Getting on the green

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

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Hole # 1, Rancho Las Palmas CC, Rancho Mirage, CA

Hole # 1, North Course, par 5, 510 yards 

It was already hot when we teed off at 8:00am in the morning. There was a slight sheen on the grass because of the sprinklers that cool down the course last evening. Without spiked shoes, it was slippery to walk on, especially on the inclines.

I have never played the North course before so it was going to be treat. The first hole looked narrow from the blue tees. Perhaps it’s because it’s right off the driving range and the fence makes teeing off daunting. It’s also downhill towards a grassed aqua duct. I teed up my ball and took a few practice swings. I started waggling my driver like Jason Dufner and when I was comfortable and relaxed, I went for it. My drive went high and long. I would lose sight of it once it hit the morning sun but I knew it was down there somewhere.

Carts are allowed everywhere so to make the walk bearable. When it’s above 90 degrees, it’s taxing on the body because you sweat so much. I drove up to my ball and looked across a small canal that separated me from the green. The green was situated on a slight uphill and it really didn’t look far from where I was. I decided to hit my Callaway Diablo Edge 4-hybrid. After making solid impact, I was about 50 yards from the green. I had to hit down on the ball to launch it high because of the wet and soggy grass. Also, they don’t seem to rake the lawn clippings after they mow it.

My ball popped up on the green and I was left with a 15 foot putt for birdie. The greens were really slow and I ended up three putting for a bogey. Disappointed but glad that I was playing the North Course.

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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 # 11, Westin Mission Hills, Gary Player Course, Rancho Mirage, CA

Hole # 11, Gold tees, par 5, 548 yards 

Hole # 11

Hole # 11

If you get a chance to play this course, do so but bring lots of balls. Also a good dosage of courage too, because you’ll need it to score low on the Gary Player course at the Westin Mission Hills. Hole # 11 is brutal. From the gold tees, it looked narrow. Perhaps, I was spooked on the front 9, after slicing my ball and finding it in someone’s back yard near some patio chairs. After that experience, I wasn’t too confident off the tee and wanted to call my insurance agent to up my liability insurance.

Sure enough, when you have doubt in your mind, your muscles tenses up. The fairway was split into two, green on the left side with expensive homes. And water on the entire right side with expensive homes just on the other side of the lake. How do you take the water out of play? Or how do you take the million dollar homes out of play?

Tensed and all, my drive was nowhere to the calibre of a good and relaxed drive. It ended up short of the water edge and a million miles away from the green. I decided to hit my new 4-hybrid (ie. Taylormade Rescue Burner 4-H) and luckily, it flew straight toward the cart path. I really didn’t acknowledge how good I hit it until I found it, nestled in the fluffy grass. When you lay down your iron in this grass, you lose complete sight of it. That’s how fluffy it is. I should have learned something but I didn’t. I had less than 100 yards to the green, located on the other side of a watery grave. It really didn’t look far and I didn’t want to hit it long since there was someone’s patio on the other side of the green.

I decided to hit a sand wedge. The ball popped up and went straight into the lake. It flew no more than 60 yards, probably because I went completely underneath the ball. I couldn’t get a divot out of that and lost distance because I couldn’t compress the ball. From the edge of the water, I hit my fourth shot but pulled it left. I had to chip on and two putt in for a double bogey. It was a tough hole.