Northern California has it better than most of the USA when it comes to winter weather, but let’s be honest: when Rodgers and Hart wrote the line “Hates California, it’s cold and it’s damp” for their hit song “The Lady Is A Tramp”, they were talking about San Francisco. The good news for Northern California golfers is that there is a perfect wintertime oasis just a short (and inexpensive) flight away: Greater Palm Springs.
Just about 1-1/2 hours away by direct flight from SFO, or longer one-stop connecting flights from San Jose International or Oakland Airport, the Greater Palm Springs region is an easy wintertime getaway for Northern Californians. Driving is feasible from the Bay Area, also, if you’re up for a 6-1/2 to 7 hour drive via I-5, I-210 and I-10. However you choose to get there, you are in for a treat – an escape to sunshine and mild temperatures with plenty of fair-weather activities, shopping, and enough golf course choices to make your head spin.
The nine cities of the Greater Palm Springs area are home to over 100 golf courses – all told, more than 2,000 holes of golf. High season rates – and wintertime is high season in the desert – range from around $50 per round at the Cimarron Golf Resort near the airport to $150 and up at the high-end resorts like La Quinta and Indian Wells.
The quality of the golf is fairly consistent in the Coachella Valley where, despite California’s still-ongoing drought, a mix of groundwater and Colorado River water (via the Coachella Canal) are keeping the region’s courses green and eminently playable. The variety of golf available will keep you interested, with courses in styles from parkland/residential to classic desert layouts.
After the round, or on a day off from the course, the region offers a variety of other pastimes to pursue, with attractions ranging from nature preserves and museums to high-end shopping in uptown Palm Springs or the El Paseo District in Palm Desert – the “Rodeo Drive” of Greater Palm Springs.
One attraction in the area that is not to be missed is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Ascending nearly 6,000 feet in a 2-1/2-mile, 6-1/2-minute ride from the base station above the valley floor to the top of Mt San Jacinto, the ride offers amazing views from the unique rotating-floor trams, with even more astounding views awaiting you at the top. There are 54 miles of hiking trails, with camping and guided nature walks – though the wintertime visitor must be aware that cool weather on the valley floor means colder, and often snowy, weather at the top of the tram.
A wintertime escape to Greater Palm Springs, when the weather is the best it can be, should be on the travel agenda of every Northern California golfer.