Do Palm Springs Like Bing, Frank and Dino

Arnold Palmer Classic Course Palm Springs (Image: SilverRock Resort)

SilverRock Resort’s Arnold Palmer Classic Course is routed along the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains. (Image: SilverRock Resort)

Golf-loving Hollywood movie stars led the way in turning Palm Springs from a desert wasteland into one of North America’s top golf destinations.

(Last updated November 2021.)

Golf and Palm Springs go together like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

Hope, Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and other celebrity golfers helped popularize the game in a desert oasis famous as Hollywood’s Haven. Just 193 kilometres east of downtown Los Angeles, Palm Springs provided a welcome escape from the city’s smog and congestion. The stars came to bask in the abundant sunshine and delight in the starkly dramatic scenery of the Coachella Valley.

With more than 110 courses, golf remains a major draw throughout a popular snowbird destination that works hard to retain its ring-a-ding 1950s vibe. Between tee-offs, budget time for a tour of the sleekly elegant midcentury-modern hotels and civic buildings, shopping on posh North Palm Canyon Drive, and a happy hour cocktail at Melvyn’s, one of Sinatra’s old haunts.

Bob Hope and son Tony (Image: O'Donnell Golf Club)

Bob Hope and his son Tony check their scores at O’Donnell Golf Club. (Image: O’Donnell Golf Club)

Golf came to the Coachella Valley in 1925 with the opening of O’Donnell Golf Club, a private course frequented by Clark Gable and other matinee idols. Today, courses by acclaimed golf architects are scattered throughout Greater Palm Springs, an area encompassing old Palm Springs and eight seamlessly connected sister communities, most notably La Quinta, Palm Desert and Indian Wells.

Former host of the Bob Hope Classic, SilverRock Resort’s Arnold Palmer Classic Course in La Quinta is spectacularly routed along the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains. La Quinta is also home to PGA West, one of North America’s premier golf properties. Most famous of the resort’s six layouts is the Stadium Course, a Pete Dye-designed monster rated one of the game’s best—and toughest—courses.

A highlight in Palm Desert is Shadow Ridge Golf Club, an expertly sculpted Australia Sandbelt-inspired course by Nick Faldo. Equally strong are the two Hurdzan-Fry designs at Desert Willow Golf Resort.

And the must-play in Indian Wells is the Players Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort. This unyielding John Fought design stretches nearly 7,400 yards from the tips.

Other top courses include Eagle Falls Golf Course, Escena Golf Club, the Pete Dye and Gary Player layouts at Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa, and Shadow Mountain Golf Club, one of the few courses designed by the legendary Gene Sarazen.

With street names like Jack Benny Road, Gene Autry Trail and Ginger Rogers Road, even the drive to your next tee time or sightseeing excursion becomes more adventure than chore in this celebrity obsessed burg.

Sunnylands, at the intersection of Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope Drives in Rancho Mirage, is another notable haunt of luminaries past and present. Built in the 1960s for publisher, diplomat and philanthropist Walter Annenberg, the pink-roofed Desert Modernism-style mansion (complete with a nine-hole golf course) is now open to the public. Presidents from Eisenhower to Obama have visited. When greeting Queen Elizabeth in 1983, Annenberg announced she would “see how ordinary Americans live.”

Welcome to Palm Springs.