I’ve heard a lot of great comments regarding the PGA West courses over the years and that there was actually a summer season to be enjoyed. Could the California desert really provide a great golf experience in such conditions? I found the answer when I was invited by Jim Burke, Golf Sales Manager of La Quinta Resort & Club and PGA West, to play the spectacular PGA West Norman Course. The late June weather boasted 98 degrees at a 10:30am tee-off that would put me through high noon and even hotter temperatures into the back nine. I must admit that the dry, low humidity made it quite comfortable for my entourage. A nice long drive on the first tee got me into the spirit. Greg Norman picked a wonderful place to design a course with the clear blue sky set above a panorama of desert mountains. His layout combines the golf course and desert surrounded by beautiful luxury homes in an natural way.
PGA Pro Jerry Martin was the first of us to recognize Norman’s love of the long par 4’s. All of the par 4’s and par 5’s require a tee shot that is straight – there is no room for error here. On most of these holes the fairways are quite narrow and the landing areas have to be precise. The PGA West Norman course 15th Hole isn’t much rough, but the side areas are course sand and will allow for some forgiveness if the tee shot strays a little. “I thought that all of the par fours required a very well placed tee shot,” noted Jerry. “The longer holes had difficult approach shots. The shorter ones required very high approach shots in order to keep the ball on the green.” The greens on all of the holes were very challenging being small, long and narrow. Greg Norman has always hit high shots in to the greens and this is how he designed this course. If you miss a green you usually have a very difficult chip shot back on to the green, because of the drop off areas that surround the green.
We found the par threes scarce but interesting. In the past several years a lot of the golf course designers have started making the par threes very long and difficult. However, all of the par threes here allowed us to par the hole if you made a average shot. This is a tribute to this golf course. “My favorite holes are number 8 a par 5, number 9 a very short but demanding par 4 on the front nine,” said Jerry. “On number 8 you must hit a straight and long tee shot and you must keep your ball out of the lake on the right on the second shot. Number 9 requires a perfect tee shot and a very high and accurate second shot. If you don’t hit it high and have the ball land short, the ball will roll off in to a collection area. My favorite holes on the back nine are number 13 a par 3, number 15 a par 4 and number 16 a par 5.”
By far, our favorite was 15, (see picture) which Jerry birdied. This hole gives you an option off the tee of either going right or left. Greg Norman put a collection of ‘pot bunkers’ right in the middle of the fairway about 240 yards out. This forces you to make a proper tee shot. Jerry decided to play the left side of the fairway, giving him 150 yards to the middle of the green. The green is elevated and surrounded by bunkers. If you choose the wrong club you are looking at a large number.
We were surprised to see so many golfers enjoying the course at 2pm and 108 degrees. There’s no doubt the low humidity does not make the heat a factor in play. We just kept our cups full of ice and water (the course equips every cart with a large water cooler).
The PGA West Norman Course is a must play when visiting the Palm Springs area. The course is located in La Quinta and is one of the 6 golf courses at PGA West. If you want to put your golf game to the real test of all aspects of driving, approach shots, short game skills and putting this is the place to play. The professional staff at the Greg Norman Golf Course is there to help you enjoy your round. Everyone went out of their way to help us in whatever our requests were.