The Stadium at PGA West

I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to play golf at PGA West. When you drive into the complex a sign greets you proclaiming it as “the western home of golf in America.” PGA West has six different golf courses and sits in La Quinta, California. Out in the desert a couple hours east of Los Angeles by car. PGA West was opened in the late 1980’s and has hosted a variety of major golf events. Growing up around golf in the Pacific Northwest I’ve heard about the courses most my life. Friends would take golf trips to play there, returning home almost in awe. There was always a hope, someday would by my chance to experience PGA West. However, I do recall being told how difficult the courses were. How playing there might become frustrating or overwhelming. It caused me to shy away from truly wanting to play there. But, as my golf game became better and my body stronger, I was ready for the challenge.

The Stadium Course was our second Pete Dye design of the week. Playing Mission Hills a few days prior gave me an idea of how The Stadium Course might look. The course is known as one of the most difficult in the United States. At one point, PGA tour professionals signed a petition requesting not to play the golf course during a Palm Desert tournament in February. They thought the course was too difficult to be part of the course rotation during tournament. That petition has been lifted within the last couple years. The Stadium Couse is again part of that PGA Tour tournament in February. Not learning any of this information before the round was a blessing. Who knows how it would have changed the way my day of golf had gone, or my views of the course. It was going to be intimidating enough without knowing just how tough people felt The Stadium Couse was. The course lived up to all its reputation. It might be the most difficult course I’ve played.

We had played golf at Mission Hills a couple days prior. It seemed Pete Dye designed The Stadium Course to be more difficult. One of the most challenging parts was the bunkering. There seemed no particular place to miss played golf shots. There were times on the tee box, while looking down the fairway, the view was water on one side of the fairway and bunkers on the other. With cerebral palsy adding challenge to swinging, many times hazards are out of reach with the shorter distance of my shots. One thing noticeable with a Dye design are the depth and length of his hazards. They cover much more area, bringing them into play for all players, whether short or long hitter of the golf ball. Resulting in his designs providing a feeling of inclusion in the challenge even with cerebral palsy. The only noticeable place to miss a shot and have the golf ball land safely is to hit it long of your target. Hitting the ball too long isn’t really a part of my golf game, making a Dye design even more challenging.

The golf course lived up to my excitement. The Stadium Course was both challenging and unique. It was full of different viewing windows. There were many slight elevation changes, similar to the course at Mission Hills. The Stadium Course had steeper angles though, when it came to fall offs into bunkers, or other hazards. There was a distinct wall running the length of the 16th green. This wall fell off about 50 feet straight down into a huge bunker. A fall from the green would have hurt something if a player took a misstep. The 17th hole is one of the most famous in golf. It’s been seen many times on television and in photos. The par-3 has an elevated tee with an island green. While playing 17, it felt smaller than it looks on television. It was a fun hole, feeling like a more intimate setting than anticipated. My shot landed on the back of the green. It was an awesome feeling to carry the water landing safely on a famous green.

There are often surroundings to a golf course providing uniqueness. It can be simple with tree lines fairways, distinctively placed water hazards, or breathtaking vegetation, adding to the course experience. Other golf courses might be placed along a body of water or incorporate mountain views. One of the awe-inspiring aspects of PGA West is the Santa Rosa mountain range. The complex is set up against the mountains. From almost any place on The Stadium Course those mountains were in view. Playing golf that close to a mountain range was awesome. The only thing comparable is playing golf along the ocean. It entered my mind during our round, playing with those mountains in view was the opposite of playing with an ocean view. The two are comparable because of the same breathtaking emotion they evoke. I couldn’t stop looking up at the mountain range, just as I would continually look at the ocean if playing alongside it.

The Stadium Course was everything expected. It was a difficult course to navigate. The round of golf took much of my patience. We had originally planned to play the course again. However, we opted to play one of the other PGA West courses a few days later. It makes me curious to know what it would be like to play The Stadium again. Every golfer seems to play a course better the second time. Learning the strategies that worked or didn’t work the first time helps on the second round. With cerebral palsy, it’s important to get used to surroundings in order to become comfortable. Which can make playing a course just one time difficult. But, the Stadium had its distinctions. Peering up at the mountains was unique and all the water hazards made for delightful holes. It was a challenging course, yet exciting to play. The Stadium Course was well worth playing. It seems to challenge players of any level. The memories of the course will keep me waiting to play it on our next trip.

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