Desert Horizons Country club, nearly four decades old, is finally undergoing a two-year renovation. Giving a makeover to a golf course that is nearly four decades old is one of the reason why Desert Horizons and its members are undertaking the project on this private 18-hole course. It’s a path perhaps more gold courses in the desert from that era might want to follow, said the desert resident overseeing the project.
The bones of the golf course are hood,” said Clive Clark, a golf course architect and former European Tour player who lives in La Quinta. “But there are several elements that could be improved and brought into what a modern golf course can be and should be.”
The purpose of the work is simple for those undertaking it. Many courses built in the desert in the 70s and 80s, mostly built for housing developments or resorts, were fine for their time. However, in a more competitive market for both attracting and retaining golfers for public or private course, improving and modernizing the golf courses can be the key to success.
Rick Ruppert, the 31-year old head professional at Desert Horizons, said the course design by Ted Robinson is 36 years old. “It just needed a refresher. It needed to be freshened up.”
Imagine owning a house for 36 years and doing nothing with it. It would look pretty old but if you spruced it up a bit, that old house can become a great piece of property.
The golf courses built during those days were mostly aimed at providing golf to the residential areas, instead of being a great golf club. The different in today’s time, is that a lot of clubs would like to bring their courses up to scratch.
While the idea of renovating a golf course might not be a new concept, how Desert Horizons raised their funds might be unique. The cost of the project is about $1.7 million, with the costs covered completely by donations from club members.
“It’s pretty incredible. It’s done by Donations,” Ruppert said. “It was an email from the club, and the first donation was $50,000 in 15 minutes. I Think it was more about just the members believing the course needed a refresher.”
Ruppert said the donations didn’t just come in from golf members at Desert Horizons but some social-only members made donations.
The front nine is being worked on this summer, while the back nine is scheduled for the next one. Clark said the work by Earth Sculptures Inc. of Indio is mostly about modernizing the green complexes of the course.
“In general, I’ve left the shapes of the greens. They were very good,” said Clark, who have designed three other golf courses in the Coachella Valley, including the nearby Celebrity Course at the Indian Wells Golf Resort. “The bunkers needed some work. They were from the early ’80s and they can be improved. You can’t do greenside and not to the fairway bunkers. They don’t match up. Some of the original bunkers there has some really nasty downhill lies, which doesn’t really please club golfers. All the new bunkers will be a little flatter.
Ruppert said those bunkers will also be easier for golfers to enter and exit, another example of how the renovations are about improving the members’ experience at the course.
Other changes include adding some subtle movement on putts by adding more contour to greens. One major renovation was taking out a hill in the middle of the sixth fairway that obscured a golfer’s view of the green and a fronting lank on the 516-yard par-5.
But for all the subtle changes in the green and the addition of landscaping around the putting surfaces, the biggest change for some members might be the addition of a new set of tees.
“We put in forward tees at 4,350 yards, and they are all finish graded,” Ruppert said. “They will be sodded (this week), so this week, the greens, bunkers and all the forward tees will be completely sodded in.”
The forward tees were the only project spread throughout the 18 holes of the course this summer, so members will be able to play the shorter tees when the course opens in November.
“There have been a lot of comments about the forward tees,” Ruppert said. “There are a lot of people excited by that. Our forward tees right now are 5,450 yard, so we can have a combination (set of tees) at 4,900 yards.”