The Takeaway: Tradition does a marvelous job at two things; delivering exceptional playing conditions and offering a lot of fun. The generous fairways and greens combined with the sporty design give players an opportunity to have a great time while posting a score they can feel good about. With bighorn sheep on the back nine and one of the most dramatic holes in the valley, Tradition doubles down on eye candy as well. Grade B+
Designer: Arnold Palmer in 1997
Phone Number: (760) 564-8723
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Tradition Golf Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 78505 Old Avenue 52, La Quinta, CA 92253
Accolades: Ranked 17th in California on Golf Course Gurus' Best in State list.
What to Expect: Located in La Quinta southwest of Palm Springs, Tradition Golf Club is an Arnold Palmer gem that sits in the shadows of the Santa Rosa Mountains. You would be hard pressed to find a better conditioned course in the valley with absolutely pristine turf from tee to green to enjoy. The fairways and greens provides generous targets and the white bunkers give a stark contrast to the deep green grass. The course isn't difficult, even from the tips, although the tee shot on the 17th will make anyone pucker before swinging away. As an interesting side note, someone with OCD about numbers got involved with the yardages as every hole finishes with a 0 or 5 and I'm willing to wager that person writes tips on credit card receipts that make the total bill $XX.00; something I may or may not be guilty of myself. The back nine of the course gets pretty scenic up next to the mountains and on the par three 11th hole that often plays host to bighorn sheep that don't mind you playing through. The climax of the course is at the jaw dropping 17th where the elevated tee provides the best view in the valley that isn't from an airplane. The dramatic downhill tee shot is exhilarating, intimidating, and loads of fun all rolled into one. Tradition is easily one of the best courses in the golf saturated Palm Springs area and before his passing Arnold Palmer concluded, "Tradition has lived up to all my expectations. I cherish my residence and my membership." If there is one thing I would say to expect when going to Tradition it is to plan on having fun. The course doesn't try to beat you up and instead uses a variety of features that stimulates your senses and reminds you why you fell in love with golf in the first place.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 17th Hole – 340 Yard Par 4 – Perhaps the signature hole of the entire Coachella Valley, everyone that steps on this tee box has a "wow" moment. Players are greeted with a mesmerizing view that spans the golf course, surrounding valley, and across the mountains. The tee shot plummets over 200 feet to the fairway that boasts a mountain on the right and is bordered by a large bunker and pond on the left. The widest part of the fairway is right at the beginning but requires a 200 yard carry to cover the desert and the waterfalling creek and a 225 yard carry to reach the short grass. So you can consider laying up off the tee but you'll still need to put a good swing on it to leave yourself a decent lie. The green isn't half as wide as it is deep, so getting your line right on the approach is paramount to avoid the water left or bunker right of the green. It is without a doubt one of the most memorable holes in the desert and a place you won't want to forget your camera.
Best Par 3: 15th Hole – 180 Yards – Like the 12th hole at Augusta, the setting of the 15th hole makes it more interesting than meets the eye. The green sits back in a cove created by the Santa Rosa Mountains and can causing a swirling effect around the putting surface. As such, things can get dicey pretty quick trying to hit the shallow green that is surrounding by bunkers on the front, right, and part of the back. The green is raised ever so slightly and it is just enough to make the front bunker seem extra deep and to deliver some discomfort to the golfer while the towering mountain in the background makes everything else seem small; including your target. It is a solid hole with little forgiveness if you go wayward.
Best Par 4: 7th Hole – 405 Yards – From the back tee the obstructed view doesn't let you know just how much is going on here. Players tee off over a waste area to a fairway that wishbones out to two different greens; each of which are protected by a bunker on one side and a lake on the other. Going up the right is an easier tee shot with a larger landing zone but the approach shot is a forced carry over the water to a smallish green. Going up the left side brings more sand into play and a tighter fairway but counters with a larger green with no forced carry. The design is a lot of fun and allow players to mix it up each time around the course.
Best Par 5: 18th Hole – 525 Yards – There is nearly as much white sand as there is green grass to aim at on the closing hole at Tradition, and some of that is because a series of bunkers are used to create a divide between two fairways which effectively sets up a risk/reward scenario. Taking the fairway on the right shortens the hole by 20 yards but forces players to take a long carry over the water to find the green. Going up the left side allows players to layup on their second shot before the fairway banks right around a lake that comes into play 100 yards from the green. The approach shot from the left side also gives players a lot more depth to work with on the green considering the angle of the green whereas going up the right will require a long, high, soft shot into the putting surface. While I feel the left side is clearly the way to go with the green being plenty reachable in two that route, it is always fun to have options.
Birdie Time: 2nd Hole – 135 Yard Par 3 – Arnold gives players a gift on the 2nd hole with a downhill par three that maxes out at 135 yards. The green is over 40 yards deep which is more than generous considering the yardage and looks like you almost can't miss it compared to the Postage Stamp green at Royal Troon. With a scoring club in your hand, a perfect lie, a downhill view of the green, and a generous target; take dead aim at the flag and trust your flatstick on the immaculate greens. With a par five opener and short par three here, getting a couple strokes under par right off the bat is plenty doable.
Bogey Beware: 10th Hole – 440 Yard Par 4 – The 10th parallels the 13th before banking right to a greensite sitting at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains and begins the toughest three hole stretch at Tradition. How tough is it? My caddie said he will give anyone 5:1 odds on their money that they can't get through the trio at even par. I'm not a gambling man so I didn't take him up on it and it's a good thing because my wallet would have ended up a bit lighter afterwards. After the tee shot players square up against an approach that has to carry a desert wash enroute to the green that is partially tucked in behind a rock outcropping and pinched in front by a pair of bunkers. It is a great golf hole and a stiff test.