Review: Desert Willow - Firecliff Course

Desert Golf Done Right
The Palm Spring area is really a desert oasis in the heart of California. It isn’t naturally full of palm trees and green grass, but because of the large aquifer underneath the area, they have plenty of water to go around. It seems that many of the courses have decided to go wall to wall grass instead of making use of the desert landscape. Desert Willow on the other hand embraced the desert-scape and yet still designed a playable golf course that isn’t target golf, but a good blend of grass and desert. It is desert done right at the Desert Willow Firecliff Course.
While so many of the courses I played in Palm Springs had very lush and opulent entrances, Desert Willow had a rugged desert entrance without waterfalls and flowers, but the natural beauty of cacti and rocks; even the clubhouse is in an adobe style.  Desert Willow has 2 18 holes courses.  Mountain View and Firecliff. I was told by friends that Firecliff is the better of the two.  While I can’t say from my own experiences, but even a couple that played both on our trip said Firecliff was the better of the two.  I’ll just take their word for it.

Firecliff gets the balance between ample grass and landing areas so it doesn’t feel like target golf, but yet using desert roughs and waste areas to create the right feel for this type of course.  Even on the first hole, you’ll note a forced carry of some desert waste area.  It wasn’t a great distance, but just gave the right feel to the hole.  As you work your way through the front 9, the finishing 4 holes are the real gems of this side.  Starting with hole 6 you get  short, almost drivable par 4.  But it has plenty of risk/reward with water near the green.  7 is a solid par 5 that birdie can be had.  The 8th is a most picturesque par 3.  Water borders the whole left side of the hole.  And finishing up the front 9 coming back to the clubhouse with a long, tough par 4.
Making the turn and heading to the back 9, you get some a little more elevation changes.  While not extreme there is a little more roll to the back 9.  It starts off with 3 really solid par 4s.  Each is plenty long and has bunkers that will challenge each shot’s accuracy. If you can avoid the bunkers with a little length you can get through those holes safely.  The finishing 4 holes on this 9 are really good too.  A short par 4 starts it off with multiple options off the tee, or bombs away.  A solid par 4 and then a long well guarded par 3 with water on the right side.  The home hole is a shorter par 5 that I think if the lighting had been better offers a great risk/reward option to go for it in 2 or lay back to avoid the water.  It is a great closing hole, even if we did finish in the dark.

In my mind, this is what more courses should look like in the Palm Springs area.  It is naturally desert land, let it show.  The Desert Willow Firecliff course is the perfect blend of playability and aesthetics.  The mix of desert and grass is perfect.  You don’t feel like you have to hit little target fairways and greens, yet if you go way off line you are in the desert.  It is a desert course done right.  The playing conditions were probably the best I played in the Palm Spring area.  Firm and fast, green and true was how I would describe this course.  It is a must play in the greater Palm Spring area.

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Quick Hits
+Desert golf done right
+Outstanding conditions
+Awesome layout
+Excellent scenery