Desert Willow Golf Resort – A two course public gem in Palm Desert

Desert Willow Golf Resort is a high end public facility that is far more than its two spectacular Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry designed championship golf courses, Firecliff and Mountain View. It is located just minutes from the Palm Springs airport in the city of Palm Desert.

In addition to the two marvelous golf courses Desert Willow's stylish clubhouse, well stocked pro shop and meeting/event areas are what you might expect at a private club. And then there is my favorite...the expansive multi-tiered outdoor patio that overlooks Firecliff’s 9th and 18th holes. It is one of the best outdoor spots for food and drinks of any course I have seen. This beautiful outdoor venue is where they hold the popular Music and Dining Under the Stars events.

Beautiful Par 3 17th hole Desert Willows Firecliff course

Golf

The two courses at Desert Willow are as good a duo as any 36 hole public venue I have played. It all starts with a beautiful driving range and practice putting green that in winter look out at the incredible snow capped peaks looming just to the west of town. These spectacular mountain vistas are a constant backdrop to your round of golf on either course. I must say there are few places I have been where palm trees and snow capped peaks can be mentioned in the same breath. Amazing!! This also might be one of the most natural looking and beautifully landscaped golf venues I have played.

The Firecliff Course – Without doubt his is one of the prettiest and most interesting courses I have played in all of greater Palm Springs. There is a wonderful mix of short and long holes along with numerous bunkers and water features to keep your attention. Stretching from 5,000 yards all the way out to 7,000 yards and a slope of 138 this is a true test of golf. Played from the correct tees for your ability it is both fair off the tee yet challenging. Strategically placed traps, water hazards and sloping greens will keep you on your toes and demand the use of every club in your bag and all your imagination.

Firecliff6

Firecliff #6 from behind the green. Short, tough and beautiful

 

While there are truly a dozen or more really great holes, here are three of my favorites. The 6th hole is a short dogleg right Par 4. The entire right side is guarded by water and the putting surface is but a peninsula of green angling out into the lake surrounded on three sides by liquid danger. A truly great short hole.

While all the Par 3’s here are challenging and beautiful the 17th might be my favorite. This mid length tester has a desert waste area and water running nearly from tee to green on the right side. A sand trap guards the left side leaving little room to bail out. Behind the green is a stand of tall shaggy palms that that have to be seen to be believed. This is simply a gorgeous hole.

A Great finishing hole Firecliff Par 5 18th

A Great finishing hole Firecliff Par 5 18th

Firecliff’s 18th hole has to be one of the best, most challenging and prettiest finishing holes you could ever hope to play. My friends and I have dubbed this Par 5 “Gilligan’s Island”. From the tee there seems to be nothing but tall shaggy palms as far as you can see. It is a visually intimidating tee shot going slightly downhill to what actually is a decent width fairway. Your second shot must navigate a small stream that crosses the fairway from left to right where it empties into a lake that guards the right side of this green. This hole demands three exacting shots if you want to make par. Did I forget to mention the extra pressure of finishing directly below the multi tiered patio? It is often filled with fellow golfers watching to see how you do. This is simply an amazing end to eighteen outstanding holes of golf.Firecliff Clubhouse

The Mountain View Course - While I have not yet played the Mountain View track those who have say it is a gem in its own right. While designed to be a bit more forgiving than Firecliff it none the less can stretch to 6913 yards from the tips with a slope of 130. From the tee you should find it more forgiving but then again there is also more water.

What it does share with Firecliff is the same amazing conditions, excellent design features and jaw dropping scenery. The only way to fully appreciate all that Desert Willow has to offer in the way of golf is to play both courses and judge for yourself. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Desert Willow truly has earned all the accolades and rave reviews you might have read or heard about. This is without question one of my favorite places to golf in the entire valley.

Summary

Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert is one of the top public golf and event venues in the valley. Their two championship quality golf courses are beautiful, challenging and exhilarating. The stylish clubhouse has a large and well stocked pro shop. In addition, there are indoor and outdoor dining facilities highlighted by one of the best outdoor patios anywhere. It is used for their popular dining and music under the stars events, which I have attended and highly recommend. Finally, there are event spaces perfect for corporate outings and private parties of all sizes. All in all this is a Do Not Miss location if you are in Palm Springs!

The New and Improved Boulders Resort and Spa – better and bolder than ever

December 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arizona, Golf Courses, Travel Destinations 

The Boulders Resort and Spa is a resort experience unlike almost any other in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Or anywhere in the Southwest for that matter. With two Jay Morrish designed championship golf courses and its incredible Carefree, Arizona location it cannot be beat. Add in a multi-million dollar makeover (more about this later) and you have an experience of a lifetime.

Overview
The Boulders Resort and Spa is celebrating its 30th anniversary and has been recognized for three decades as a world class destination with impeccable service, a wonderful spa, championship golf plus excellent dining, lodging and tennis (and so much more). With over 1300 acres of Sonoran Desert foothills just 30 miles north of the Phoenix airport, the resort has more the feel of a small village than a hotel property.

The Boulders Resort and Spa

The Boulders Resort and Spa

The resort’s newly remodeled main lodge, 33,000 square foot spa (that is not a typo) and golf clubhouse complex are separated by a short walk or complimentary golf cart ride from each other. The 160 totally redone casitas and an additional 60 villas are sprinkled around the main facilities each with impressive views of the iconic boulders mounts, desert or golf courses. Add in multiple dining options, three pools, hiking paths, free fitness classes and a myriad of other activities and you will understand when I say this somewhere you will want to return to again and again!

Golf
For decades the Boulders Jay Morrish designed North and South courses have been rated as two of the finest in the country. This scenic high desert terrain is made for golf. Paired with the stunning boulder formations that define the property this is an unparalleled golf experience. Under the leadership of Tom McCahan (Director of Club Operations) and his 24 year tenure the Boulders (www.theboulders.com) remains a mecca for golf. The two courses are shared by club members and resort guests. Play is alternated between the two courses. Guests play the North one day and the South the next. The courses also share a very nice pro shop, clubhouse, grill and an excellent driving range and short game practice area.

Some say choosing between the South and North layouts is like opting between the lobster or the filet. Both are sumptuous yet each has its own flavor and allure. I suggest the Surf and Turf…play them both! While different in taste and feel, these two layouts share tremendous visual interest, outstanding conditions and pure fun.
What I can say about the South course is this: It is beautiful! The course winds its way around the incredible boulder mount and through other smaller, but no less impressive, rock formations on a rollicking and picturesque journey unlike any course in the area. There are few forced carries, a great variety of hole designs, limited amounts of target style golf and amazing visual interest.

Signature Hole #5 on the South course

Signature Hole #5 on the South course

The South starts innocently enough with a slight downhill dogleg right with a landing area that narrows the further you dare hit it. Safely negotiating the tee shot leaves an approach to the first of many greens and tees guarded by the ever present rocks. The South ends with a beautiful yet dangerous Par 5 whose green sits protected behind a pond. In between are sixteen unique holes capped by the resorts signature hole…the Par 5 fifth. A split fairway off the tee is only the beginning of this amazing hole as it gently climbs toward the green. Looming in the distance is the 12 million year old boulder formation from which the resort gets its name. And tucked right up against this strange and indescribable structure of granite lies the fifth green. Awe inspiring. Incredible. Photo mandatory.

The North course is every bit the challenge of the South. While a bit wider off the tees and not quite as close to some of the boulder formations it is a true test of golf for players of every ability. It starts with a very pretty yet challenging Par 5 that requires three well placed shots to reach the green. A small wash separates your first two shots and your approach must navigate a well protected green. From here you will find an array of long and short holes that climb, fall, dogleg both left and right and challenge every club in the bag including your putter.

With incredible open views of the surrounding “mountains” it is hard to concentrate on the task at hand. One of my favorite holes is the Par 3 sixth. While not particularly long it is exceptionally pretty with seemingly every kind of native cactus, tree and bush lining the hole. Get your camera! Much like the finishing hole on the South course the eighteenth on the North is a dramatic finish right below the clubhouse patio. This swooping dog leg right Par 4 is guarded to the left of the green by both water and sand. Par here is an excellent score and just steps from a rewarding refreshment while you tally your score.

Resort Renovations
Over the summer of 2015 all of the casitas and the entire main lodge have been totally redone. The casitas were stripped to the studs with only the wooden beams in the ceiling spared. These large new rooms feature high ceilings, a patio or deck, a mini wet bar, wood burning fireplace, small walk-in closet and stone floors throughout. The luxurious bathrooms have double sinks, glass enclosed showers with floor to ceiling river rock walls as well as a separate tub. To say these casitas are nice is a vast understatement.

Newly renovated Casita

Newly renovated Casita

The main lodge building has undergone an equally dramatic transformation including an all new lobby and reception area. The old Latilla restaurant is now the Latilla Ballroom. The Palo Verde dining room has been renovated as has the main pool area. Perhaps the most dramatic change is to the Discovery Lounge. It now is much larger and features soaring floor to ceiling and wall to wall windows that frame the view of the iconic boulder mount. Those who have been here will not recognize the place.

The Spa, dining and more
The spa at the Boulders is one of the largest and nicest I have seen. It is situated a short walk from the casitas and the main lodge and also has the boulder mount at its’ backdoor. Guests of the resort have full use of the spa facilities at no extra cost and I used them at least once a day.
The spa encompasses three main areas: an active wing, a quiet wing and the outdoor spaces. It has everything you might need to relax, exercise and sooth your mind, body and soul. The active side features a yoga studio, fitness center, Spa Café, movement studio and more. A myriad of free classes are held here every day and include yoga, spinning, stretch, Zumba and water fitness to name a few.Boulders Spa

The quiet side of the building houses separate but equal Men’s and Women’s lounges, a quiet room, 24 treatment rooms and a full salon. The lounges deserve special mention as each has a large spherical warm soaking bath, a fully tiled circular steam room (with a cool shower right in the room), sauna, showers and lockers. They are fully stocked with bath products, plush towels and everything else one needs to clean up after a day of relaxation or exercise.

The outdoor space is perfectly nestled between the spa building and boulder mount. The large adults only pool and hot tub offer both a soothing retreat and amazing scenery. Adjoining the pool area is an herb garden, a meditational labyrinth and quiet patios for your relaxation. The Zen like feel and feng shui elements of this entire setting induce a sense of peace and tranquility rarely found at most resorts.

Dining at the Boulders features a number of varied and distinct options. There is the newly remodeled Palo Verde restaurant in the main lodge, the Spa Café, the Grill Kitchen and Bar at the golf clubhouse, the Spotted Donkey Cantina at the adjacent Pedregal shopping area as well as the pool pavilion and of course room service.

Summary
The Boulders Resort and Spa has been ranked one of the best golf resorts in the U.S. since its inception 30 years ago. With the recent renovations it is bound to stay that way for the next thirty years. The outstanding location, incredible scenery, championship golf, wonderful lodging, exemplary service and amazing spa make this a must visit place for anyone with room on their bucket list. I know I will be going back soon!!

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