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2019-08-25 06:41:18
Best Golf Weekend in Greater Palm Springs

Best Golf Weekend in Greater Palm Springs

Grab your clubs and get ready for an unforgettable 48 hours of golf, playing courses designed by the masters: Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer.


A view of the 9th and 18th holes at the Gary Player Signature Course at the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage.

If you’re a “seasoned” hacker like me, you probably first fell in love with the game in the 1960s or ’70s, the era when the Big Three were actively defining golfing greatness: Between them, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player notched 377 professional and 34 major wins.

But in addition to their influence as tour pros, the King (Palmer), the Golden Bear (Nicklaus), and the Black Knight (Player), have had a lasting impact as course designers — with more than a thousand tracks to their credit worldwide.

In Greater Palm Springs, we’re able to tee it up on courses designed by each of the trio, all within a short drive of one another. So here’s your itinerary for a Big Three Weekend: Player and Nicklaus on Saturday (with a great lunch in between), and a final Sunday 18 with Palmer.



The fourth hole at the Gary Player Signature Course.


Westin Mission Hills: Gary Player Signature Course


First opened in 1992, the Player Signature Course at the Westin is the most forgiving in this Big Three rotation. It’s your best chance to warm up your game without incurring big numbers in the process. You’ll usually have driver in hand on the par 4s and 5s — water is generally more of a lovely ornament than obstacle here, mostly lurking at the edges of play (where only my most truly miserable shots have strayed).

Favorite Hole

The narrow par-5 third, stretching out to roughly 500 yards, requires a precise drive, then an even more precise, strategic second shot to avoid the lake edging into the fairway from the right.

Of Note

The Player offers a roomy practice range, with dedicated chipping green, practice bunker, and ample putting green. There is no GPS on the carts, so either bring along your own yardage-measuring tech or go old school and work with what you see.


Distance: 7,062 yards from the tips; 6,044 from the middle silver tees. Stroke rating: 73.6. Slope rating: 131.

Design Philosophy

Since the early 1980s, the Black Knight has designed nearly 400 projects in 38 countries on five continents. On his website he summarizes his design philosophy this way: “Create beauty and harmony and a playable golf course, while respecting the developer’s objectives.”

Gary Player Signature Course
70705 Ramon Road
Rancho Mirage


Pinzimini at the Westin

Set in a striking, high-ceilinged and big-windowed space, Pinzimini — a six-minute ride from the Player Signature Course — pleases diners’ aesthetically before pleasing them gastronomically. I like the house burger, but the small margherita pizza is the regular choice of several in my usual foursome.

71333 Dinah Shore Drive
Rancho Mirage
760-770-2150; pinziminipalmsprings.com



Pinzimini at the Westin Mission Hills makes a lunch break a convenient stop after taking on the Gary Player Signature Course.



The ninth hole at PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course.


PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course


The “Nick Tourney” at PGA West is one of the trio of courses the pros play in the PGA Tour’s CareerBuilder Challenge. Opened for play in 1987 and befitting a tour-caliber track, this one makes you pay for errant shots, particularly approaches: Big, deep bunkers guard seemingly every green. A memorably exacting test.

Favorite Hole

The 500-yard par-5 fifth hole features an island green situated to the left of the narrow fairway. After a good drive, you may be tempted to go for it with your second, but to succeed you’ll have to be able to fly it long and stop it quick. The prudent (and the higher handicapper) will continue down the fairway with the second shot, then aspire to a perfect water-carrying wedge shot to the green.

Of Note

The excellent practice range at PGA West has special allure, offering the chance to channel the tour pros you’ve seen there warming up for the CareerBuilder Challenge.   


Distance: 7,204 yards from the tournament tees; 6,061 from the regulars. Stroke rating: 75.3. Slope rating: 143.

Design Philosophy

There are 415 Nicklaus Design courses in 45 countries. From a June 2010 issue of Golf Digest, Nicklaus said: “My No. 1 goal in terms of creating individual shot values is to make the player use his mind ahead of his muscles — to control his emotions sufficiently to really think through his options before drawing a club from the bag.”

PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course 
56150 PGA Boulevard
La Quinta 760-564-7101



The 11th hole and the 12th tee in the distance at Classic Club.


Classic Club


Classic Club is one of Golfweek’s “Best Courses You Can Play 2018” and was No. 5 on Golf Advisor’s “Top Courses in California 2017.” Built in 2006 and a former home of the Bob Hope Classic (2006–08, now the CareerBuilder Challenge), the King’s gem is unquestionably one of the Coachella Valley’s masterpieces, both beautiful to traverse and truly challenging to play. Its fairways are action-packed, sloping, and undulating constantly; this brilliant aspect of the course is established right from the first hole. Keep your drive up on the line of the right-hand bunker, or watch your ball roll all the way down to the water on your left.

Favorite hole

On the par-3 12th hole, water is an active presence, winding from behind the hole to rush through a rocky channel, ornamented with colorful plantings, into the fronting lake. A big, deep bunker on the left completes the intimidating green, which, from the mid-tees, is a 120- to 160-yard carry.

Of Note

Top-notch practice facilities and a clubhouse that will impress even the jaded. Plus, Classic Club’s support team provides exemplary, attentive service. And a tip from the regulars here: Afternoon wind can turn this beauty into a beast.    


Distance: 7,322 yards from the black tees; 6,229 from the whites (five sets of tees in all). Stroke rating: 75.8. Slope rating: 144.

Design Philosophy

The King was first in the modern era to be both a tournament player and a course architect, forming his design company in 1972. Asked in a 2010 interview with Golf Course Architecture magazine whether there is an “Arnold Palmer style,” Arnie answered, “I have always tried not to have a style that is immediately recognized. I like to think we are doing courses that are different in style and structure, and that we are constantly doing new things in the design of our courses to give players an opportunity to try different golf shots. Not necessarily difficult, but something that is fun to play.”

Classic Club
75200 Classic Club Blvd.
Palm Desert

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