Proposed exclusive Thermal golf course fits into high-end part of desert links scene – Desert Sun

Lead Marketing & Automation Services > Blog > Uncategorized > Proposed exclusive Thermal golf course fits into high-end part of desert links scene – Desert Sun

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was no better way to make money in the Coachella Valley than being part of the golf course construction industry.
From course designers to bulldozer drivers, everyone involved with golf course construction was constantly busy in the desert. In the 1980s alone, 33 courses were built in the Coachella Valley, or an average of one every 100 days for an entire decade. That pace slowed in the 1990s and into the 2000s as demand for golf declined across the country. The last 18-hole golf course to open in the desert was in 2008, when Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio unveiled its Eagle Falls Golf Club designed by Clive Clark.
That’s what makes news of a potential new golf course being planned for the Thermal area so interesting. While what is being proposed is a highly exclusive club that won’t be pushing to fill tee times each day, it’s still a new golf course in a community that embraces the game.
Even if golf is booming because of the pandemic — rounds of golf were up by double digits by percent in 2020 despite the pandemic and are expected to be up a bit this year — some will question if a new golf course is really needed in the desert now. But this project, with high-profile music producer Irving Azoff as a main backer, won’t be just a pitch-and-putt course designed to be a revenue source for the owners.
More:Developers, Azoff eyeing private golf course in Thermal, despite some community pushback
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Instead, the new private course could join a long list of ultra-exclusive clubs that have their own niche in the desert. With a membership proposed at just 50, and a daily maximum of just 25 people playing the course on any given day, the new course would fit right in with the luxury courses in the area.
The desert features some golf courses that put even the highest-end private courses in the area to shame when it comes to access. Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage is a very private course built by Walter Annenberg and open by invitation to his friends, who were either pro golfers or presidents and international political figures. That course, a New Year’s Eve tradition for Ronald Reagan when he was president, is still one of the toughest tee times in the desert.
And there is Porcupine Creek, the backyard course in Rancho Mirage built by Tim Blixseth, a course that was once named one of the 20 best in the state despite having maybe two foursomes a day on the property. Larry Ellison, one of the richest men in the world, has owned that course and the surrounding property since 2011, opening it for play to his tennis friends like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Ellison, who owns the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament as well, is currently turning Porcupine Creek into a luxury spa and hideaway offering “six-star, exclusive guest experience.”
The proposed Thermal course would have its own character, of course. Take, for instance, the location, at the corner of Van Buren Street and 70th Avenue in Thermal. That’s practically an hour’s drive from downtown Palm Springs and well south and east of any existing course. If you are looking for seclusion, a golf course on a 300-acre farm known for mango and citrus trees is a pretty good start.
Then there is the man who will design the course, Gil Hanse. Hanse made news for casual golfers when he beat out much bigger names like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman for the right to design the Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro for 2016. That was a big splash as golf was returning to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century. Hanse has done other original projects like the South Course at Los Angeles Country Club as well as renovating or restoring some of the most famous courses in the country including names like Oakmont, Pinehurst, The Country Club and the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club, which will host the 2023 U.S. Open. An original Hanse design would be a pleasant addition to the desert golf scene.
Azoff, who is also a member at Madison Club in La Quinta where people with last names like Mickelson and Kardashian have homes, is surrounded in this project by people whose names might not be known but who know how to get projects done. The fact that the Riverside County Planning Director’s meeting this week already granted approval for the project shows that. So do the pledges of jobs and money for the area from the developers. There will be some pushback against the project, as there is against any project, but this golf course appears well on its way to fruition.
Golf in the Coachella Valley comes in a variety of packages, from nine-hole mobile home park courses to resort hotel layouts to the ultra-exclusive private facilities. The proposed Thermal course, if built, will just add to that palette.
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer, he can be reached at larry.bohannan@desertsun.com or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Desert Sun.

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