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Back to the Future of a Desert Classic

By Terry Ross

Times have certainly changed since the last time the American Express PGA Tour event in the Southern California desert got the pro golf season on the mainland started for the year in early 2020 with a robust event featuring concerts, a three-day Pro-Am and plenty of fun for those that come out to enjoy the best weather in the country in January.

Even though 2021 had a slimmed-down event with no fans or extra activities because of Covid19, the 2022 edition of what started as the Bob Hope Desert Classic in 1960 came back bigger and stronger in January with its most robust list of top players ever–a full field Pro-Am for the first three days of the competition and two of the top musical performers in the country.

Led by Jon Rahm, the number-one ranked player in the world, the 156 professionals and 156 amateurs were treated to a wonderful week in the desert sun and a tournament that lived up to its promise.

The concert series of the American Express has become of the tournament’s trademarks—along with being one of only two pro-am’s on the PGA Tour where the pros and amateurs play together as part of the 72-hole regulation event.

The concert series that begun in 2017 was bigger and better than ever. Held on the PGA West Stadium Club practice area, the popular Los Angeles pop rock band Maroon 5 performed after the conclusion of play on Friday as night fell–and country star Brad Paisley played on Saturday evening after the conclusion of the third round. Crowds were back to pre-pandemic heights and even more enthusiastic.

The professional golf was just as exciting. Hudson Swafford used an eagle and five birdies on the back nine to win the event for the second time (the first was 2017) with a final round 64 and a total of 23 under par–and joined names like Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller and Billy Casper as the only two-time winners of one of the oldest and most iconic tournaments on the PGA Tour.

For a golf destination in January, the Coachella valley region is more popular than ever because of its easy drive access for more than 20 million people who are two hours away or less. The region has 120 golf courses, and a tournament that uses three of them over the four days highlights some of the best that the area has to offer.

In addition to the PGA Stadium Course, the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West is on the rotation along with historic La Quinta Country Club. These are three of the best courses in the City of La Quinta, which is fast gaining a reputation as the go-to golf destination for those looking to get away and enjoy a winter get-away.

Throw in an iconic tournament for added fun and entertainment, and you have a recipe for a memorable week with the best weather you will find for winter.