The PGA Tour starts its California swing this week with its annual visit to the Coachella Valley and premier La Quinta golf courses.

The 60th Desert Classic begins Thursday and will be contested on the PGA West stadium course (designed by Pete Dye), the Nicklaus course (designed by Hall-of-Famer Jack Nicklaus) and the LaQuinta Country Club. The first three days teams of pros and amateurs will play rounds on each course with a Saturday cut. The final round Sunday will be played on the stadium course. The desert courses are striking in the winter dormant brown Bermuda grass surrounding the lush green fairways. Add in the Santa Rosa Mountains that frame vistas on several holes on both courses and it’s great viewing on television or in person.

La Quinta and other Coachella Valley cities are a favorite ACES’ destination during the winter with balmy days with temperatures in the 60s or the 70s and striking scenery.

This week Phil Mickelson will make his 2019 debut and serve as the tournament’s official ambassador. He’s a two-time winner of this event. He’s joined in the field by fellow Arizona State Sun Devil Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, the top-ranked player in the world.

For fans who have attended the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort in the Napa Valley, the Desert Classic will have a familiar feel. For the first time, Lagardere Sports, which manages the Safeway Open, has taken over management of the Desert Classic. The lineup includes concerts on the driving range Friday night by Sammy Hagar and the Circle and Saturday night by the Bad Company. There’s also the Albertson Vons Pavilion (similar to the Safeway Pavilion in Napa) plus Michelob Ultra Beers Fore Birdies.

For golf fans visiting La Quinta, one spot to put on your list—although it will be quite popular this week—is Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant located a couple of miles away from PGA West. It’s loaded with memorabilia from The King and the menu includes his favorites as well as desert favorites. A Happy Hour visit to the pub offers a range of food offerings plus drink specials.  

Further up the road on Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage, you can step back into Old England at Lord Fletcher’s.  This was a favorite spot for celebrities in the day (Frank Sinatra had his regular table in the bar and loved the Brandy Alexander for desert). The restaurant has operated more than 60 years in its Rancho Mirage location and was established by Michael Fletcher’s father, Ron. He imported most of the furnishings from England, doing the shopping himself.

When you’re ready for golf, there are 120 courses in the Coachella Valley. There are municipal gems such as Desert Willow (Palm Desert) and Silver Rock (La Quinta designed by Palmer) and wonderful public courses such as the Arnold Palmer-designed Classic Club. We have profiled several other desert golf courses that you read about.

By Tim Hunt

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