Returning in 2019 as the Desert Classic, the 60th anniversary of the valley’s major pro golf tournament will again be a vibrant, spectator-friendly “golf festival,” offering the enhanced fan experience that led to doubling attendance to 60,000 from a year ago, according to tournament officials.
Running Jan. 16-20, the tournament features an attractive golf field with tournament ambassador Phil Mickelson and Palm Desert amateur Charlie Reiter. Additionally, there will again be after-golf rock supplied this year by Sammy Hagar and the Circle Jan. 18, and the legendary Bad Company Jan. 19.
Outside the tournament grounds, here are some suggestions on how to keep the festival vibe going.
Watching the world’s best golfers in-person makes most of us hackers super-eager to hit the links, to try (however unsuccessfully) to channel their ball-striking brilliance and putting mastery. So, if you’re looking to play a round or two yourself while attending the Classic, consider venturing out of the immediate La Quinta neighborhood, for a couple of contrasting takes on desert golf.
The Golf Club at Terra Lago
84-000 Terra Lago Parkway, Indio
Home of the memorable “Skins Game” competitions in 1999 to 2002, Terra Lago, with its north and south tracks, is a 10-minute drive east on Interstate 10. The course guarantees you a “desert-y” golfing experience. Hitting the fairways, on either course, is a must as forbidding “natural” areas frequently await. There isn’t a lot of water in play, but, when it does appear, boy is it dramatic. And the same goes for the elevation changes you’ll encounter: they will challenge your club-selecting savvy, but also provide you with stunning desert vistas.
Oak Valley Golf Club
1888 Golf Club Drive, Beaumont
Half-an-hour west on Interstate 10, Oak Valley in Beaumont is a parkland track on the Coachella Valley’s fringe. In recent years, it has hosted both the opening and closing tournaments for the Golf Channel Am Tour’s Palm Springs tour. Unlike most of Greater Palm Springs’ more familiar tracks, Oak Valley penalizes errant shots with fairway-lining trees that usually eliminate straight-to-the-green recoveries. And the rough here is some of the toughest around.