The Players course at Indian Wells Golf Resort is a fun, challenging golf course located in Indian Wells, CA just outside Palm Springs. The course opened in 2007 and was designed by John Fought. In 2011, The Golf Channel’s Big Break Indian Wells was contested here, and in 2015 Golfweek ranked the Players course #19 on their list of “Top 25 Best Courses You Can Play” in California.
The resort is owned by Troon Golf, which owns golf clubs all over the U.S., including a few other popular Palm Springs golf resorts – namely PGA West and Westin Mission Hills. Troon also owns Kapalua in Maui.
OVERALL RATING: B+
HIGHS: Scenery, Greens, Pace of Play, Clubhouse
LOWS: Bunker Conditions, Cart Service, Funky Course Layout
Note: I have not played the Celebrity course at Indian Wells. This review is only for the Players course.
According to the Indian Wells Golf Resort website, “the Players Course features a classic American design complete with sculpted bunkers in a style reminiscent of Riviera, Winged Foot and the brilliant golf courses created by Dr. Alistair Mackenzie near Melbourne, Australia.”
The clubhouse will immediately impress you with its 53,000-square foot futuristic design. A gorgeous water feature greets you in the parking lot.
Immediately head to the back deck to get your first look at the course. Sweeping views will get you stoked to play! The lower deck has comfy couches to relax on after your round, and the upper deck and bar upstairs – Vue – is an excellent post-round watering hole.
Arrive early to take full advantage of the amenities at the practice facility. Great conditions and ample acreage will help you hone a variety of shots before your round.
The first thing you might notice about the Indian Wells Golf Resort is the stark contrast between the lush green fairways and the desert waste areas that are scattered throughout the course. It’s a picturesque contrast. Living in Oregon, this type of landscape is an uncommon sight for me, so the novelty of the green vs. desert is especially interesting.
But don’t be fooled. Those desert waste areas are vicious and will swallow your ball!
Indian Wells Golf – The Highs
The course design takes full advantage of the mountain views. On nearly every hole, the mountains are smack-dab in your face and there are no houses – hallelujah!
It also feels like your own private course at times. The layout gives you a sense of privacy because you won’t see many golfers on other holes. John Fought and the Indian Wells Golf Resort did an excellent job in this regard to ensure that golfers could fully appreciate the majestic scenery devoid of houses, condos, and too many other golfers.
My favorite hole on the course is the par-3 12th. We arrived at the 12th tee late in the day and the sun was beginning to set behind the mountains. Looking at the green from the tee box you feel a little intimidated by the deep bunkers protecting the green. Long tree shadows provided ample shade on the green and a cool breeze kicked up approached the green. To me, this is what golf is all about – a warm, quiet evening enjoying the beauty of God’s creation while playing a game I love!
The greens on the Players Course are well-cared for and roll at just the right pace. The greens are fair, but I wouldn’t call them easy.
Most greens have a lot of undulations and I didn’t have many straight putts outside of 4-5 feet.
My only issue with the greens was on hole #11. There is a pond next to the green and they have a real bird poop problem.
Hold on guys, let me just clean up my line here (as i pick up green bird poop with my putter blade)!
Pace of Play
When you play golf at most resorts, slow play is something that comes with the territory. When we played PGA West last fall, we had problems finishing before dark. That’s what I expected from Indian Wells Golf Resort, but I was pleasantly surprised.
They really stress good pace of play. If you finish in under 4 hours, 33 minutes you get a coupon for a $4.33 drink in the bar. 🙂 Good stuff too – Patron margaritas, Moscow mules, decent whiskey.
We teed off at 2 p.m. The sunset was at 5:40 p.m., so I was genuinely concerned about finishing before dark. We finished just before dark and right at 4 hours.
Indian Wells Golf – The Lows
My ball landed in a bunker for the first time on hole #7. I had a decent lie in the greenside bunker, just to the left of the green about 25 feet from the hole. When I walked in, I noticed the sand was a little skimpy. To my horror, it felt like I was hitting off dirt and my ball sailed over the green! There was hardly any sand in the bottom of the bunker! Argh!
I was in another bunker on the back 9 as well and had the same issue – skimpy sand. It was frustrating and frankly, inexcusable.
The cart girl was covering both courses that day. I don’t know if this is the norm here, but we saw her for the first time on #14 and she was coming around on her last call. Seriously?! When was your first call? I was so hangry by the time she showed up that I was looking for places to forage for food in the desert waste areas.
By then she was also out of any real food, so I settled on a granola bar and a bag of pretzels to satiate me for the rest of the round.
You won’t return to the clubhouse after 9 holes (or at all until your round is over) and they don’t have a snack shack or anything like that. I hadn’t eaten for at least 6 hours by the time the cart girl rolled around so this oversight was a legitimate problem.
Bottom line: If you play here, get something to eat before your round and don’t rely on a pit stop along the way, because it doesn’t exist.
I should point out that other than the cart service, the service provided by all of the staff I encountered was top-notch. In fact, when I first arrived I started chatting it up with a waiter, Jason, in the upstairs bar. Jason was genuinely (not the fake brown-nosing) friendly and he gave me several great pointers. I saw him again after my round and he came over and asked me how my round was, even though he wasn’t serving our table.
Indian Wells Resort: If you’re reading this, give Jason a raise. 🙂
Funky Course Layout
Hole #1 is a par 5, followed by a par 3 on hole #2. This kinda bothers the OCD in me that must start every golf round on a par 4. It’s a little bit of a nitpick, I know, but that coupled with the fact that you never return to the clubhouse was bothersome.
There are plenty of opportunities – about every 3-4 holes – to use the bathroom and get ice and water, but if you head out to the course without food or enough balls to last 18 holes, Lord help you!
Why Indian Wells Players Course gets a B+
The course is in great shape, and it’s in a great spot. It’s really convenient if you’re staying in La Quinta, Indio, or Palm Desert and is about a 30-minute drive from the heart of Palm Springs.
Overall, Indian Wells does a lot of things right but they miss the mark on some of the details that I mentioned above – poor cart service, skimpy sand in the bunkers, and bird poop piling up on #11 green.
If you don’t bring your own clubs they have several sets of good quality rentals. A guy we were paired with had a rental set and it was a good, clean, full set of newish sticks.
If you can stand the afternoon heat, I recommend teeing off in the afternoon. There are fewer people on the course and rates go down considerably. You should be able to find good deals by checking out GolfNow or the Indian Wells Golf website.
Finally, for your own sanity, stay to the left off the tee on hole #1. That’s the first thing my waiter buddy Jason told me to do, but my driver wouldn’t listen. I put two Pro v1s from a fresh sleeve in the desert waste area off the first tee and I held on for dear life to my last Pro V1 for the rest of the round.