Getting on the green

Blogging about some of the world's best golf holes.

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Sunset Hole at Palm Royale

The sunsets in the desert are always spectacular, especially when you’re finishing up on Palm Royale CC in La Quinta, CA. When the sun goes behind the mountains, watch for the colors in the sky. There can be purple, orange and streaks of red in the sky when the sun is setting.

Hole # 18 is a challenging stretch to finish off your round. It is short but not easy. It will test your short iron to the max. From the blue tees, it is only 120 yards give and take 5 yards. Often the pin is tucked in the right corner where there is a small waterfall and a small sliver of grass to land it on. If you want to stay dry, don’t attempt to draw your ball. Instead from the tee, hit a fade so that most of your carry is over land.

Water plays havoc on the whole right side. If you can carry your shot all the way to the green then go for it. But don’t blame me if you go in the sand trap or fly the green to the clubhouse.

Yesterday, Rick from Kelowna, BC hit a beautiful shot high up to the heavens and down to the green. He had a 2 foot putt to a nice birdie putt. What a great way to finish off a round in the desert. It’ll be another year before Rick is back for more of the desert.

His wife Linda wasn’t so lucky but she had enjoyed her time on the course meeting nice people and vacationing from the cold snowy days at home.

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Lakeside Greens: Short but Brutal

Hole # 11, par 3, Blue tees, 135 yards After coming close to a par on the previous hole, we drove across the street to the next hole. Hole # 11 is a short par 3 with bunkers on the whole left side. My gps gave me a reading of 135 yards so I decided to go first since I felt the vibe. At 135 yards, I was going to hit my 9-iron and de-loft the club slightly to get more distance out of it. My 9-iron normally gives me 125 yards but I was hoping for a nice smooth swing, a nice bounce and a roll to the green. I had hit it pretty good and it flew right towards the green. I would be short of the green by a few feet. Joe was next. He also chose a 9-iron but pushed it. Allen was next up. With a PW, Allen normally compresses the ball and hits it a long way. He would fly his ball to the back of the green. Tom was next. He chose a 8-iron and pulled it into the sand bunker. By the time I went up to the green, I was quite short and decided to chip on with my 58-degree wedge. I hit it flushed and it flew to the hole. I was left with a uphill putt. The greens at Lakeside were running fast and up to this hole, I was three putting everything. I aimed and fired at the hole. The ball would go past the hole and it would make me putt it downhill. The greens were so fast that if you touched it, the ball would roll a mile. I did exactly that and ended up breezing by the hole. Was this a par 8? The simple par 3 ate us all up. None of us walked away with anything less than a double bogey.

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Hole # 1, Indian Wells Golf Course, Indian Wells, CA

Indian Wells

Indian Wells Player’s Course

Hole # 1, par 5, Player’s Course, 494 yards

Never played here but always wanted to and finally, I’m here on the first tee. The course is immaculate and the greens are fast. At least that’s what our host, Judith says about both courses here in Indian Wells. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the whereabouts of Indian Wells, it is a small desert city just southeast of Palm Springs. To get here, you have to fly into the Palm Springs (PSP) airport and head east on I-10 until Washington. Take a right turn at the top of the ramp and drive for about 10 minutes. You will pass the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on your right where they play the BNP Paribas Open every March. When you reach Highway 111, turn right and in 5 minutes, you will be in Indian Wells.

The first hole can be intimidating from the blue tees because you have to sail it past the starter and a desert waste bunker in front of the white tees. I decided to play from the white tees because it was my first time and I didn’t want to get beat up. From the tee, my drive went straight and towards the bunker on the right. The ladies teed it up next and both were in great shape. From the middle of the fairway, I could see trouble on the whole right side. Everything seem to slope right and if you went too right, your ball would end up below the fairway and onto the Celebrity course that played on the other side of the wash.

I hit a 4-hybrid and the ball settled just in front of some hedges. I had about 148 yards to the green that looked pretty deep. I used a 8-iron to scoot the ball up there but it came up short of the green. I decided to use my 52-degree wedge to get it close and the ball ended up on the right tier. The greens were exceptionally fast on the putting green and I thought it would be the same on the course. I was right, lightning fast. My ball sailed past the hole and I was looking at an uphill putt. I would walk off with a double bogey to start my round at the Player’s Course.

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Hole # 2, Shadow Ridge GC, Palm Desert, CA

Hole # 2, par 5, 478 yards

Mark and Bud, my playing partners at the Marriott Shadow Ridge GC in Palm Desert, CA fell silent after watching me struggle out of the greenside bunker on hole # 1. You can see the worry on their faces, wondering whether we could keep up with them and whether our level of play was sufficient on a course like this.

Hole # 2 was a par 5 with water on the right side of the fairway. There was trouble on the left too, with long grass and waste land. Mark decided to hit first and he pulled it left again. His ball went into unchartered land and he had to take a drop. I was up next. I concentrated on hitting a nice smooth tee shot which I did. My ball sailed straight down the middle and long too. Bud was up next. He ended up hitting short and right.

After Mark and Bud’s second shot, I drove up to assess my situation. I had about 220 yards to go. Instead of reaching for my hybrid, I chose to hit a 6-iron. I wanted to come up short of the green but dry. My balls tend to like water and whenever there is a lake, pond or creek, my ball manages to trickle in. I made good contact with the ball and it landed about 60 yards short of the green. I decided to lob it in with my 56-degree wedge and I had a 12 foot putt left. I would two putt in and walk away with a par. I could see that I was redeemed. Both Mark and Bud congratulated me as they accepted me into their league.



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Hole # 7, Terra Lago GC, Indio, CA

Hole # 7, North Course, par 3, 132 yards

I love elevated tee boxes and when you get to play hole # 7 at Terra Lago North Course in Indio, CA, you’re in for a treat. Named ‘Peak-a-boo’, hole # 7 takes you high up in the desert where you can see most of the desert community across the horizon. Depending on the pin placement, the hole is certainly named appropriately. If placed in the far right corner of the green, the green is certainly playing peek-a-boo with you.

Today the pin placement was ‘2’ and it was a clear shot from the tee box. Because of the elevation, I chose to take one less club. At 132 yards, I normally would hit a 9-iron but today, I chose my 10-iron instead. If you’re playing with a set of Callaway Big Bertha irons (like me) then you’re lucky to have a 10-iron, otherwise hit a 3/4 swing with a 9-iron or a strong PW.

As soon as the group ahead of us cleared the green, I got ready. When both carts left the area, I was ready to hit my tee shot. I like to make sure that I don’t hit the ball into the group playing ahead of us. I hit a beautiful shot towards the green. It landed softly on and left me with a 6 foot putt. I would par the hole after misjudging the break.



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Hole # 1, Shadow Ridge GC, Palm Desert, CA

Hole # 1, par 4, 368 yards

It was turning out to be hot day when we arrived at the Marriott Shadow Ridge resort in Palm Desert for a round of golf. The place was buzzing with people coming for the Sunday buffet at the Grill. We joined the line of cars as we made our way to the bag drop just left of the clubhouse. Once checked in, we looked for our clubs and the cart that it was on and proceeded to the starter who gave us 15 minutes to tee time. We had just enough time to warm up on the range and putt a few balls before heading out.

On the first tee, we met our playing partners, Mark and Bud. Mark was a resident of La Quinta and Bud was visiting from San Francisco. They decided to play the combo tees which was a combination of playing the blue and white tees depending on the course handicap. I obliged.

Off the tee, I wasn’t nervous at all. Perhaps it was because of the resort setting or the wide open feeling on the first hole or there were very little people watching me. My ball went down the middle and left me with a 177 yards to the green. Mark pulled his tee shot to the left and Bud hit it just right of me.

From 177 yards, I decided to pull my hybrid out. Bad mistake because I literally, pulled my shot left. My ball sailed into a large greenside bunker the size of a swimming pool in Palm Desert. The sand wasn’t fluffy like the stuff they use at most resort courses. Both Mark and Bud were on the green and waiting for my arrival. Unfortunately, I was going to be late because I had a lot of trouble with the sand. After 3 wasted strokes, I was out. I settled for a triple bogey as my playing partners walked away with a par each.

Did I redeem myself? Stay tuned.

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Hole # 3, Mesquite Country Club, Palm Springs, CA

Hole # 3, par 5, Blue tees, 492 yards

On the Mesquite Country Club scorecard, hole # 3 has a number 1 in the handicap row. That means, hole # 3 is the hardest hole on the entire golf course and after playing it, I totally agree. If you hate water then it’s going to be hard for you to embrace this hole. From the tee box, you have to make sure you don’t a worm burner, one of those drives that skips along the grass because if you do, you might as well throw it in the water yourself.

Your tee shot has to carry the water. If you simply keep your cool, you can do it without breaking a sweat. The fairway is pretty wide once you prepare for your second shot, however at 492 yards, it is not easy to go for the green in two. Take a fairway wood and blast it over the water. Or if you’re a little unsure of your clubs then take a mid iron and hit it short of the water. You always go for the green in three and ensure yourself a dry GIR.

On your approach shot, take plenty of club because there are sand traps guarding the green. If you have to, sail it left rather than right so that you miss the bunker on the far right side behind the green. Remember, this is handicap hole # 1 and it will certainly test you. If you can get a par, congratulate yourself. It is well deserved.

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Hole # 5, Rancho Las Palmas, Rancho Mirage, CA

Hole # 5, par 4, White tees, 265 yards

Hole # 5, West Course

Hole # 5, West Course

The Rancho Las Palmas Country Club is situated in Rancho Mirage behind a gated community. From Bob Hope Drive, you enter a guarded security gate which is almost across the street from the River, an outdoor shopping and restaurant complex.

To play Rancho Las Palmas, you don’t have to stay at the resort but you have to be an avid golfer to enjoy the grounds and be challenged to some degree. There are three distinct 9 hole courses here and you really don’t have a choice when the starter dictates your round.

Since this course is a semi-private course, you will see an array of personal or custom carts go by. If you’re lucky, you may see a BMW, Mercedes or a Jaguar. Because of the country club feel, it is important to arrive on time and follow the dress code. As soon as you check in, proceed outside and find the starter. They are very prompt and strict when it comes to early morning rounds here.

Hole # 5 on the West course is a short par 4 but it is very intimidating for those of us who spray the ball. The tee box lines up nicely with the Rancho Las Palmas resort, with villas on your right. The main road to the resort runs on your left side so aim straight and you should be ok. A nice drive will leave you with a short iron to the green which is situated across the water. If you’re lucky then no one is sitting in the outdoor patio or anywhere near the viewing area. If unlucky then you’ll have an audience at the resort watching every move you make.

I was lucky to hit up onto the green and not lose my second shot to water. My playing partners weren’t so lucky as they sunk one then two balls into the water hazard. It is quite an experience to drive up and walk across to the green. Makes you feel like a PGA player making a walk to an island green like at the TPC Sawgrass.

A simple two putt for a par or a difficult, stressful putt for a birdie. Either way, I got a GIR and is happy to play at such an incredible course.

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Hole # 8, Shadow Hills GC, Indio, CA

Hole # 8, par 3, Blue tees, 153 yards

Hole # 8

Hole # 8

With two holes-in-one, I often think the third one is just waiting for me on the next par 3. At the South Course on Shadow Hills, hole # 8 is a nice par 3. The whole left side is guarded by water and the hole plays nicely to a natural draw if you have one of these shots in your bag.

Bert was first up and he decided to club down. He hit a beautiful draw to the green but unfortunately came up short. After watching him hit a 8-iron to 153 yards, I decided to follow him. I went back to the cart and changed clubs. I was going to hit a 7-iron but something in the wind told me it was shorter than what the GPS had said.

I hit it smoothly and the ball sailed straight towards the right side. Luckily, it hit a mound and bounced left. It settled about four feet from the hole, giving me my first chance for a birdie. I was having trouble with my putter all day and it was evident that I could not putt. I walked away with just a par.

Shadow Hills is closed for overseeding until November 5th, 2012.

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Hole # 2, Los Robles Greens, Thousand Oaks, CA

Hole # 2, Blue tees, 146 yards

Some courses give you a good feeling and Los Robles Greens does that for me every time I set foot here. After finishing the par 5, hole # 1, it’s good to take a rest and a breather and get ready to hit a hole-in-one on the next hole. At only 146 yards, it is very doable and with the right club, technique and a lot of luck, someone is bound to hit it into the hole.

Before you lick your lips, let me warn you about right of the green. Any hint of a slice and your ball will be lost. If you’re going to hit an errant shot, let it go left because you have plenty of room on that side of the fairway. At only 146 yards, take an extra club because there’s usually a lot of wind up on the green. It’s flat but most people don’t get to the green- strange!

I went with a 7-iron and it was pin high. Stan chose a 6-iron and beamed it left of the palm tree. It was Damien’s turn and he decided to hit his 8-iron. Damien usually hits a high draw and his ball would land on the green, almost holing it. He would putt in for a birdie while the both of us would end up with a bogey.