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PGA WEST’S new ownership is busy restoring ‘The Western Home of Golf in America’

Photo by Evan Schiller

Martin Kaufmann November 8, 2021 10:55 am ET 

From the moment we first glimpsed PGA WEST at the “Skins Game” 35 years ago, we all knew that we had witnessed something transformative. Viewers couldn’t help but marvel at how land so rugged and unforgiving could be transformed into something so beautiful and seductive, ultimately luring an untold number of golfers from around the world to California’s Coachella Valley over the past 35 years.

PGA WEST quickly earned a moniker – “The Western Home of Golf in America” – that reflected the fact that all of the major professional tours and the NCAA regularly visited, allowing the game’s best players to test themselves against some of the stiffest designs of Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, and Greg Norman. It also became a bucket-list destination for avid golfers and an attractive landing spot for couples looking to enjoy the good life in the desert.

Last year Century Golf Partners, an established operator of high-end clubs and resorts, teamed with Hankuk Industry, which owns courses in the U.S. and Japan, to acquire PGA WEST and The Citrus Club, including the Mountain and Dunes golf courses. That set off a whirlwind of activity, with the new ownership pouring resources into course improvements on all nine PGA WEST courses. The goal of this long-term project is three-fold: provide tournament conditions daily; bring more big tournaments to the property; re-establish PGA WEST as a must-visit destination with courses that are fixtures on top-100 lists.

“We want to secure our position in the top five of U.S. club resorts in the U.S.,” said Ben Dobbs, PGA WEST’s Executive Director. “We have the architects, the properties and the location to achieve this. Having iconic golf courses and great architects were just the beginning. Now we must be innovative, relevant and provide exceptional experiences.”

That attitude is reflected in the recently completed work on the Greg Norman Course, which opened in 1999. Greens were restored to their original sizes, and the TifDwarf Bermuda grass was replaced with TifEagle, which eventually will be installed at each course, creating optimal year-round conditions. In addition, more than 100 bunkers were rebuilt, the expansive native areas were restored, and turf was added to enhance playability on the brutal target-golf layout.

PGA WEST has also made a major commitment to deep-tine aerification equipment, ensuring healthier turf conditions. Each course is being aerified twice annually.

“Ultimately, we’ll have firmer greens and the ability to mow them lower,” said Chris May, Director of Agronomy, who will guide the eventual restoration of all nine courses. “We want tournament conditions on all of these courses before and after overseeding. The benefit of doing all of this work is they get in really good shape in the summer as well.”

The work on the Norman Course follows the restoration last year to the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course – which pairs with PGA WEST Pete Dye Stadium when the PGA TOUR visits each January to play The American Express – and work this year on the Arnold Palmer Private Course.

The latter, with its finishing holes sculpted along the rugged Santa Rosa Mountains, produced some of the most memorable moments of the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing, including David Duval’s closing eagle in 1999 to shoot 59 and win the tournament. The course has never been in better shape. May’s team installed TifEagle putting surfaces over new greens irrigation, restored all greenside bunkers to original specifications, and replaced all of the bunker sand.

Brandon Johnson, the long-time senior architect for Arnold Palmer Design, returned to La Quinta to revitalize the picturesque finishing holes along the All-American Canal. Johnson put in new bunkering on Nos. 14 and 16 to create more differentiation between those approaches and added a knob on the back of the par-5 14th that presents a new risk-reward scenario for players trying to reach in two. “It definitely has a par-5 green now,” May said.

Johnson restored the other greens to their original contours, recapturing Palmer’s original vision.

“He tied together the whole course with one type of look,” May said.

PGA WEST’s executive team will face interesting choices on the Pete Dye Stadium Course, unquestionably one of Dye’s masterpieces. May guarantees “a restoration, not a renovation,” including recapturing the original green shapes and sizes.

“Every idea that Pete had is on this golf course,” May said. “It’s remarkably untouched – partly because it’s always been so busy that they weren’t able to do the work. We want to bring it back to what it once was.”

While May’s team is busy on the course upgrades, Dobbs also is overseeing enhancements to the five clubhouses and amenities. Those amenities include a recently opened $10 million Sports Club.

“Our owners have committed to owning us for generations, so that helps our team make long-term decisions,” Dobbs said. “I’m super-excited to be able to share everything that we are doing with golfers from around the world.”

Hope Erickson

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Sheri followed up with up us a year later after we initially spoke and then we decided to do another project in a different city. She was just checking in with us and it was perfect timing! We were looking for a short-term rental property in the Palm Desert area and she said she has just the right realtor for the job!
That was Kayla Cunard!
Kayla is very well informed on the locations and restrictions of short-term rentals and took us to see exactly what fit our needs.
She was patient and took the time to walk us around and find us the perfect place.
Throughout the process she was efficient, on top of it all, had answers to every question and got the deal closed in about a week!
Kayla went above and beyond what a normal realtor would do by trying to problem solve before the problem even arose! She even took measurements of the space for us and received some of our packages.
She gave us referrals for utilities, cleaning people, handymen, etc...It was the smoothest, most pleasant real estate transaction we've had.
Thank you Kayla and Sheri!

R. Dembekjian

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Very professional and prompt! It was a pleasure conducting the inspection with a professional agent that is knowledgeable of the property and friendly. We look forward to working with Zenona again! 

Patricia Hogan, OR

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Betsy Justice is delightful! I am so pleased to have connected with her and highly recommend her. She has a wonderful positive attitude and doesn't let anything distract from her quest to find the perfect home that matches all your specifications. Best of all, she managed my expectations so that I was never taken by surprise and always had a solution (or two) for little glitches that might arise in the process--and we had a few glitches that she took the initiative to overcome smoothly. I ended up with a dream home that is even better than I imagined at the beginning of the process. Thank you, thank you, Betsy!"

Mark & Terry, Canada

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Hi Sheri,
Your email reminded me that I forgot to thank you for the nice card we received from you a few weeks back. We really enjoyed working with you, and you made the whole selling process so simple and painless for us. It was well worth the ten-year wait. :)
Bryden mentioned that he referred his good friend Dustin to you and said he was impressed with the service you provided to Dustin and his family.
I was in Palm Springs for a few days last week and visited with Jen & Charles. They also said they were very happy with you & your team and quite liked your easy-going style.
Well done Sheri and best wishes for many more years of success.

A. Magana

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
As a 1st time home buyer Zenona was very informative, and most importantly responsive. I can appreciate her for listening to my needs and concerns all the while being KIND! 

Dining Around Laguna Beach: Splashes, Sapphire, Ysidro

Those of you who have been with me for a long time know that I lost my late husband, Bill, in 2016 to a glioblastoma brain tumor. In 2018, I met Michael, and we got engaged in 2019. Well, we finally pulled the trigger and got married on April 1st!

We went to the Surf and Sand in Laguna Beach for a few days as a quick get-away. One of the wonderful things about that area is so many great restaurants and the fabulous ocean, of course. And it’s only 2 hours away from the desert.

I’m not going to detail every last meal, but rather give you the highlights, as I highly recommend all of these restaurants.

The first night we dined with good friends Dean and Debbie at Ysidora at The Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The service was outstanding, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming, the company couldn't have been better, (along with that vintage bottle of Dom from Dean and Deb) and we all went away very glad that we’d had our first night’s dinner there.

The next night we went to Sapphire in Laguna Beach. We sat outside on their spacious patio and made good use of all the heaters as April at the beach is NOT April in the desert!

We started with cast iron roasted brussels sprouts, Romanesco cauliflower, and Kurobuta Pork Belly. Outstanding!

Michael had the crispy duroc pork schnitzel with maitake mushrooms, garden herb spaetzle, baby rainbow carrots, Meyer lemon, and basil emulsion.

I went lighter and had the chardonnay steamed Manilla clams, Mexican white prawns, and P.E.I. mussels with saffron pearl couscous, Spanish chorizo, melted garlic, and charred tomato broth.
Even though we were stuffed, we managed to find room for the Meyer lemon crème Brulee.

We will definitely be back the next time we are in the area.

As we stayed at the Surf and Sand, we had lunch at Splashes one day, which was very good. I had the Avocado Toast with heirloom tomatoes, poached eggs, shaved radish, and everything seasoning. Michael had the Grass-Fed Burger with Fresno onion jam, pepper jack, tomato, pickles, and truffle aioli.

My mom joined us for dinner one night. She had fish tacos, I had seared scallops with crisp enoki mushrooms, pickled cauliflower, puffed quinoa, and a tellicherry pomegranate reduction. Michael had lobster bisque and Icelandic cod in brick dough with purple sweet potato, heirloom carrots, heart of palm salad, yuzu, and white soy gel.

I’ve never had anything less than a stellar meal at Splashes, and this was no exception. It’s the one place I always go to in Laguna.

Dining Around the Desert: Los Arcos, La Quinta

 

Los Arcos is a 10-month-old, family-run, Mexican restaurant in La Quinta. Located in the “old” Ralph’s shopping center at the end of Washington, across from Starbucks.

I’d been seeing glowing reviews on Nextdoor, and so Michael and I decided to try it as there’s always room for another good Mexican restaurant in my book!

We arrived around 6:15 PM and the place was already pretty full. We opted to sit on the patio and soon Jesus arrived to greet us and take our drink order. They have applied for a liquor license, but for now, it’s just beer and wine.

Along with our beers, we started with chips, salsa, and Fresh Tableside Guacamole. Made with avocados, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapenos, and their secret spices, it was very tasty and chunky, just how I like it. The chips were fresh, thin, and perfectly salted. The salsa was very good and came with a kick.

I had a Taco Salad with shredded Chicken which was fine, but nothing spectacular. Next time I’ll try something different as the food that was coming out of the kitchen looked great.

Michael, on the other hand, had the Mojarra Frita. A deep-fried whole tilapia fish served a bed of mixed bell peppers piled on a cast-iron skillet. Served with your choice of corn or flour tortillas. Garnished with pico de Gallo, lettuce, and avocado. It was presented sizzling on a platter and was wonderful. Moist, with crispy skin, just like a whole fish should be.

 

Los Arcos has an extensive menu with a nice selection of burritos, tacos, chile Rellenos, etc…everything you’d expect. The prices are very reasonable with nothing over $24.

Our server, Jesus, is also one of the owners, and couldn’t have been more personable, as was all the staff. We will be back soon!

Open from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, 7 days a week.

50855 Washington St, La Quinta

760-992-5133

 

https://losarcoslq.com/

 

Click here to see the full menu….

Why Palm Springs Airport is a pandemic economic success story

 A jet takes off from Palm Springs International Airport, which has defied COVID-related slowdowns by increasing flights and passenger traffic during the pandemic. Photo by Shutterstock.

With spring just around the corner, many travelers looking for relaxation will be heading to Palm Springs. The return of visitors means Palm Springs International Airport will be humming with action in the coming weeks.

But Zócalo Public Square commentator Joe Matthews says business has actually been booming for a while at the local airport. He calls Palm Springs International a pandemic economic success story.

Opinion column by Joe Mathews:

If you’re heading to heaven, you really should fly out of Palm Springs.

Pandemic-era air travel is a miserable combination of unhappy passengers and unreliable service, except in Palm Springs. There, flying still feels like something miraculous.

The airport is small and easily navigable. And after you speed through security, you emerge into an outdoor desert garden that might be the best waiting room in American aviation. If we're lucky, sun-splashed, open-air PSP — the airport’s code — will become a model for post-pandemic flight across California, and especially in the smaller airports of our growing inland regions.

PSP is already the people’s choice. While the pandemic has grounded the travel ambitions of other places, PSP has soared. 2021 was the busiest summer in the airport’s history. Since last June, the airport has set seven new monthly records for passengers. PSP now serves more than 2 million people annually.

Those records may keep falling. Southwest Airlines started service in Palm Springs in 2020 and now flies from there to eight cities, including Sacramento and Oakland. Other airlines have added flights to destinations from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale. The 13 passenger airlines serving the airport now offer 35 different routes, creating competition that lowers fares.

In local news reports, airport officials have expressed surprise at this pandemic surge. They hadn’t projected a return to pre-COVID numbers until 2023. But PSP, a former military base converted six decades ago, has long found ways to succeed in hard times.

PSP has prospered ever since the Great Recession, even as other Western airports stagnated. One reason: all the Canadian snowbirds buying Coachella Valley properties after the collapse of the housing bubble.

To serve that growing Canadian colony, the airport established non-stop service to Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. In the process, PSP set new records for passengers in six of the seven years between 2012 and 2019.

The airport’s growth has been supported over the last two decades by careful and sustained investments, including a new control tower and terminal, a ticket lobby expansion and a better baggage handling system that have not cost the airport its small and convenient feel.

But Palm Springs can’t take all the credit for its growth. The awfulness of flying in and out of LAX and the horror of driving anywhere from it have driven customers to find alternatives. And Ontario Airport, the nearest Inland Empire rival to Palm Springs, has been badly mismanaged, shedding flights and passengers for most of the 2000s and 2010s.

When COVID hit, PSP, with that outdoor space, felt like a safe place to visit — not unlike Palm Springs. The Coachella Valley’s great weather, and its tradition of indoor-outdoor living has made it a popular place to pass the pandemic.

I made my maiden voyage recently on a late afternoon flight from PSP to Oakland after a tiring day of reporting around the valley.

For the first time I can remember, an airport refreshed me. I made it through security in two minutes, having to wait only for a very polite family of five, all wearing Toronto Maple Leaf sweatshirts. I lay down on a shady bench in the garden before heading up into the Sonny Bono Concourse to grab a sandwich at an open-air restaurant. While eating, I took in fabulous views of Southern California’s two highest mountains, Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto. It felt a bit like visiting a desert spa.

Marveling at the scene, I told an airport worker that the only thing missing was a swimming pool. She quickly corrected me — there is a pool, but it’s in the general aviation part of the airport for those who fly privately.

I’ve heard people compare the look of the airport with attractive canopies and all that light to the sets in the NBC show “The Good Place,” a comedy that offered a sun-splashed view of the afterlife. Of course, we mere mortals have no way of knowing whether PSP really looks like heaven. But Palm Springs does have one advantage over that other paradise: an airport that makes it easy to get in and get out.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

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