The Mountain Course at La Quinta is a challenging and visual creation from Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass period. It bears similarities to the stadium course in Ponte Vedra in that there is plenty of visual intimidation, especially in the green complexes, yet Pete gives you a fair line of play on every hole as long as you have the discipline to follow it. This is a positional driving course, you must plan carefully from each tee to pick specific lines that will give you advantage angles into the green arrangements and the pin of the day.
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The course is carved into the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains in Palm Desert and looks like the Hollywood set for MASH. You fully expect to see Hawkeye and Trapper John standing next to you on the practice ground. There are many Kodak moments of the holes set against the breathtaking mountains so you have to make sure you don’t let your mind wander to often from the task at hand.
As you see at Sawgrass the bunkers are ever present, over 100 bunkers and waste areas, with a large splash of water as well, confine the driving areas throughout that make finding your proper drive position a challenge. The truth is the sand is very playable and it is more about intimidating the player while they are choosing their flight lines than punishing them terribly for missing them. The water is the punitive element to mind and is actually in play every time it presents itself.
Like most Pete Dye courses, the green complexes are what separates this course from the ordinary. Every green seems to pop up from the fairway with carve outs of grassy hollows and bunkers that make elevated approaches with spin the shot of the day. When you miss a green it takes real pitching imagination and agility to deal with the abrupt elevation change to the surface as well as the swoops and swerves you ball engages once it gets on the green.
At 6300 yards from the White Tees there is plenty of challenge for the average bear. Only two par fours are over 400 yards from these tees, but the elevation changes into the greens make many shots a club or so more on the approach. Even with a mid-iron or hybrid in hand the tight green targets give you plenty of opportunity to show off your recovery game.
The front side has a very cool sequence. It begins with a neat finesse hole that sets the tone for day-controlled driver and precise approach play into s kitchy green complex. Your heart rate quickens on the second hole, a testing par 3 with a harrowing water feature that can wreck your scorecard early in the round. Plenty of scoring opportunity from 4 through 7 with a couple of imaginative par fives in this stretch. The finishing holes on the outward nine are very gamey, especially the 9th which wears the #1 Handicap Hole moniker with great pride.
The inward nine starts with a series of holes right out of TPC Sawgrass-three turning Par 4s with waste area containment on one side and some nastiness on the other. These are the only holes that make you feel like this course is in a gated community…..a very high end gated community at that. There are some jaw dropping second homes that look more like villas than vacation condos. After an innocuous three par 13th you turn the corner to the 14th tee and voila you are in Tolkein Hobbit Land for the next four holes.
This is by far and away the coolest part of the course with the imaginative holes routing in a tranquil valley between the majestic mountains. You just expect a large booming Yul Brynner voice to emanate from between the peaks warning you that you are entering a region of peril. These four Dye holes bear out such a warning but they are eminently playable if you keep your wits about you and do not try anything outside of your skill set.
It is worth taking a moment when you get to the Par 3 sixteenth and hike up to the perch which holds the back tee. You could swear you can see all the way to the Joshua Tree Forest from there, it is a grand view of the vast expanse of the desert and the Santa Rosa Mountain Range beyond. A more detailed account of this creation is provided in the Hole-By-Hole description below.
When you are done tallying the score take time to schmooze around the clubhouse on the hill. The interior architecture is on a grand scale with high exposed wooden rafters giving it a homey feeling of a lodge- it makes you want to set a spell. While enjoying some good food and libation in the grill room the tall glass windows afford you a stunning view of the practice area and the course.
This place is a must stop on any visit to Palm Desert. Pete did a marvelous job putting together a tactical course that will tease and please you every time you play it.
La Quinta, California
Designer: Pete Dye (1985)
Tees Par Yardage Rating Slope
Black 72 6732 72.9 135
White 72 6300 70.9 129
Gold 72 5330 71.4 126
For more photos click to review Postcard from La Quinta Resort Mountain Course