Location: La Quinta, CA
Architect: Tom Fazio
April 27, 2011
When I started working on my southern California golf trip I began lining up Los Angeles Country Club and Riviera first which I assumed would be a bit of a struggle because of their reputations as being very private. Those courses came together quicker than expected so when I turned my attention to finding a game at The Quarry at La Quinta I had a bit of a rude awakening. I quickly discovered that The Quarry was also extremely private and in my initial inquiries I couldnâ€™t even find anyone who had played there let alone a member! I had been thinking that I would play the three southern California courses on the list and this would likely be my last trip to The Golden State for my Top 100 quest. Suddenly that did not appear to be the case. If I was unable to get a game at The Quarry on this trip I was surely going to have to come back to California another time. That said, I wasnâ€™t ready to give up quite yet.
In my initial inquiries to find a member at The Quarry at La Quinta I contacted all the guys I knew who were well networked in southern California and not one of them had been able to help. For the second round of inquiries I decided to touch base with my golfing friends in Northern California to see if anyone had a friend down south that could get me on the right track. One after the other I struck out again and again until Brad, my host at Sand Hills last year, sent me an email saying that he might be able to help. A glimmer of hope! Brad put me in touch with a guy in New York named Tony who used to be part of the professional staff at The Quarry but had since moved on and gotten out of the golf business. Tony contacted his friend Derek, the head pro at â€śThe Qâ€ť, and asked if he would be willing to host me for a game. A few days later Tony emailed me back to say that Derek had agreed to play with me and that I should show up ready to play at 7AM on April 27. Thanks Brad and thanks Tony! I never cease to be amazed by the enthusiasm for my quest that I have experience from the golf community. If Iâ€™ve said it once Iâ€™ve said it a million times . . . I could never do this without without all the help and support Iâ€™ve received from golfers all over country (as well as several abroad). It really is amazing.
I donâ€™t get to the west coast very often, so I was really excited for my southern California swing. The final itinerary was set and I would be visiting all three Top 100 courses in southern California which included the two Los Angeles area courses and The Quarry at La Quinta which is located in the desert about 2 hours outside of LA. My flightâ€™s scheduled arrival to LAX was 9pm local time (midnight eastern time) and my plan was drive as far as I could into the desert before I needed to pull over and get a hotel. Unfortunately a little wrinkle popped up . . . my clubs didnâ€™t arrive . . . oh boy. My first thought was that Iâ€™d get some rental clubs at The Quarry and pick my own sticks up when I got back to LA the next day. No harm, no foul. So far in my Top 100 travels I have never been without my clubs so I was disappointed to have the streak broken, but felt like it was a small inconvenience in the great scheme of things. At the Delta baggage office I was given some good news – my clubs were on the next flight which was scheduled to arrive in 15 minutes. The bad news was that the flight was not going to land as scheduled. It was late, maybe an hour late. Fantastic. Now that I knew the clubs were en route and would be arriving relatively soon I couldnâ€™t help but wait for them. The bag with all of my overnight supplies was inside my golf bag so I kind of wanted to get it so I wouldnâ€™t have to sleep with my contacts in that night. I guess my drive out to the desert would be getting a later start than planned.
Rather than hang around in the airport waiting I decided to go pick up my rental car so that I could hit the ground running once my clubs arrived. I took the bus out to the rental car pick up and by time I got back to the airport my clubs were STILL not there. Ugh. To make a quick conclusion to this long story, they finally arrived and I ended up driving all the way to La Quinta reaching town at 3AM local time (6AM east coast time). My tee time at The Quarry at La Quinta was at 7AM local time so if I fell asleep right then I could get in a good three hours of sleep before I had to get up. What a long day!
Three hours later I was up and on the move. After grabbing a muffin at a local coffee shop I made my way to the club, through the gate and over to the clubhouse. Once in the parking lot my clubs were loaded onto a cart and I headed to the locker room to change shoes. While we would be taking carts, Derek had given me the option of walking with caddies. A caddie program is an absolute rarity in the desert and The Quarry at La Quinta may be the only course in the southern California desert that even has one. Normally I would have planned to walk, but I knew I would be tired from my travels so I suggested we take carts. Little did I know when I made that suggestion that I would be running on less than 3 hours sleep! It turned out to be a great decision.
After a couple of warm up swings on the range and a few putts on the practice green Derek and I headed off to the 1st tee. I had the option of picking tees and elected the 6,643 yard blue tees. That sounded like a distance I could have fun from and not get beat up too badly.
The 1st hole, a 510 yard par 5, is a great starting hole that plays quite a bit downhill on the drive and then slightly back uphill on the approach. One of the first things I noticed about the course were the palm trees. Where I live on the east coast we donâ€™t have many palm trees so Iâ€™m not really familiar with them that much and I certainly had never seen a â€śbeardedâ€ť palm tree. The maintenance staff lets the trees grow natural and does not trim them which gives the bearded look. The photo below is of the 1st green. Note the bearded palms in the background.
The 2nd hole is a nice par 3 that we played from 186 yards. The photo below was taken from the tee. Here Derek filled me in on the prevailing break for all the greens after a surprising two putt that looked downhill, but really wasnâ€™t. This is a straight forward but tough par 3.
The photo below taken from the 3rd tee is a par 4 playing 347 yards from the blue tees. This hole is a great example of why The Quarry at La Quinta is not your typical desert course. In my experience desert courses have narrow fairways and are exceedingly penal if a player gets off track. Note the wide fairway and significant field of rough on either side in the photo below. I found this to be a pleasant surprise from what Iâ€™ve come to expect from desert golf. This hole is a short par 4 which is a type of hole that often features a narrow driving area in order to help protect par. It was nice to see such a generous opportunity to keep the ball in play here.
I love the photo below because it really exemplifies what the course feels like. The mountains in the background are a fantastic backdrop to this golf course and really contribute to the overall personality of the property. The photo was taken from the 4th tee which is a 372 yard par 4 from the blue tees. It looks a little tight, but there is plenty of bail out room off to the right beyond the trees in the foreground.
Below is a photo of the 6th green which is a 434 yard par 4 that plays quite a bit downhill, as illustrated below. I really liked the hole location here as a good approach shot would land far to the left of the flag and then feed down towards the hole. I had to chip from left of the green and its was impossible to stop the ball close to the hole. A very cool approach shot and green.
Iâ€™ve played some drop shot par 3s on my Top 100 quest but the 8th hole at The Quarry may take the cake. Iâ€™m not big on heights and I felt like I was standing on the edge of the cliff here. This hole played 138 yards from the blue tees and I hit a nice little 120 yard shot into the bunker on the right. There was more trouble after that and this hole was ultimately not kind to my scorecard. Isnâ€™t it funny how the simple looking short par 3s can just wreak havoc!
The 10th hole is a reachable par 5 that played 488 yards from the Blue tees. The photo below is of the 10th green which is not overly large. Combining the small green with the hazard danger on the right it’s best to be accurate if going for this green in two. Be sure to enlarge the photo below with a click and note the waterfall to the right of the green. It’s pretty tough to do waterfalls well on a golf course, but Fazio got it right with this one. I thought this feature fit perfectly with the overall vibe of the course and was better than any other waterfalls I’ve seen.
With the mountain backdrop, elevated tee box, and the generous grass plantings I think the photo below is another one that really captures the feel of the The Quarry at La Quinta. This hole is the 13th which is a 340 yard par 4 from the blue tees.
Below is a nice vista taken from the 16th tee. This hole is a 430 yard par 4 from the blue tees. Again, note the width of the driving area. This hole is long on the card, but plays straight downhill, so that helps to shorten it up a little bit.
The 18th hole (green pictured below) is a tough finisher at 425 yards and playing to a par of 4. Depending on where the days hole location is and drive is hit, water can come significantly into play on the approach shot.
During the course of our game I discovered that Derek and I had a bunch of common interests and I really had a great time playing with him. I love a leisurely game with a great playing partner and great conversation, so I was having a blast. Once we finished Derek asked if I wanted to take a quick tour of the short course. Note that I do not call this course the â€śpar 3â€ť course because there is certainly more too it than just your basic par 3 layout.
Below are a couple of photos of the short course.
To be brief, the short course is amazing! This is not an afterthought that was created because there was land left over. This is a well thought out, well designed and beautifully maintained short nine hole golf course. The course is designed with your typical par 3 holes, but what is unique is that they were laid out in such a way that a couple of greens could be played from alternate teeing grounds as par 4s. This is a really clever and creative variation from your typical short course. I was a huge fan. I still had a two hour drive back to Los Angeles and I was running on empty after my three hours of sleep, so we didnâ€™t play the course, but it sure looks like it would have been a whole lot of fun.
My experience at The Quarry at La Quinta wildly exceeded my expectations. Iâ€™m not an enormous fan of desert golf so I wasnâ€™t expecting to discover a course that really spoke to me or that I found unique. It was a very pleasant surprise to find that this is NOT your typical desert golf course. In my opinion the course is considerably more playable and infinitely more fun than any of the desert courses Iâ€™ve played previously.
What I really liked about The Quarry is that you have all the positives of desert golf like the beautiful surroundings and excellent weather, but you donâ€™t have the exceedingly penal golf course architecture usually found in desert golf courses. The course itself played more like what would be expected from a parkland style course . . . it just happens to be located in the desert. The bottom line is that The Quarry at La Quinta is a desert golf course for golfers who arenâ€™t fans of desert golf. In my travels Iâ€™ve not found anything quite like it which makes it unique in my book. Itâ€™s tough to get a game there, but if you can, its not to be missed!