Course: La Quinta, California can be considered the golf capital of the state. That’s a really bold claim, considering the Monterey Peninsula, Los Angeles and San Diego could all say the same thing. But in terms of number of quality golf courses per square mile, La Quinta takes the cake. La Quinta is part of the desert resort mini metropolis of Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Indian Wells/etc. about 1.5 hours from LA. Home of PGA West and the Bob Hope Classic, the Quinta has a lot going for it and is a great place to go for a few days of golf. I mean, what other place can boast one of its “municipal” courses hosted the Bob Hope Classic for a number of years? What other place can boast that it built the course just so it could be one of the hosts? Finally, what place has municipal courses the likes of Silver Rock? 99% of the time, courses like Silver Rock are one of the best courses within hundreds of miles. In LQ, it’s a run of the mill muni. Only in the Quinta.
Arnold Palmer built Silver Rock in 2005 on a southwest LQ piece of land at the foot of the southern mountain range. From 2008 – 2011, the Rock was one of the host courses for the Bob Hope Classic. That tournament then switched from 5 days to 4, and the course was dropped from the rotation. You can play the tips, which were the longest on tour at the time, at 7,578 yards. Silver Rock is traditional desert golf in the sense that it’s very focused on targets, but separates itself from standard desert fare with the creative use of water hazards, bunkering and the rolling terrain of foot hills. You’ll encounter blind shots, grease lightning fast greens and shaved fringes as well. The slope rating here felt a little low for the challenge you get, but maybe that’s because I had a rough day. At any rate, Silver Rock is one of the better public courses in the area and if you play it at the right time, is an absolute steal. When you combine that with the first rate range, clubhouse and outdoor dining patio area, you have a must play when you’re in the area.
I have family in the area and have played many of the courses in the area, but only played Silver Rock once before, about 2 years ago. I remember it as nicely groomed, pleasant vistas and a tough play. I was recently visiting the area and decided it was time for another go.
The First is a 394 yard par 4 (from the Blues). It’s a dog leg right with bunkers all along the right side of the fairway with a narrow opening for the fairway at the dog leg, then more bunkers surrounding the green. At least the green is a little on the tame side, but you definitely get thrown in head first to start the round.
Tee shot at the First. I never get tired of the mountain view in the background.
Approach shot territory
The Second is a 542 yard par 5. It’s another slight dog leg right, with a carry over water to the green. Bunkers are scattered throughout the hole, with a big concentration of the them to the left of the hole to collect those shots trying too hard to stay dry.
Approach shot territory
A closer look at the green
The Third is the first par 3 at 158 yards. The green is elevated and runs almost perpendicular to the tee area, while bunkers are lined up in a row along the front side of the green almost to the tee area. And it’s a tough green to putt.
The Fourth is a 355 yard par 4. It’s a hard dog leg left, almost a horseshoe, with the tee at one of the shoe and the green on the other. A waste area and bunkers protect the dog leg while bunkers surround the green as well. As is typical with the course, you don’t get a clean look at the fairway or green and don’t know how much, or little, landing room there is if it’s the first time you’re playing here. They have GPS in the carts, which helps that issue, but blind shots are always tough to pull off correctly so that it plays like a fair challenge instead of confusing. It’s pulled off well here, but there are other holes where it’s not (Ninth and Eighteenth come to mind).
Approach shot territory. Green is straight ahead.
The Fifth is a 298 yard par 4. It too is a dog leg left, but the green is tucked to the left behind a tree is really the only turn the hole takes. Driver is generally too much club here, but you need enough off the tee to clear the dog leg for the approach. Any short approach ends up well below the hole.
Tee shot at the Fifth
Approach shot at the Fifth
The Sixth is a 428 yard par 4 and presents a very tough decision off the tee. There are cross bunkers at the area where tee shots will land, with a very narrow fairway between them. You can try to carry the bunkers altogether, but there’s water on the right and waste land on the left. You can try to lay up, but that leaves you with a rather difficult, long and blind approach shot. Or you can try to needle the cross bunkers and drive straight between them. I tried the latter and my ball rolled into the left bunker since the fairway slopes into it. Laying up off the tee seemed to work the best out of our group.
The bunkers on the left side of the fairway
A look at the green past the cross bunkers
The Seventh is a 547 yard par 5. Water splits the hole in two fairways, with a large bunker on the left side of the fairway in tee shot land. Then you have a choice of carrying the water for a shorter approach shot, or laying up before the water for a longer approach shot to a well protected green. There’s a lot of ways to play this hole and at all costs, avoid the bunkers; you need all 3 shots to maneuver to the green.
Tee shot at the Seventh
Large bunker on the left side of the fairway
The water carry to the green
The Eighth is a 140 yard par 3. The hole is nestled right up against the foot of the mountain, protecting the back right of the green, while a large bunker protects the front left. The green is fairly deep, but slopes severely from back to front, making putts downhill very difficult.
The Ninth is a 432 yard par 4. Honestly, I have an issue with this hole. I had no idea where to hot my tee shot, even when looking at my GPS, the cart’s GPS and having my Dad point out where to go. In the tee shot photo below, it looks like this dog legs right, but it actually turns left. There are bunkers blocking the entire left side, so it was tough to see the fairway turn left between the mounds of bunkers, but that’s where you’re supposed to go. I had no idea how much room was on the other side of the bunkers and it looked like any tee shot that carried the bunkers would simply cross over to the other row of bunkers. Anyways, it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and was a visual mess.
The Ninth. That sliver of green on the left is where your tee shot should go.
Towards the right of the hole. The green is in there, some where.
The front nine gives you a pretty good set of desert golf holes. Lots of decision making, scenery and various ways to maneuver through the hazards. The design, scenery and greens really set this place apart from other courses in the area. I’d rank them 7, 4, 1, 5, 6, 8, 2, 3, 9.
The Tenth is a 327 yard par 4. It’s a slight dog leg left with water along the entire left side and water on the far right of the hole. I like the looks of this hole. The vast bunkers to the right of the green and water on the left of the green make both tee and approach shots have to be pretty precise for par or better.
The Eleventh is a 360 yard par 4. It’s another dog leg left, a little harder of a turn than the Tenth. The fairway is somewhat narrow, sandwiched between bunkers and waste bunkers. The green is open on the front, with of course bunkers protecting the right and left of the green.
Further down the Eleventh
The Twelfth is a 569 yard par 5. This is a beast of a hole. You have to belt your tee shot so you can carry your second shot over the canal, then you have another couple hundred yards to the green, which progressively narrows as cross bunkers annihilate the sides of the fairway. I personally feel it’s the toughest hole on the course, not the number 2 handicapped hole. Sorry there are no photos for this hole; I was fighting for my life.
The Thirteenth is a 431 yard par 4. It’s a very hard dog leg right. There are gorge bunkers at the inside of the dog leg and driving straight off the tee might be too much. The green itself is fairly straightforward, so just focus on getting your GIR.
Tee shot at the Thirteenth
The Fourteenth is a short 95 yard par 3. Looks and seems easy enough, but everyone in our group, and group in front of us, scored bogey or worse. The green slopes severely and quickly left to right and back to front, so anything hit to the front half of the green would fall about 20 yards downhill off the green. This made it next to impossible to hold the green at all. It was fun because everyone struggled, but I still don’t know where they expected us to hit and stick the green.
The Fifteenth is a 453 yard par 4. It was at this point I felt the course was really twisting the blade. The canal runs along the entire left side of the fairway. A large bunker on the right side goose necks the hole, creating a very narrow area to the green that you’re better off carrying. Another par 4 where both tee and approach shots need to be dead on.
Further down the Fifteenth fairway
The Sixteenth is a 430 yard par 4. There were a herd of big horn sheep near the tee area, which was pretty cool to see. The fairway falls from the tee area into a valley before rising again to the green, which is protected on the front by a large star bunker. Again, this course wants two good shots to the green, or else.
The Sixteenth. Big horn sheep doing the smart thing and staying in the shade.
The Sixteenth tee shot, straightway
Approach shot territory, with the large bunker in front of the green
The Seventeenth is a 179 yard par 3. It was actually playing 210 to the pin when we were there. The tee shot is elevated, water is along the right side and part of the front of the green while a large bunker crowds the left and left rear of the green. When the pin is in the front, which it was when we played, the landing area between the water and the bunkers is pretty minimal, especially when you’re hitting at least a long iron. I struck my tee shot well, but hit to the left of the green, leaving a downhill pitch shot in rough with no green to work with. A recipe for disaster.
The Eighteenth is a 520 yard par 5. Arnie doesn’t let you off easy, as there’s a lot going on with this hole. The tee shot is wide enough, but anything too far right is wet while too far left is in a large bunker. The second shot is a carry over water. The green is straight ahead and you can consider hitting straight at it, but there are a lot of bunkers surrounding the green. My issue with the hole is it is difficult to see the lay up area, as bunkers completely hide the fairway. At any rate, a lay up to the other side of the water still leaves a tough approach, which needs to carry cross bunkers and avoid water on the left of the green.
Tee shot at the Eighteenth
Further down the Eighteenth
The back nine felt a little tougher than the front, but I suppose that’s where the tougher holes belong. I’d rank them 10, 16, 17, 11, 13, 18, 14, 15, 12.
Generally, the course is one of those enjoyable challenges that makes you want to come back for more. Conditions were terrific, service was friendly and even though the course was crowded, everyone was in a good mood. The cart girl was first rate, which made hanging out in that heat so long well worth it. The scenery of the mountains, desert, big horns and the course itself gives you a nice atmosphere even if you’re not playing well. A lot of thought was put into this design and generally, it succeeds. I’d recommend a round here if you’re planning on visiting for a few days of golf. In a sea of golf courses, Silver Rock sets itself apart for the right reasons.
Gripes: Probably bunker overkill. I could see Arnie waking up at night, going over the hole designs, making a bunch more circles for bunkers, handing them to his land guys in the morning and all of them shaking their heads in disbelief, then calling the sand company for another million pounds. Not much else; there are a thousand different water stations and they provide water in the carts, which I think is a necessity out here.
Bar/grill: Very well done, but I particularly like the outdoor seating area. It’s in a quiet corner of the course and you get a great view of the mountain range.
Clubhouse: A little small, but enough equipment and apparel to be serviceable.
Practice area: Both the range and putting green are fairly large and are free to use with unlimited balls. That’s the gold standard for any course basically.
Getting there: Take the 10 East to Jefferson, turn right, go down about 5 minutes and follow the signs.