Golf in the desert | Cape Town Gazette
I recently took the opportunity to play golf in the desert.
Some of the experience certainly differed from my usual Cape Town game, but there was also a bit of a familiarity to it.
My brother Dave and his wife Maggie invited us to join them at Marriott’s Shadow Ridge II – The Enclaves resort in Palm Desert, CA, 10 miles from Palm Springs International Airport.
Nick Faldo designed the Shadow Ridge golf course on the property. His first course in North America, it opened in 2001.
In my experience with golf courses designed by famous tourism professionals, their course elements often coincide with their own distinctive and successful playing tendencies.
For example, Jack Nicklaus tended to favor a high fade. Damn if that’s not a great way to play Bayside Resort or The Peninsula, among other Nicklaus courses I’ve played.
Faldo’s design company website states: “Our fairways are generally generous and our style of bunkering is surprisingly bold with greens that have plenty of subtle undulations to reward and encourage a variety of approach shots.
In his competitive heyday, Faldo developed a reputation for precision play, especially with his approach shots. Shadow Ridge’s green complexes reflected these skill requirements, in my opinion.
In fact, on the back of Shadow Ridge’s scorecard, Faldo is quoted: “Miss the putting surfaces here and your ball will invariably roll into a well-mowed collection area or greenside bunker.”
He wasn’t kidding.
I slightly pulled my approach shot on the first hole. He landed in the bunker on the left side of the green, about five feet below green level.
I hit a thin eight iron approach from 125 yards above the left green side bunker on the par 4 eighth from 328 yards hole. The hole was perched on a small tongue at the front of the green. My ball went straight for the pin but disappeared. I found it at the bottom of the deep shaved gutter separating the bunker from the raised green, about 40 feet from the hole. From there I had to jump to see the location of the hole.
The chipping was out of the question. The ball could come back to my feet if it was too short and roll way out of the hole if hit too hard.
I’m normally ok with putting green, but that was a total estimate of how hard this one was to hit. I was lucky that my first attempt stopped 6 feet from the hole. In retrospect, the eventual bogey was perhaps the best result of the missed eight iron.
Dave put his tee shot on the court par 3 17th hole on a steep slope in the left rough, about 6 feet above the green. However, he made a good chip and the par putt that followed.
Palm Desert is relatively flat, but the course has had some surprising drops, and not just around the greens. In many places on both sides, the rough and the area beyond created a bowl effect, helping redirect shots down the fairway if not hit too far off the line. These features reminded me of the Golden Horseshoe green course in Williamsburg, Virginia, a Rees Jones design also made for the vacation/resort golfer.
We played on November 8, just over a week after the course reopened following the annual change from Bermuda grass to rye. As a Marriott staff member explained, each October the course superintendent oversees the “scraping” of Bermuda grass, as relatively cooler nights trigger its dormant cycle.
The landscaping is overseeded with rye and watered regularly for about a month, until the new grass grows and fills in. The return of warm weather in the spring kills the rye and restores Bermuda grass.
Playing so soon after the switch meant we had to keep our carts on the paths, which reduced the usefulness of the GPS units in the carts. Better access was expected as winter approached.
The grass still looked a little thin in some places, but with signs of vigorous growth elsewhere. The greens were smooth, if a little slow.
The golf course, putting green, and driving range were the only green spaces in the entire complex. The rest has been xeriscaped, with multiple shades of brown predominating.
Despite temperatures around 90 degrees, very low humidity allowed a comfortable round.
The need to change planes in Denver, Colorado back and forth convinced me to use Ship Sticks to get my clubs into the desert. I wrote about the popular club delivery system in this column several years ago.
The process was painless and not too expensive, especially with the company’s email discount offer for free return shipping if I used ground freight. The folks at Parcel Plus on Route 1 north of Rehoboth Beach were very accommodating. I used their boxing and packing service and saved more money by having FedEx pick up the clubs from their store instead of my home.
Clubs left seven days before our turn and returned five days after FedEx picked them up at Shadow Ridge.
We had a great time and would love to go back one day.