In May, 2011, I decided I needed a break from interviewing people for GolfConversations.com. It had become clear to me that my interview subjects were using me to promote their own narrow agendas. No one really cared about ME … my feelings, my hopes, my dreams. I needed a spiritual renewal and decided the best place for that was the desert.
But which desert? The Sinai? Nahh — didn’t want to run into any long-lost relatives. The Gobi? Out of the question — I’m allergic to yak dander. Then “California” popped into my mind. Hmm … I could glom some of my wife’s frequent flyer miles and travel to the West Coast on the cuff-ski.
Faster than you can say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” I was off to San Diego with a final destination of California’s desert golf mecca: the cities of Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Palm Desert. (Are you allowed to say “mecca”?)
If you’re asking, “What about Palm Springs?” take a look at this map:
Palm Springs was where Frank Sinatra and the other stars did their thing in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60′s, and ’70s. Then the action moved further south and east. The communities of Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and La Quinta rose from the desert, led by Old Moishe Morris who declared, “Let my people golf!”
But I digress. I rented a car at the San Diego airport, turned on my GPS unit, and headed for the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort in Indian Wells.
California State Road 74 terminates in Palm Desert. Before arriving there, you drive through some beautiful mountain country and then descend to the desert. The arid, rock-strewn topography looked familiar to me. Later on, I discovered that some of the early scenes of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” were filmed on this winding road.
Oh, regarding said GPS unit: I did my research and knew that CA 74 was the road to take. But somewhere in the middle of nowhere on this narrow, two-lane road, the GPS Voice of Doom announced, “In 200 feet, turn left on Carrizo Road.” I thought, “Why does it want me to get off of 74? I’m not doing it!”
But then I thought, “Hey, maybe the satellite knows a short cut!” So left I turned onto Carrizo Road. It took 20 minutes of going up and down canyons before I returned to CA 74. Moral of the story: leave the GPS at home — stick with AAA maps.
Negotiating hairpin turns at 20 mph apparently is for newbies because the cars behind me were running up on my you-know-what. So I’d often pull over and let them pass. Maybe they were racing to find “The Big W.” (The previous is a “Mad, Mad World” reference.)
Eventually I reached the Valley floor and returned to civilization: Gas stations, restaurants, and real estate offices. Beautiful, soaring palm trees lined the broad avenues. The San Jacinto, Santa Rosa, and Little San Bernadino Mountains that encircled the Valley were magnificent in their starkness. Not unlike my short game.
I turned right onto Route 111, the main drag (you can see lots of things in drag if you turn left and head to Palm Springs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!), and moments later arrived at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort in Indian Wells.
I pulled up to the entrance and was met by a group of friendly young men who welcomed me, grabbed my luggage and my golf bag, and asked if I’d had a pleasant journey. I told them about the GPS boo-boo. One of the guys said, “Don’t tell me you turned on Carrizo Road?”
We all had a good laugh and I threw my GPS unit into the fountain.
Inside at the front desk, I was greeted with the dignity and deference I’ve come to expect now that I’m a member of the, ahem, media. (“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”)
I was informed that I was to be ensconced on the 5th floor, in a penthouse suite overlooking the golf course. I was also given admission privileges to the resort’s Regency Club, where select VIPs with delusions of grandeur can enjoy “continental breakfast, light snacks and refreshments, hors d’oeuvres, cordials, and sweets.” Nice, eh?
I entered the elevator and inserted the special key required to gain access to the 5th floor. Excellent! I didn’t need any GolfConversations.com groupies loitering outside my suite at all hours of the day and night.
And what a suite it was! Relax for a moment and enjoy this exclusive GolfConversations.com video:
In the video’s sparkling commentary, please note that I INCORRECTLY referred to the resort as “Grand Hyatt Champions.” I regret the error; it’s “Hyatt Grand Champions.” (Mr. Big Shot Media Guy can’t even get straight the name of the hotel.)
If you’re video challenged, here are some photos of my Hyatt Grand Champions Resort penthouse suite and terrace:
The Celebrity Course is one of two golf courses that comprise the Indian Wells Golf Resort. Golf Channel’s “Big Break Indian Wells was contested here. The other is the Players Course. Now pay attention because the following gets a little confusing:
Indian Wells Golf Resort is owned by the city of Indian Wells. Yes, it’s a municipal golf facility. City residents pay about $35 to play either course; that includes the golf cart. If you’re thinking of moving to Indian Wells to take advantage of this socialist (that’s right, you heard me: SOCIALIST!) munificence, I found a “contractor’s special” at condo.com for $89,000: This condo is totally a shell and will have to be completely built out, including AC/Furnace, Water Heater. Extensive mold remediation was done on this unit and have all the documents as well as all the air quality tests. This unit is to be sold in its present condition.
The Hyatt Grand Champions Resort — which is a pitching wedge away from the Indian Wells Golf Resort — doesn’t operate the golf facility; Troon Golf does. In short, the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort has the “juice” to book tee times for its guests at the courses next door.
Ok, that’s enough with the history lesson. Let’s get back to me…
I had an early tee time the next morning at the Celebrity Course, so there was nothing to do but saunter down to the pool. Nice place to goop on the SPF, eh?
But I wasn’t the only one headed to the pool that day:
It’s usually 100 degrees or so in May but it was unseasonably cool when I was there — about 80 degrees. I actually needed a light wrap when I went out later that night to purchase a nail clipper at Walgreen’s.
But before that eventful soujourn, I had a magnificent filet mignon dinner at “Lantana,” the resort’s upscale restaurant. I chose to eat inside because I’m afraid of monsters but you can also dine al fresco on the terrace. With the snow-capped mountains and golf course serving as a backdrop, it’s a lovely place to have some wine and fantasize about how many balls you’ll lose the next day.
The next morning, I went to Regency Club for some breakfast. You can imagine my shock when I learned that there was no full-time barista in the Club. And don’t get me started about the lack of an omelet station. Despite these shortcomings, the food was delicious and I scarfed down far too many croissants.
I walked next door to the golf course and met Michael Tebbetts, Director of Sales and Marketing at Indian Wells Golf Resort. Michael and I had a nice golf conversation (to be published in the near future) and he commiserated with me about the barista situation in the Regency Club.
He tried to calm me down, telling me that “it’s just coffee” and I should go out and enjoy my round of golf. Of course, he was right about the barista. But what about the omelet station, huh? What about that? No matter. I bade farewell to Michael and thanked him for his hospitality.
Speaking of coffee, I had consumed vast quantities of it and it was time to, uh … “wash up.” Take a gander at the sink in the men’s locker room. Some muny, eh?
My clubs were waiting for me outside the clubhouse and I went over to the range to implement Swing Thought 257-B, Part 12. As always, I warmed up beautifully, hitting my usual assortment of shots: high draws, low fades, and mind-altering shanks.
Soon I was called to tee where I was introduced to the husband and wife I was paired with. “Mary”and “Tim” hailed from Minnesota and were in their mid ’60s. Tim wasted no time in informing me that he’d played this course several times … and you want to be on this side of the fairway on this hole and not there on that hole … blah, blah, blah.
Tim led off, sliced his ball towards Palm Springs, and began to bitch and moan. I launched my drive 210 yards or so down the fairway and gave the club a pretentious twirl at the finish. “That’s as good as I can hit it,” I declared. My pronouncement had its desired effect as I noticed Tim biting into his lower lip and drawing blood.
The Celebrity Course was just beautiful! The gorgeous mountains ringing the Valley are always on display. There are also ponds, waterfalls, wild flowers, streams, and birds everywhere. I thought I was in the Garden of Eden! (Perhaps I was. I committed the Original Sin of giving myself a “7″ when it should have been an “8.”)
I had a GREAT time playing the course. Unfortunately, Tim was a downer and behaved like … shall I say, an asshole. Not only was he sullen and lacking in proper golf etiquette, but he didn’t compliment me enough on the three good shots I hit. His wife, Mary, was friendly and pleasant the entire round. Thanks, Mary!
As I mentioned earlier, Big Break Indian Wells was played on both courses at Indian Wells Golf Resort. And the Celebrity Course was the venue for one of the Skins games a few years ago. Indian Wells Golf Resort has it all. Go support America’s municipal golf courses and play there!
Later that day, after lounging by the pool and napping, I sat outside on the terrace at “Lantana.” I knocked off a pizza and some beer and watched the golfers on the course go by. The birds were singing, a mild breeze was blowing, and the rugged mountains surrounding the Coachella Valley were a sight to behold. I considered myself very lucky indeed to be at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, Villas and Spa.
With the Fall season just underway and winter around the corner, this would be an excellent time to plan a trip to this luxurious resort. Visit their web site for more information.
And for some quick facts about the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, click here.
I’m pleased to bestow upon The Hyatt Grand Champions Resort
my highest rating: