So-called snow birds from the colder climates of the US and from Canada have long flocked to the Southern California desert region during the winter for the sunshine, moderate temperatures, outdoor activities and of course golf when most of the northern regions are sitting under snow and freezing temperatures.
Long associated with Palm Springs on the western edge of the Coachella Valley, this entire desert region– extending 45 miles and encompassing nine cities–has long been known for its winter golf and resorts.
The most iconic of the resorts in this region—and perhaps still the best with its mix of amenities, golf courses and accommodations—is the La Quinta Resort & Club located on the eastern end of the valley in the city of La Quinta—which was named after the resort—so you know there is some interesting history right away.
This famous resort just celebrated its 90th anniversary last year with a $22 million renovation with upgrades to just about everything about this destination resort that sprawls over 45 acres beneath the Santa Rosa mountains and is a member of Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts group. With 620 guest rooms and 98 individual villas, the La Quinta Resort & Club is a grand resort with an intimate feel. It just received a four-diamond rating by AAA.
If these modern upgrades were not enough, the history of the resort is like something out of a novel. Back in the 1920’s, San Francisco businessman Walter H. Morgan was drawn to this area and wanted to build a tranquil retreat. He purchased 1,400 acres from the local Cahuilla Indians with the idea of creating a hacienda-style getaway in the cove-area of the valley that was known as the La Quinta Hotel.
After Morgan opened his creation in 1926, the La Quinta Hotel became a well-known escape for the stars of Hollywood and many others working in the thriving movie industry. Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich and Clark Gable were among the stars of the day that spent time there, and Frank Capra found creative inspiration for many of the films he wrote and produced. He penned “It’s a Wonderful Life” while residing in one of the resort’s casitas that offer privacy and seclusion from the outside world.
Golf’s beginnings in the Coachella Valley are also synonymous with the La Quinta Hotel. Morgan built a nine-hole golf course on the grounds of the hotel at the cost of $50,000. Designed by Norman Beth, the La Quinta Hotel course was the first such facility in the Valley and was also open to the public—at the cost of $1 per round.
The La Quinta Hotel was closed during much of World War II while the military requisitioned the facilities and grounds for its use, and with it the original golf course was abandon. After the war, the La Quinta Hotel again became a favorite of the Hollywood set again. Ginger Rogers married French actor Jacques Bergerac there in 1953, and a private airstrip built shortly after the war made it even easier for celebrities and other dignitaries to visit. President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife made many winter visits to the hotel, and his first public reception after leaving office in 1961 was at the La Quinta Hotel.
Fast-forward to the La Quinta Resort of today and the charm and elegance is still there with a modern makeover. Those opulent suites that celebrities and presidents have occupied are still used for special events or just get-away retreats.
The individual casitas and 41 pools and hot spas that adorn the property give visitors a feel of a smaller, intimate setting, and the new landscaping and patio features have given the resort a fresh look.
Dining choices now include Morgan’s in the Desert—their signature restaurant; Twenty6—an American bistro; the Adobe Grill featuring authentic Mexican cuisine and breathtaking views of the Santa Rosa Mountains; the Centre Court Café next to the main pool and the tennis/fitness center and the Marketplace with baked good and sandwiches to go.
The well-equipped Fitness Center has classes and personal training options, and the tennis center features 23 courts on both hard a clay surfaces–with lights for night play. The Spa La Quinta offers a full menu of therapies and even a pet massage program for canine visitors—something that the resort is very fond of.
In fact, the resort prides itself on its accommodations for its four-legged guests, and those visiting with their pets can look forward to rooms with doggie beds, bowls and treats in front of a fireplace when you check into your room. Even doggy-bag stations are located around the lush gardens and grass of the resort grounds, which are adorned with citrus trees, roses and Bougainvillea during the season.
In addition to the many meeting and ballrooms rooms that have hosted some of the biggest events in the desert, the many boutique shops along the Plaza area of the hotel near the main entrance offer many shopping experiences.
And of course, a world-renowned golf destination like the La Quinta Resort & Club has plenty of options to hit the links, with courses designed by names like Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman. Two of the courses available to guests are now used for the PGA Tour event now known as the Career Builder Challenge, but was the Bob Hope Classic for half a century.
The La Quinta Resort Mountain and Dunes courses are two of the most highly-rated resort courses in the nation and have hosted events such as the PGA Tour Qualifying School, Senior Skins Game, the World Cup of Golf, the California State Open, the women’s NCAA Championship and the PGA Club Professionals Championship.
The Mountain Course is spectacular with its soaring peaks and elevation changes as it winds through the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains and is one of the most scenic courses you will see. With its eight combination of tees ranging from 6,666 yards to the orange tees at 3,745 yards this course can accommodate a wide-range of skills and abilities. The final three holes on this course–starting with the Par 3 16th that can play anywhere from 167 yards to 89 yards down the mountain from an elevated tee and is a visually stunning hole; the Par 4 17th at 446 yards from the back tees and Par 5 18th at 504 yards are some of the best holes you will find.
Just down the road inside PGA West, the TPC Stadium Course and the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course are ranked among the finest tracks anywhere and have hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and Diners Club Matches, among other top events, and are currently in the rotation for the Career Builder Challenge that is played in January each year. The Norman Course, which also allows walking, is a very demanding test of golf at 7,200 yards. All five of these world-class courses are open to public play, but guests at the Resort are offered preferred tee times.
Even though the La Quinta Resort & Club still retains its early 20th century charm, the new additions and upgrades to this classic desert resort certainly help it appeal to today’s travelers.
For more information: www.laquintaresort.com
Story by Terry Ross
La Quinta is at Center of PGA Tour Stop
One of the highlights of the winter season—for the La Quinta Resort & Club and the City of La Quinta—is the annual PGA Tour event that that is all staged within the city in January of each year.
Once known as the Bob Hope Classic, what is now referred to as the Career Builder Challenge is normally the first PGA Tour event every calendar year to be played on the mainland US and three courses in the city—the host TPC Stadium Course, the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club—comprise the lineup.
The TPC Course and the Nicklaus are part of the PGA West complex that is accessible to La Quinta Resort & Club guests and are featured during the Golf Channel telecasts of the tournament.
The resort itself takes center stage during the Challenge week—not only from the celebrity clientele that stay there—but the tournament parties and functions that have become a highlight of the season.
Throughout the city, block parties, mixers, youth golf clinics and even a golf industry roundtable are part of the many activities that keep both locals and visitors busy.
“The CareerBuilder Challenge gives La Quinta another opportunity to showcase our beautiful southern California city as the Gem of the Desert,” said John Peña, Former Mayor and current Councilmember in the host city.
“The tournament brings visitors from all over the world and we couldn’t be happier. La Quinta offers so much by way of shopping, dining and outdoor recreation like hiking, biking, tennis and golf. The CareerBuilder creates buzz around the City and does a great job partnering with the community. We are thrilled to have this tournament in La Quinta and look forward to many more years of what the CareerBuilder will bring to the world of golf and to La Quinta!”
The TPC Stadium Course at PGA West was built in 1986 and designed by Pete Dye, and at the time it was called one of the toughest courses in America at 7,300 yards, a stroke rating of 76.1 and a slope of 150.
It is one of only two public Tournament Players Courses in the state of California, and is always good for thrilling tournament finishes, like this year when Hudson Swafford birdied three of his last four holes on Sunday. He made the clinching two on the 17th hole, which is a 168-yard Par-3 nicknamed Alcatraz because its island green is much harder to hit than the huge lake that surrounds it.
He beat Canadian Adam Hadwin by one stroke with that birdie. Hadwin had zoomed into the lead after Saturday’s round with a magical 59 at La Quinta Country Club to become only the eighth player in PGA Tour history to shoot a sub-60 round in a regulation PGA Tour event. He was also only the fourth player to shoot a 59 on a Par 72 course and the first Canadian to go that low. It is also the only PGA Tour event that has seen two 59’s—David Duval shot the same score at the Palmer Private course in 1999 to win the tournament on the last hole.
They don’t call PGA West and this area the Western Home of Golf® for nothing—and the La Quinta Resort and the Career Builder keep adding to the history of this Southern California oasis.
Unlimited Golf Package at the La Quinta Resort & Club
The La Quinta Resort & Club is offering an Unlimited Golf Package to guests who book in advance for at least four nights.
Rated the number one golf resort in North America by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, La Quinta Resort & PGA WEST is home to five public courses designed by legends Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.
• Overnight accommodations
• Unlimited golf, based on availability, on five resort courses at La Quinta Resort & Club® and PGA WEST®**.
• $25 Resort Credit
• Rates starting from $349 per night.
Call 760-564-4111 to book by phone