Spring is in the air is a term that just did not fit the best place on earth this year. In fact, it was warmer in Vancouver during the Winter Olympics than it was from March through April. Golfing was a real challenge unless you like wearing 10 layers of clothing and fur-lined golf gloves. Being a golf addict, I tried to play, but ended up looking like the Pillsbury Dough boy!
So after a few pathetic attempts at playing the links, I decided it was time to strip down and head down to hotter climates. My golfguy and I flew to Palm Desert at the end of April to enjoy some heat and work on our games. We played golf every day and really enjoyed some great courses, like the Classic Club and even the “50 mph wind tunnel”, AKA Desert Dunes.
But our “come back tomorrow” course had to be The Club at Morningside in Rancho Mirage.
Morningside is an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course that opened in 1981. It was the first course Jack designed in the desert cities of Southern California. He designed it the same year he won the US Open and PGA Championship – 1980 – the year “Jack was back” at 40 years of age. That man can really multitask!
Anyway, the 155 acre course is stunningly beautiful and immaculately maintained, offering gorgeous views of Mt. Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto. 20 acres of lakes come into play on 14 holes (I can attest to a few of those).
They have one of the most extensive practice areas I have ever seen. I could have stayed there all day and been perfectly happy. They offer two practice putting greens, a practice pitching area with target greens, practice fairway bunkers, and some of the most breathtaking views in all of Southern California. What more could you ask for?
The fairways are raised and undulating and many of the greens are tiered; yes, there are even some Jack-style “double greens” that can play havoc with your sky caddie at times. The first time I played, I used the wrong club twice because of wrong yardages on that blasted device! But… those 3-putts aside, I really liked the bent grass greens. They rolled true even though they’d been punched a week earlier.
But the thing that stands out in The Bear’s masterpiece is the landscaping. I read that each fall they plant 250,000 individual flowers on the golf course. No wonder Ken Venturi, Lee Trevino and Amy Alcott used Morningside as backdrops for some of their television and magazine ads.
Here are some of my most memorable holes (yardages from the white tees)…
3rd Hole – 144 yard par 3
Besides the gorgeous landscaping around the tee boxes on this hole, I loved the confidence I felt over my tee shot as I looked at the green. Have you ever stood at a hole and just knew you would going to hit a good shot? It’s rare for me to feel that confident on a tee box, but with this hole, I felt a sense of calm, even with the water looming in front.
8th Hole – 462 yard par 5
Now here’s a hole I can’t wait to play again. I have a love/hate relationship with it. The #1 handicap hole for women (7 for men), it’s a dogleg left with water all down the left side and a narrow landing area. If you make it on the fairway safely and not ended up in the trees on the right, you feel like you’re okay. But, don’t get cocky. You may be patting yourself on the back after your 2nd shot, but pay special attention o n your 3rd. Although it’s beautiful as you approach the green, there is trouble all around. Don`t you just love a challenge!
Between the 10th and 11th Holes
Okay, so this isn’t a favorite hole in the traditional sense, it’s the view between the 10th and 11th holes. But just look at this…is this gorgeous or what!
12th Hole – 155 yard par 3
Another beautiful hole, this one looks daunting with all the water and tons of sand all around the green, but it’s not bad if you follow one rule – take more club than you think. Par felt good the second day after I made the mistake of not taking enough club on day one.
It’s one of Jack’s double greens, so there’s more room up on the putting surface than you think.
18th Hole – 518 yard par 5
This is a very long hole for a high handicapper. But it is a really beautiful closer. There is water all down the right hand side, but the fairway is pretty generous so you shouldn’t have too many problems with that if you keep to the left the whole way to the green. But even with that, the approach can be intimidating. I chose to lay up on my 3rd shot because I was not going to try and reach the green with water and bunkers everywhere. The green is quite generous (it’s the other half of the 12th green), so if you play it safe, come in from the left and take a bit more club, you should be okay.
The Club at Morningside is a private club, so it’s not that easy to get a tee time. But if you can wangle a way onto this Nicklaus masterpiece (maybe through your club pro), I strongly suggest you bring your camera. Because, even if you’re having a bad day with your swing, just look around and enjoy the beauty – this course gives you one Kodak moment after another to take away any of any pain the course dishes out.
The Club at Morningside wouldn’t pass the “official women-friendly test” from Golf For Women Magazine because the yardage from forward tees is about 240 yards longer than GFW would like to see. But I played it twice and the yardage wasn’t an issue and there were no long carries over water or waste areas. And in terms of amenities, their on-course bathrooms make most golf course washrooms look like outhouses. I’ve never seen such an elaborate bathroom on a golf course in my life.
Jack designed The Club at Morningside specifically for “country club members”, including spouses and guests of any handicap, making a round of golf fun, but still a real test for players of all skill levels.
In my books, this is golfing luxury….pure luxury!