The Golf Bucket List
#18, Par 4, 425 Yards
The home hole at The Quarry is sort of a typical dramatic finishing hole, playing up to the clubhouse. The drive needs to be played between two bunkers. From there, it's a heroic shot into the green, partially over water, which lays on the right half of the hole.
The Quarry at La Quinta is really a gorgeous golf experience. It's hard to imagine being able to keep over 100 acres of grass in such perfect condition, with nary a blade of grass out of place--that's what they're able to do at the Quarry. My wife and I were very grateful to have gotten an opportunity to enjoy such a beautiful place.
#12, Par 4, 359 Yards
The 12th hole begins a four-hole stretch known as "The Cove." This group of holes occupies a stretch of land on the extreme northwest corner of the property, and lays totally separated from the rest of the course. It is on this land where you actually see some remnants of the old quarry. Both the 12th and 13th holes are doglegs to the left, where driver isn't required on either. Position is key off of the tee to allow for an easy approach into the green and a good chance to score. The small desert wash in front of the green is one of only a few times that every player needs to carry some trouble to get to the green.
#9, Par 4, 411 Yards
The last hole of the outward nine returns to the clubhouse. All of the trouble is on the left side of the hole, in the form of two bunkers and a creek. Keep it right, and the hole really isn't all that bad. You'll notice the bottoms of all the palm trees and maintained with the natural bearded look. One thing you'll notice around this hole is that there is a sharply different color in the beards along a straight line. This was actually the peak water level during a recent flood. Amazing to imagine that water seriously came this high up and submerged this portion of the course.
#2, Par 3, 186 Yards
The first one-shot hole of the day is a tricky one. The green has a significant false front, tilting from back to front.
#3, Par 4, 347 Yards
One of the easier holes on the front side, the third hole is pretty straight-forward. Hitting driver would leave a very short club into the green; heck, the way people hit the ball these days, it might even be possible to get it up around the green for the bombers. Usually, I would say it's important to find the fairway to make sure you have a good chance to score. However, at the Quarry, I honestly didn't think it was typically that important to hit fairways (anywhere on grass is fine). The course is so lush and immaculately maintained that lies from the rough are hardly a penalty. The rough is kept somewhere around 1.5-2 inches in length, I'd guess, and the ball seemed to always sit up nicely. It's kind of how I envision Augusta National playing with the "second cut." The green goes back-to-front, so stay below the hole.
#6, Par 4, 434 Yards
With the 16th and 18th holes closely behind, the sixth hole is the longest par four on the course. A bunker awaits on the left side of the fairway, with a couple trees on the right. I found that the lies from the rough, while nearly perfect, could create "flier lies." Couple that with the fact that this green rolls from the front to the back, and I hit only a nine iron into this long hole. However, the green is no slouch, and I couldn't get it down in two. This is the number one handicap hole on the course.
#5, Par 5, 498 Yards
The second par five of the day was also my only birdie of the day, so it holds a special place in my heart! The right side of the hole is actually one of the few spots on the course with Bermuda grass on it. There is a large mound that blocks the view of the green on the left side, so that area of Bermuda rough is actually the idea line into the hole--especially when it lies dormant in February! In the second picture below, you can just barely see the red flag over the mound with a bunker in it. That picture was from the middle of the fairway. I pushed my drive out to the right and was left with about 250 yards into the green from a perfect lie. I was able to knock it onto the green from there and two-putt for birdie. Since I don't two-putt for birdie all that often, it felt great!
#1, Par 5, 510 Yards
The opening hole at The Quarry is a slight dogleg left. The drive goes downhill, with the approach into the green going back uphill. The layup zone for the second shot is quite wide, short of the bunker. However, if you're going for it in two, it tightens up quite a bit around the green. The green goes quite hard right to left, so bringing something in from the right side is the right play. When we first got down into the fairway, we learned that The Quarry has a different rule for repairing divots. All the fairway and rough (with the exception of a couple small areas of Bermuda) are Rye grass. We were told to fill the divot areas with sand (ok, that's normal) and then pick up your actual divot, and put it in a receptacle in the back of the cart (that's not as normal!). What blew me away is that seemingly everyone follows that rule to a tee. I never saw a single divot laying on the ground.
After playing two holes of the short course, we were told that the first tee had opened up and it was time to play the big one. It was like warming up in the bullpen and getting the call to head into the game! We made our way over to the first tee, and it was time to go. While our professional host was used to playing from the Black Tees (7,083 yards with a rating and slope of 73.4 and 134), he was willing to show me around from the Blue Tees, which was a much more reasonable test for my game. The Blue Tees measured 6,643 yards, with a rating of 71.6 and slope of 128. All tees play to a par of 72. I'll quote the Blue Tees below:
#4, Par 4, 372 Yards
Roughly speaking, the front nine occupies the southern portion of the property, and the 3-6 holes go back-and-forth; southerly, northerly, southerly, and northerly again. The popular saying in the Coachella Valley is that "Every putt breaks toward Indio." I guess that sort of depends on where you are located. Our caddie said putts generally go to the Salton Sea which occupies the southeast edge of the valley. So, Indio might be correct in certain parts of the Palm Springs area, but when all else fails, the real answer is putts tend to pull toward the southeast (all else equal).
As per usual, I knocked a few balls from the perfectly organized collection of Pro V1 balls to loosen up. When I was finished, I headed back to the cart, only to watch a staff member clean up my hitting area by restoring the balls to perfect order and cleaning up the divot area. I suppose that was the first time I realized that this place went above and beyond when it came to ensuring visual perfection.
While we had a loose starting time, there are no tee times at The Quarry. Since this was a gorgeous Saturday on Presidents Day weekend, the pro came up to us and said that it had been a far busier day than normal, and that we might need to delay our start time a little. To keep us busy, our host (the assistant pro) took us over to the club's short course to loosen up a little and kill some time (not a bad way to wait your turn!) Immediately to the left of the first hole on the short course is a putting course, the likes of which I'd never seen. I've seen putting courses with a couple acres of a huge green with humps and bumps throughout. However, this one was closer to a natural grass miniature golf course with strips of green looping around a creek--just amazing.
Notice the flood line.
Playing The Quarry at La Quinta began a new chapter in my bucket list experience. Having played over 40 of the country's best courses, I had built up a bit of knowledge about golf course architecture. When a friend contacted me about joining the ratings panel for a major golf publication, I had to jump on it. Not only did I think it would be a fun way to make my opinions somewhat more useful, but it would also open many doors that would otherwise be difficult to crack. As a member of the panel, I'm able to contact clubs to set up visits to evaluate their course. Some clubs are very open to it, some are not. The Quarry was the first Top 100 course I would visit in that fashion.
Rather than paraphrase the history of the club, I'm going to copy it directly from its website:
Tucked in a scenic cove between the foothills of the Coral and Santa Rosa Mountains in the eastern part of the Coachella Valley was an abandoned sand and gravel pit that for more than half century had been mined by the County of Riverside to extract materials for building local roads.
Known as the Keller Pit, it was a working quarry until the late 1980’s.
Living nearby was avid golfer Bill Morrow. To say that Morrow loved the game of golf would be an understatement. He was such a fan that he took it upon himself to play Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses. What he and some of his friends didn’t care for were overcrowded courses and the hassle of having to schedule tee times.
One day, after yet another five-hour round where they had to wait on every shot, Henry Burdick, one of his playing partners, complained that this was ridiculous and that they should build their own course.
Morrow and Burdick were both members at PGA West. The two friends discussed creating a true golf experience - a golfer’s golf course where a limited number of dedicated individuals could play anytime on a challenging, yet playable course that would be unparalleled in its spectacular surroundings.
After playing the Tom Fazio designed Black Quarry Ranch club in Florida, Morrow set out to find the perfect site to build his dream course in the Coachella Valley. Morrow found the perfect place in La Quinta and requested to purchase the site – an abandoned quarry. Morrow and Burdick purchased the 105-acre site from the County of Riverside. Months later they purchased an adjacent 95 acres. In order to ensure the golf course settings wouldn’t be too tight, another 160-acre piece above the upper cove was purchased.
So Morrow and Burdick, along with 13 associates who shared their dream, founded the $25m project.
Construction began in June of 1993 with Opening Day slated for January 1, 1994. In all, 4,000 trees and palms along with 80,000 shrubs and cacti were planted. The course opened on January 1, 1994. The 21,000-square-foot clubhouse was completed on April 22, 1994. Designed to capture panoramic vistas of the course beyond, members dine and share their stories while looking over a tranquil lake to the waterfalls behind the picturesque 10th green.
In 1997, an additional seven acres were purchased for a spa facility, tennis court and three four-bedroom homes for the convenience of members to rent.
The ownership of The Quarry was transferred back to the members in July of 1999 - for $1.
In 2002, an additional 74 acres were purchased and became the Quarry Ranch, the site of 29 new pieces of real estate and the Tom Fazio - designed Short Course. The Short Course has become known as the best of its kind in the world and one of those delightful pleasures that is part of The Quarry experience.
Upon entering the gates of The Quarry, there is no detail left unnoticed. I'd be playing the course with my wife and one of the club's assistant pros, and it was clear from the time we parked our car that this was going to be a special day. After changing shoes, it was time to loosen up a little. The Quarry has a great range, filled with brand new logo Pro V1 balls to hit into the mountainous horizon.
#14, Par 3, 159 Yards
The 14th green is the furthest point from the clubhouse, before turning back for home on the 15th tee. The shot requires a carry over desert area to get to the green. The right side is clearly where you need to miss, lest you be somewhere with the snakes and lizards.
#17, Par 3, 188 Yards
The 17th is the last par three on the course, and also the longest. If you're willing to cross the creek across some stones, you can walk back to the back tee, which stretches to 223 yards and plays on a completely different angle. From that tee, it's all carry over the pond that fronts the green--you have to fly it nearly over the 10th green too! The Blue Tees and other forward tees come in from further to the left and provide a safe line to the left edge of the green without carrying water.
#16, Par 4, 430 Yards
The 16th hole is sortof a longer version of the 7th hole with a creek down the left side. The different on this hole is that the creek also crosses in front of the green and needs to be carried on the approach.
#15, Par 5, 587 Yards
The final four holes at The Quarry head eastward and back to the clubhouse. The 15th is the last hole in "The Cove" and is a three-shot par five for all but the longest of hitters. There are only two bunkers on the hole with one on the left side of the landing area and one on the front right of the green. Otherwise, it's just a test of keeping the ball long and straight.
#10, Par 5, 488 Yards
Just like the first hole, the tenth is a par five that heads west, away from the clubhouse. This par five is shorter than the first, but also tighter with water all along the right side. There is a bulge in the fairway around the possible layup zone, but at only 488 yards, most players will probably forego the layup zone and have a go at the green in two. Taking on that risk brings trouble into play around the green, in the form of a creek with a beautiful waterfall flowing into it.
My Quest to Check Off Golf's Best Experiences
The view from the Black Tees
While this picture was taken from the rough, it's from a perfect angle into the green. If you're willing to flirt with the water off the tee and pull it off, you'll be rewarded with an easy shot into the hole.
#8, Par 3, 138 Yards
The most dramatic shot of the day is undoubtedly found on the drop-shot eighth hole. It's only a little pitch shot, but playing straight downhill, it's a bit of a guess for a newcomer. You can see the steep slope on the front right of the green, which will potentially send balls backwards off the front of the green. Controlling your spin can be critical to mastering this hole.
#11, Par 4, 386 Yards
The 11th hole is a mid-length par four with a bend to the right. A bunker lays on the left side of the fairway, defending the ideal line into the green (from the left side). Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture from the tee, but was able to grab one on the approach shot.
#13, Par 4, 340 Yards
From the Blue Tees, the 13th is very similar to the 12th, though the 12th plays about 50 yards longer from the tips. We're bending to the left again, and like the 12th hole, two irons would be completely fine if that's what makes you comfortable--driver is not required.
#7, Par 4, 385 Yards
There are a few man-made creeks and water hazards that come into play at The Quarry, and you'll face one for the first time on the seventh hole. A creek lays on the left side of the driving area. With bunkers fronting the right side of the green, the ideal angle into the hole is on the left side, thus flirting with the creek; this is good architecture since the player has to make a decision of whether to take on the difficulty off the tee, or later on. One of the many beautiful views of the Valley can be seen from this tee.