Mission Hills Country Club – Dinah Shore Tournament Course

6,315 yards, 128 slope from the White tees

Course:  Mission Hills CC was the last stop of the La Quinta golf trip.  It’s about 20 minutes away in Rancho Mirage and it’s private, but a family friend was gracious enough to host us for a round on the Dinah Shore Tournament course.  MHCC has three courses to be exact, but the Dinah Shore course hosts the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship each year, which is the first LPGA major tournament the ladies play each season.  Dinah Shore, an entertainer, founded the tournament in 1972 and the tourney has been a major since 1983.  One of the better traditions out there is that the winner of the tournament each year jumps in the pond surrounding the Eighteenth green.  The pond jump is classic and it took a lot for me not to follow suit after my round.  The tees from the championship stay on the course year round, so anyone can play the same tees as the ladies during the KNC.  They measure out to 6,671 yards and a 133 slope.

The tournament tee markers

Statue of Dinah Shore at the Eighteenth

MHCC is what you would expect from a high end country club.  The gated entrance gives way to a long palm tree lined drive up to the immensely covered valet entrance, where everything is taken care of for you and you simply walk in to the clubhouse.  The pro shop is rather large and after checking in, the putting green and driving range are also on the large side.  You actually have to walk about 100 yards from the carts to the range, but the walk is rather relaxing, as it’s all open space and it was nice to have a few moments to breathe before fine tuning your game.

The course itself was designed by Desmond Muirhead in 1970.  Muirhead has designed a slew of courses, with Stone Harbor Golf Club probably being the closest to the Philadelphia area.  Muirhead seems like an interesting guy to say the least and if you’re ever looking for something to do, google search and read up on the man.  Most notably, Muirhead collaborated with Jack Nicklaus in building Muirfield Village, but some how never received any type of credit for his involvement.  Apparently, the collaboration was pretty rocky, but his involvement and influence in Muirfield Village is there nevertheless.  As for this course, it was an interesting combination of parkland style in a desert setting.  Most fairways were tree lined, fairways canted and curved, bunkers and cross bunkers were early and often, the rough was up a little (something you almost never see with desert courses), yet water hazards were pretty ample, something you don’t get often with a parkland design.  The trees were mostly palm trees and possibly Eucalyptus.  Both towered over the course and provided enough shade to almost make you forget you were in the middle of the desert.  Strategy-wise, the course was relatively straight forward, but you’re forced to get creative when in the hazards, as most are well placed and demand that you do more than simply hit out of or around them; you must have a plan.  At any rate, the surroundings and classic layout epitomizes Southern California desert charm.

The First is a 344 yard par 4 (from the White tees).  The fairway is straightway, yet there are ripples and contours leading up to the green, which is surrounded by bunkers except for in front.

First tee

Approach shot at the First

The Second is a 482 yard par 5.  The fairway is on the narrow side, but that’s a theme here, and proceeds down hill around the tee landing area to the green, which is surrounded by bunkers.  A nice risk/reward second shot, as you can try to go for the green with a nicely struck tee shot, but will have to contend with the bunkers and trouble around the green if you don’t hit it.

Second tee shot

Down the fairway towards the green
A look at the Second green 

The Third is a 420 yard par 4 and is the number 1 handicapped hole.  The tee shot is elevated to a straightaway fairway, which then gently ascends to a slightly raised green.  The course gives you a hint pretty early on; hit it straight and land on the green, or you’re in big trouble.  On this hole, it seems much easier to find trouble than most of the other holes.

Third tee

Third approach shot territory

The Fourth is a 375 yard par 4.  It’s a dog leg right that climbs uphill moderately.  Again, large trees on both sides frame the fairway and make the straight shot a premium.

Fourth tee

Fourth approach shot

The Fifth is the first par 3 at 153 yards.  It’s a forced carry over water, which also abuts the left side of the green, and there are two large bunkers on both sides of the green.  I had a pretty nice up and down for par here, from one side of the green to the other.  I was starting to feel it.

The Fifth

The Sixth is a 346 yard par 4 and one of the more interesting holes on the course.  It’s a dog leg left with a double forced carry over water.  There are a group of palm trees on each side of the fairway that force you to draw the ball and keep it in the fairway off the tee, all while carrying the first water hazard and making sure your ball rolls out before the second water hazard.  The second shot is then another carry over water to the green, where bunkers collect any approach shot too long, left or right.  I was able to keep my tee shot dry, as it stopped just before the second water hazard.  It was a fun hole to play.

Sixth tee shot

Along the fairway

The second water carry to the well protected green

The Seventh is a 334 yard par 4.  Another narrow fairway that angles toward 1:00 to an elevated green.    The contours and swales on this fairway are more pronounced and the green slopes from back to front. A nice birdie on this hole and I was hitting on all cylinders.

Seventh tee

Approach shot territory

The Eighth is a par 3 at 166 yards.  The green is protected by two large/deep bunkers on the left and right, while the green is wide but not very deep and slopes from back to front.  It’s deceiving because you don’t want to go too far back of the green, but it’s a good idea to at least carry the font bunkers.

The Eighth

The Ninth is a 501 yard par 5.  It dog legs hard (almost 90 degrees) left, then proceeds towards an elevated green.  The dog leg is relatively early on and affects your tee shot, but then you have a lot of distance around the leg to get to the green.  Another par here even after a so so drive.  Still feeling it.

Ninth tee shot

The Ninth after the dog leg

The front nine gives you a little of everything, but I really like the creative use of water hazards, especially on the Sixth.  Ranking them, I’d go 6, 5, 9, 8, 7, 2, 1, 4, 3.

The back nine starts with the 354 yard par 4 Tenth.  There is a bunker abutting the right side of the fairway that must be contended with if your tee shot goes up that side.  There are also bunkers protecting the green pretty well.

The Tenth

The Tenth green

The Eleventh is a 504 yard par 5.  It was at this hole we were approached by a marshall, who told us to catch up with the group in front of us.  We all thought the request was rather odd, as no one was behind us at all.  We also mentioned that the group in front of us teed off about 15 minutes before us and weren’t even on the First hole when we started.  As no one was behind us for a hole and a half, we weren’t sure how much faster we should be playing.  The marshall seemed a little confused, then told us that at the course, all groups must be on pace to the group in front of them.  It didn’t make much sense and the lady finally left us alone.  The whole exchange was pointless and irritating.  As for the Eleventh, it’s a slight dog leg right and then ascends a little to the green, which has, what else, bunkers on the left and right.  There is usually, if not always, an opening in the front of the green to allow for those bump and run shots, so creativity around the greens is possible.

The Eleventh tee

The Eleventh green

The Twelfth is a 359 yard par 4.  It’s a slight dog leg left and also goes uphill, then down hill.  The hills aren’t severe, but are definitely enough to give you different lies.  The fairway on this hole seems narrower than normal as well.

The Twelfth
The Twelfth green

The Thirteenth is a 387 yard par 4.  It’s a slight dog leg right with moderate sloping down then up to a green and of course, bunkers swarm the green.

The Thirteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fourteenth is a 160 yard par 3.  It’s one of the more well known holes of the course and gets a lot of air time during the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  The ladies tee off well right of the regular tees to bring the water more into play.  For everyone else, it’s an elevated tee shot to an undulating green with large bunkers on the left and water on the right.  The miss here is short.

The Fourteenth

The Fifteenth is a 351 yard par 4.   The fairway arches up, then down to the elevated green, which is fronted by deep bunkers.

The Fifteenth
The Fifteenth fairway.  The arching is more apparent from here

The Sixteenth is a 384 yard par 4.  It’s a slight dog leg right.  The back nine goes out and back from the clubhouse clockwise, hence all the dog leg rights.  There are bunkers along the left side of the fairway and bunkers to the left and right of the green.

The Sixteenth

The Seventeenth is the last par 3 at 170 yards.  The green is slightly raised and undulates severely, with two large bunkers on either side of the green.

The Seventeenth

The Eighteenth is a 525 yard par 5.  The tee shot is a partial carry over water, then actually dog legs left.  You then have a forced carry over water to the green in view of the clubhouse.  It’s a nice finishing hole.

Eighteenth tee

Fairway just off of tee
Approach shot territory

The Eighteenth green, with the plaques of all the champions of the Kraft Nabisco

The back nine also had a couple nice par 3’s and par 5’s.  The par 4’s had some subtle differences as well and the Eighteenth is a nice finishing hole.  It would have been nice to see more of the creativity of the Eighteenth injected into a few of the par 4’s here, although strategically it works as is to allow opportunities for scoring.

Generally, MHCC Dinah Shore provides a pleasant course that rewards the straight shot and demands precision into the greens.  Bunkers are strategically placed and water is used creativity on some of the holes, making it a fun round that provides some challenge on the approach and short games.  It’s a relaxing atmosphere that is quiet above all else, with ample shade to keep you cool from that desert sun.   If you’re in the area and are invited to play the course, it’s well worth it to take the invite.

Gripes:  Conditioning was questionable, as can be seen in all the photos.  It’s a tad deceiving though, as brown does not always mean poor conditions.  I don’t recall conditioning effecting any of my shots, but some of the fringes could have used some work.  Service was not what I was expecting from such a well known club.  The interaction from the marshall and the pro shop guys left a lot to be desired.  None of this would prevent me from coming back though.

Bar/grill:  Very well done with a great view of the Eighteenth.

Clubhouse:  Very large with a lot of good deals and variety.

Practice area:  Range was great, free range balls and lots of different target areas.  Putting green was adequate.

Getting there:  Off of 10 East in Rancho Mirage.

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