Palm Springs: America’s Golf Mecca
By Tim Cotroneo
No course captures how far Palm Springs has come in the golf world more than Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, CA. Players such as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Lee Trevino have all graced the fairways of Big Horn’s Canyons and Mountains Golf Courses. Yet today these Hall of Famers are dwarfed by the sheer luxury found in this opulent private community within a private club.
For vacationers looking to choose from Palm Springs wealth of 130 courses, the choices begin at high-end and then soar into the stratosphere. A favorite retreat of celebrities as far back as the 1930s, this Coachella Valley region basking in year-round sunshine wows visitors with an array of posh entrances connecting one luxury golf community with another.
What has occurred over the past century is that the high-end amenities which complement each of these golf domains have evolved into an unspoken competition for attracting golfers, home buyers, and investors seeking an idyllic lifestyle. Let’s take a look at the best in Palm Springs golf, communities, and 5-star amenities.
Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, CA
The elevations at Bighorn’s Mountains Golf Course are so spectacular that they served as a perfect made-for-TV venue during The Skins Game run in the mid-90s. Shortly after the television frenzy, a second course named the Canyons opened in 1999.
Fast forward more than 20 years and this golf community, surrounded by the Santa Rosa Mountains, exudes an uber-luxurious desert ambiance. Case in point is The Vault, a 24,000-square-foot facility housing members’ vintage, European, and sports vehicles. This car haven includes a glitzy lounge overlooking the showroom. There’s a waiting list, and a six-figure price tag, to park one’s vehicle in The Vault.
Bighorn’s 80,000-square-foot clubhouse was built to the tune of $75-million dollars. Featuring Peruvian limestone floors, Portuguese travertine walls, and glass sculptures, the clubhouse is a curved architectural marvel. Like everything else at Bighorn, the clubhouse does a breathtaking job of weaving beauty, lifestyle, and entertainment with golf.
Vintage Club in Indian Wells, CA
The Vintage Club has been honored as the Number 1 club in California and the third most prestigious club in the U.S.. Set perfectly into a cove at the base of the Eisenhower Mountains, the Vintage Club is generational in its embrace of family, community generosity, and continued elegance.
Known for having some of the best views in the Coachella Valley, the Vintage made a splash in 2016 when it opened it’s new 80,000-square-foot clubhouse. During the summer months when the Palm Springs area grows quiet due to 100-degree temperatures, the Vintage members renew their friendships while embarking on luxury cruises as a group.
The centerpiece of the club’s 400-acres is the Tom Fazio-designed Mountain and Desert Golf Courses. The Desert Course was honored by the American Society of Golf Course Architects as one of the three greatest courses built in the past 20 years.
Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA
The community of Rancho Mirage is known as a favorite of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack. Smack dab in the middle is Thunderbird Country Club, still thriving some 70-plus years after its opening. When Johnny Dawson founded the Thunderbird in 1951, it was despite the misgivings of his friend, golf immortal Ben Hogan.
The Thunderbird would become the first Palm Springs area golf course, or the trailblazer in a sport that serves as a Coachella Valley business and residential cornerstone. The course is also the birthplace of the first golf cart, a one seater with three wheels that would soon feature wings to hold golf bags.
In 1954, The Thunderbird CC granted the right to use its name to one of its members, the Chairman of the Ford Motor Company. The very first Ford Thunderbird automobile was sent to the club.
In 2021, Golf Architect Tripp Davis renovated the Thunderbird Golf Course so that it’s modern in every sense while still maintaining a classic look and feel. For golfers who thrive on the history of the game, The Thunderbird Country Club is an absolute thrill.
La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, CA
On January 22, 2023, Jon Rahm took home $1.4 million dollars at the Stadium Course at PGA West. The course, ranked as one of the best in the world, is one of five championship courses based at La Quinta Resort & Club.
La Quinta is a golf feast for the senses with courses designed by Nicklaus, Norman, and Dye, as well as three clubhouses and a golf academy. You’ll also find five restaurants, a spa, and a fitness center.
For those choosing to make La Quinta’s resort-style living home, you’ll find casitas suites, villas, and vacation rentals. Neighboring luxury golf communities include The Madison, The Tradition, and The Hideaway.
Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert
The mile-long entrance to Desert Willow’s two golf courses provide ample hints that golfers are in for a rich desert experience. Natural landscaping, views of the Santa Rosa Mountains, and an abundance of water-features make this 36-hole escape a must on your Palm Springs vacation calendar.
The bonus to your Desert Willow golf foray is it’s massive clubhouse leading to The Terrace Restaurant. A lower-level lunch or dinner reservation at this tiered restaurant is a real coup as you’re sitting on the 50-yard line for amazing 18th hole views of the Firecliff and Mountain View Golf Courses.
Whether you play Bighorn, Vintage Club, Thunderbird Country Club, La Quinta, or Desert Willow, there’s no denying that the Greater Palm Springs area is golf heaven on earth. It’s hard to deny that infinite sunshine, immaculate conditions, and almost a century of fairway history are the ultimate formula for making a golf date with paradise.