Desert Golf Explosion

Palm Springs has erupted into a congress of golf courses to inspire one of the nation's gaudiest real estate booms in the no-longer-lone prairie
May 03, 1959

The mountains rise like giant slag heaps from the ashen floor of the desert. Water seldom occurs in its natural state and only four inches of rain fall a year. The land was so inhospitable to anything except prairie rattlers and sand lizards that the early settlers rushed right past it, and the advance scouts of California realtors did not plant their flags and promises in it until the turbulent '30s.

Yet today Palm Springs, Calif. is able to bill itself with a perfectly straight face as the "Winter Golf Capital of the World." A staggering total of 11 golf courses dots an area which holds only 15,000 permanent residents. The President of the U.S. made a special 2,300-mile trip to play there. Sturdy show business monuments like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope are abroad on its green fairways daily. Detroit auto tycoons like Ernest Breech, chairman of the board of Ford, share golf carts with cowboy actors and live in planned country club communities which permit stepping over a hedge onto the tee each morning and help Palm Springs promoters pay off an estimated $15 million gamble on golf as the biggest real estate come-on of them all.

Where only a sporty little nine-holer disturbed the desert rats' tranquillity 30 years ago, the new courses' clubhouses are spectacular chrome-and-glass triumphs of architecture, with sunken bars and underground garages for their log jam of carts—and they require 1,250,000 gallons of water per day to keep fairways green in an ocean of sand. Living and golfing in the lush leisure of Thunderbird, Eldorado, Tamarisk, Indian Wells and Bermuda Dunes has become such boom business that the population is expected to explode out of the sand to 65,000 by 1971. The hucksters of this real property hawk their wares in cleated shoes, and even lured the 1959 Ryder Cup matches to Palm Springs for the second time.

Bermuda Dunes
An artificial lagoon and constant play of sprinklers underscore new courses' fight to survive

Eldorado golf course
Tucked in the Santa Rosa Mountains like a floppy bow of green ribbon, Eldorado which opened for play in the fall of 1957, is the venue of this November's Ryder Cup

Tamarisk Country Club
Tree-sprinkled Tamarisk course lies just northwest of Eldorado on Highway 111. In background is famed Thunderbird Country Club

THREE PHOTOSJOHN G. ZIMMERMAN
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)