green, so a miss to the right that is even with the front half of the green is actually not a bad place to be. There's a bunker on the right that's level with the back half, so be careful going after a back pin.
#14, "Cavern," Par 4, 372 Yards
Don't even think about trying to carry the bunker on the left. Just hit to the ball to where you can see it. The only benefit to being over the bunkers is that you'll have a better look into the hole. But, it's just not worth the risk. Don't be greedy, take a par here, and move on.
#11, "Eternity," Par 5, 591 yards
No water on this long par 5 until you get up to the green, where a pond borders the left edge. It's a three shot hole for almost everyone I'd think. The second shot must negotiate a two-part fairway, split by a huge side-hill. Hitting on the upper half, on the right side, will leave the best view into the hole. Unfortunately, I lost my photographer for the back nine, so I'm much more limited on my pictures. This whole is an example of that.
#12, "Moat," Par 4, 347 Yards
A short par 4. A drive down the right side will leave the best line into a hole that will be blocked from view by mounds on the left. The "moat" that gives this hole its name is actually a bunker that surrounds the 3/4 of the green, with the right side being the only spot spared. Even though it's not water, it should probably be treated as such. The bunker is deep, and you want no part of it. The good thing is that you should be coming into this hole with a short club, so you may be able to still be aggressive. Here's someone else's picture of the green and the moat.
#10, "Quarry," Par 4, 380 Yards
Avoiding the water down the left and the water that fronts the green is the trick to this one. Stay right on the drive, because the water is closer than you think. Right down the middle, you don't want to drive of more than about 230 yards from these tees. A big hitter could take a line over the bunkers on the right, but that's probably about a 260 yard carry and I'm not sure there's much to be gained. Rocks line the edge of the water and give this hole its name.
#7, "Black Hole," Par 4, 309 Yards
I really enjoy a good short par 4. This is a good one, but my only complaint is that there is really no risk/reward decision. It's too tough around the hole to consider going for it from the tee, so it's just a fairway wood or iron over there lake and out into play and then a wedge to the green. Don't lose your focus though, as it requires two well-played shots to avoid the ubiquitous water.
#8, "Links," Par 5, 526 Yards
After holes 5-7 with large water hazards to avoid, this one is completely dry. A large fairway bunker borders the right side of the hole and must be avoided. From there, it's a pretty wide layup zone, or if you're going to go for it, gives you ample room to hit a high draw to the green. A large bunker fronts the left half of the green, but a shot at the right edge can be rolled up, in "links" style.
#9, "Reflection," Par 4, 430 Yards
Water is back in play on the ninth. It runs down the entire right side of the hole on a hole that bends to the right (The green is out in front of the railroad ties in the first picture below). On the edge of the water is a long fairway bunker, reminiscent of many holes at TPC Sawgrass. It's a long hole, and a tough approach into the green to avoid the trouble.
#4, "Sand Pit," Par 3, 170 Yards
It takes a solid shot to the green to avoid the trouble that surrounds this par 3. If you're going to miss, long is the best place to bail here to avoid the cavernous traps.
#5, "Double Trouble," Par 5, 514 Yards
As the crow flies, this hole is straight. However, two lakes create somewhat of a double dogleg feel. The first lake is on the left of the fairway, and the tee boxes point right into it. The second shot then most navigate around the second lake, which flanks the right side of the fairway on the second shot and goes all the way to the green. You can get to this hole in two with two good shots, but it's not for the faint of heart. Two gutsy plays will be rewarded though as long as your ball stays dry. The second shot is best played with a fade, but don't miss it right!
#6, "Amen," Par 3, 223 Yards
A tough par 3 awaits on the sixth. However, it could be worse, in that it's 255 yards from all the way back! It's all carry over an intimidating lake to the middle of the green. If you don't trust that you'll get it all the way there, there is a huge bailout zone left of the green. Miss it left of that though, and you're still in trouble. A really tough hole given most players will have a fairway wood or hybrid in hand.
#3, "Crescent," Par 4, 448 Yards
This one is a long par 4 where the key is to avoid the long fairway bunker to the left. A large greenside bunker guards the left side of the green which diagonals front right to back left. A draw is the best approach to this hole. The length of this hole makes it the first real test of the Stadium Course, and a par is definitely a good score.
#2, "Craters," Par 4, 348 Yards
Avoiding the fairway bunkers is the key on this short par 4. Just get it out there in the fairway, and you'll have a chance to score. bunkers surround the front half of the green. A pin in the back can definitely be attacked.
#1, "Prelude," Par 4, 382 Yards
A playable opening hole, as is often the case with Pete Dye courses. Fairway bunkers are in play on the right, but otherwise, it's a fairly wide open tee shot. Hitting it at the ridge edge of the left bunker is a good line. From there, it's a fairly easy approach to the green as long as you get it over the bunkers that guard the front right.
As part of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour's National Championship, I took a trip to Palm Springs in September, 2011, and then again in September, 2013. Counting both times, I've taken three trips around the Stadium Course. If you're a Pete Dye fan, and for the most part, I am, you will not be disappointed. This course, along with the rest of the PGA West Courses, are at the foothills of the Coachella Mountains, in the oasis that is Palm Springs. PGA West has three public courses (TPC Stadium, Nicklaus, and Norman), three private courses (Nicklaus, Weiskopf and Palmer), and is affiliated with the two courses at La Quinta Resort & Spa as well (Mountain and Dunes). I've played all three public courses at PGA West, the Palmer Private course, as well as the Mountain Course at La Quinta. The Stadium, Palmer, and Mountain courses were my favorites of the five.
While TPC Stadium is billed as one of the country's most difficult courses, I actually found it a bit more playable than I had expected. Don't get me wrong, there are hazards EVERYWHERE, but there are some design features that make it a bit easier than it could have been--most notably, the mounding throughout much of the course (The "stadium" design concept) that will keep a stray drive from veering into the housing complexes that surround nearly all of the course. Being from the Midwest, the mountains within view from everywhere were awe inspiring and I found myself gazing off into the distance quite often at the unique beauty of these "dirt piles." In all three rounds, I had no problem breaking 90, and on my third try, actually gave 80 a scare, until I finished bogey, double, double, to shoot 83. When compared to courses like Blackwolf Run (River), Whistling Straits, The Ocean Course, and some others, I actually think this course is less difficult than some of the famous Dye tracks. It probable doesn't hurt that you're often playing in a dome in this part of the Coachella Valley, not on the cost of the Atlantic Ocean or Lake Michigan!
The Stadium Course, along with the Nicklaus Tournament course were the frequent homes of the PGA Tour's Qualifying School finals. In addition, the Stadium Course was once one of the courses to host the Bob Hope tour stop, but allegedly the pros thought it was too hard and lobbied the tour to move elsewhere. These days, the Humana Challenge, formerly known as the Bob Hope, plays at two of the private courses along with nearby La Quinta Country Club.
As was the case with some of my write-up for TPC Sawgrass, I had a "gallery" with me for some of my round at PGA West, so some of the pictures are from a slightly different perspective, and one that I think is fun and unique. Action shots of me!
My tournament played a mix of the Blue and White tees, and a Combo tee does exist that blends these too. Rather than quote the combo tees, I'll quote the Championship (Blue) Tees, which play 6,739 yards and to a par of 72 with a rating/slope of 73.3/142. From all the back, the Tournament tees, the course is 7,300 yards and 76.1/150.
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#24, Best in the State of California(2013-2014)
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