Overall Rating: C-
Highs: Scenery & hellacious bunkers
Lows: Practice facility & pace of play
According to the PGA West website, the Stadium Course has been “rated one of the ‘Top 100 Courses in the World’ by GOLF Magazine and 4th toughest course in America in Golf Digest’s ‘Top 50 Toughest Courses in America’ (2007). There may be no greater challenge or excitement in the game of golf.”
Really?!? For the average golfer playing out here this course is overhyped and overrated. If you can stay out of the deep bunkers and avoid the water, the course is no different than your average course. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, but the greens are pretty flat and the accurate hitter should play well out here.
I spent a week in the Palm Springs area in early November 2015. My husband and I really wanted to play the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West. This course is a Pete Dye design and has been home to PGA Tour Q School and several other events.
First impressions of the course were mixed. The clubhouse, pro shop, and the restaurant are posh. We were greeted by friendly and helpful staff and after checking in, we made our way to the practice range – a great disappointment. No grass, just dirt. I literally could not find any grassy areas on the entire range to hit from, so I was forced to hit off the dirt until I became too frustrated and just started teeing up the ball.
Standing on the first tee, the first thing you’ll notice is the undulations and the abundance of bunkers. This is the M.O. of the Stadium Course. It’s a little intimidating at first…you’ll hit several blind shots simply because you can’t see past some of the undulations. I didn’t mind this one bit. Awaiting to find out if my ball was safe or in a bunker added to the excitement, but I’m just weird like that. For most it would be pretty frustrating.
“Golf is not a fair game, so why build a course fair?” – Pete Dye
The bunkers are hellacious, but fun and unique. I ended up in 6 bunkers during my round. The member we played with suggested tossing a ball into the greenside bunker on #16. If your ball actually ends up in here, good luck. Imagine standing in a bunker with a 19-foot vertical wall to hit over. It’s nicknamed the Tip O’Neil bunker because in the 1987 Bob Hope Classic, former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil tried and failed 6 times to blast out, until he finally gave up and tossed the ball out. I made it out on my first try but it was an ugly result. You can watch my attempt to blast out of the Tip O’Neil bunker here:
On one of the holes on the back 9 you actually drive through a bunker! The cart path ends in a bunker and you just drive right through. How often do you get to drive through a bunker?
Why PGA West Stadium course gets a C-
We played twilight rates – $79/person. That’s a good deal for the quality of the course, but I wouldn’t pay more than $100 to play here. Vistas of the nearby mountains are everywhere, which makes for beautiful scenery. The PGA West Stadium course has houses on nearly every hole, but they are far enough away from the fairway, that it’s not much of a distraction.
The pace of play is SLOOOOW. According to the staff, 4:30 hour rounds are typical. Our round was 4:20 and we waited on almost every shot. By the time we arrived on the 18th tee box it was dark. That’s always the risk with a twilight round, and it was agonizing to wait like that when we were battling the looming darkness.
Overall, for $79 it was a fun experience. The scenery was beautiful and the bunkers were memorable. If you’re in Palm Springs and want to play a course with some PGA Tour history, I recommend it. But in many ways this course is overrated and disappointing and for that reason, I won’t play it again.